August 3, 2019
On Sunday, July 14th we had a splendid afternoon. Wine Club members (an exclusive bunch, now that we have capped memberships!) joined us to celebrate our 10th anniversary. Hard to believe, right? It seems like just yesterday that the old apple trees were being torn out.
Bob Johnson took a few minutes to reflect on those early years. He and Petra were still living on their farm in Dewinton, just south of Calgary, but had purchased a cherry orchard in Erickson after falling in love with the Creston Valley on a visit. They are both wine lovers, but realized the Erickson property, with its sandy soil, would not sustain grapes.
Then, on a subsequent visit to check out the newly opened Skimmerhorn Winery, they noticed a For Sale sign on the adjacent property. It was a 20-acre parcel with an old house that needed work, and was planted mostly in old apple trees. Hmmm, they thought, obviously the growing conditions would be much like the Skimmerhorn vineyard. They called the number on the For Sale sign and the next day they made an offer. The deal closed the day after that!
That all happened in October of 2006. The old apple trees were pulled out immediately and the land was planted to grapes the following spring. One of the wines we tasted on Sunday was a 2009 Pinot Noir, made from the fruit of 3-year-old vines. At 10 years of age it is a stunning example of Pinot Noir, and not showing any signs of having passed its prime. Brightly coloured and still with lots of typical Pinot flavours, that first vintage is a testament to a very good winemaker, to the clones that were selected and to the granite-filled slopes behind the winery.
Of the several Pinot Noirs we had on that Sunday afternoon, my favourite is the 2013 Reserve, which we are close to selling out here in the tasting room. When I taste a Pinot and am reminded of a barnyard I am a happy camper, and this wine makes me very happy!
I will be purchasing a few more bottles, to be sure!
Also in his talk to the Wine Club members, Bob spoke about his admiration for William Baillie-Grohman, the Austrian adventurer to first came to the Creston Valley in 1882, in the company of future US president Theodore Roosevelt. Baillie-Grohman saw the potential for this valley and later returned to have a go at dyking the Kootenay River to prevent the annual flooding. He also worked to bring English farmers to the area.
I wrote a story and photographed a very moving surprise visit from Guy Baillie-Grohman, the great-great-grandson of William, several years ago, and that event solidified the spiritual connection the winery has with the Baillie-Grohman name. It was an experience I will never forget!
Now, more than a century after the first arrival of William Baillie-Grohman, Bob and Petra, and their son (and winemaker) Wes Johnson, are continuing their own adventure, and have a decade of proof that they made a great choice when they purchased this property with an eye to producing fine wine!