Monday, October 22, 2012

Orofino Vineyards and House of Rose Vineyards go solar



Photo: Virginia and John Weber with Orofino's new solar panels
Photo: Courtesy Orofino Vineyards

Two British Columbia wineries have taken advantage of incentives under the province’s LiveSmart BC program to fit solar panels and other energy-saving technology.

LiveSmart BC is a program that offers free energy audits to small businesses and, if the businesses design a qualifying energy-saving program, offers incentive grants to offset some of the costs.

Details are on the LiveSmart website. Businesses should note that program is due to expire in March.

The incentives involved are significant. Earlier this month Energy Minister Rich Coleman announced grants totalling $244,415 to a dozen small businesses. Two are wineries.

House of Rose Vineyards at Kelowna received a $25,000 grant that has been applied to a range of energy-saving projects at the winery, including upgrading heating with a heat pump, installing a solar hot water system and improving winery insulation.

Orofino Vineyards of Cawston installed solar panels and a solar thermal water heating system in August which has virtually taken its tasting room off the grid. The winery received a $16,766 grant which reduced its direct investment in solar to about $6,000.

Solar applications are not inexpensive, which explains why so few wineries have adopted the technology despite the huge amount of sunlight in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. Orofino owners John and Virginia Weber considered solar when they built their winery in 2004 but held back because the payback then was about 40 years.

Orofino has been on the leading edge of energy efficiency since it opened in 2005 in buildings constructed with straw bales, a first among North American wineries. The 21-inch walls have a very high R-60 rating, keeping the winery cool in summer and warm in winter.

The wine tasting room, for example, does not need to be air conditioned in summer. Now that solar panels are providing the energy for hot water and for all of the tasting room’s electrical needs, Orofino was often feeding energy into the grid this summer. There are times when this is not so – for example, when the winery is operating its crusher – but most of the time, the power bills here will be miniscule.

Both the Webers and House of Rose owners Aura Rose and Wouter van der Hall deserve kudos for their commitment to minimizing the carbon footprint of their wineries. That should generate some sales from wine consumers who prefer to support eco-friendly producers.

Orofino’s wines, however, stand on their own feet when it comes to quality. During a September visit to the winery, I was able to taste through the range then on offer. Some are sold out by now. Even so, the scores should give confidence in buying more recent releases.

Unfortunately, I did not get to House of Rose this summer. I will make a point of visiting next season.

Here are my Orofino notes.

Orofino Muscato Frizzante 2011 ($25 for 300 cases and sold out). This is a delightful Prosecco-style sparkling wine made with Muscat grapes. It begins with alluring fruity and floral aromas. On the palate, it is a bowl of tropical fruit with a crisp, refreshing finish. This was the perfect wine for brunch. 90.

Orofino Pinot Gris 2011 ($20). This wine has aromas and flavours of citrus, apples and pears, with a crisp and fresh finish. 90.

Orofino Riesling 2011 ($20). Here is another winery moving into the top ranks of Riesling in British Columba. This wine begins with aromas of lime and a hint of petrol. On the palate, there are flavours of lime and green apple. The finish is tangy, with bright acidity that is well-balanced with fruit and residual sweetness. 90.

Orofino Gamay 2011 ($23). This is fun wine, with aromas of pepper, cherry and cream soda and with juicy cherry flavours. Another great brunch wine. 90.

Orofino Red Bridge Merlot 2010 ($25 for 930 cases). There is a cult following for this Merlot, made with grapes from a single vineyard in Kaleden. It is the only Orofino wine not made with Similkameen grapes. A wine with long, ripe tannins, it has aromas and flavours of black currants and chocolate. 90.

Orofino Scout Vineyard Syrah 2010 ($29 for 250 cases). This wine, which was aged 15 months in French and American oak barrels, has a profoundly deep violet colour. There are aromas and flavours of blackberry, black cherry, black pepper, vanilla and liquorice. The acidity of 2010 gives brightness to the fruit flavours. The finish is spicy. 91.

Orofino Beleza 2009 ($34 and sold out). This is the winery’s flagship Bordeaux blend: 40% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Beleza is Portuguese for beauty. This is a complex red with fine ripe tannins and with aromas and flavours of black currant, blueberry and chocolate. If you have this in your cellar, age it another four or five years.

2 Comments:

At November 2, 2012 at 11:08 PM , Blogger sabkon wells said...

hello. first of all i would thank you for posting such an amazing blogpost. most of my queries are already explained here. also i hope lots find this post inspiring as well. keep up posting more such updates.

Solar Panel In Canada 

 
At February 15, 2013 at 5:10 PM , Blogger Roger Huber said...

Great to get your experienced perspective on wineries and energy efficiency John!
The Orofino renewable energy system expects to make their investment back in 4-5 years, with the help of the grant, 15 years without grants. Financing for future energy savings makes sense too. Wineries interested in a renewable energy system can contact us, Pro Eco Energy in Summerland, for more info.

 

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