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