Photo: Granite Creek's Doug (l) , Heather and Gary Kennedy
An early morning fire on January 15
completely destroyed Salmon Arm’s Granite Creek Estate Winery and its entire
inventory except for stock in the wine shop, which is in a separate building.
Quoted in the Salmon Arm Observer, Heather
Kennedy, one of the owners, said: “We have no wine, all our stuff for the next
few years is gone, all the wine that was being aged in oak for three to four
years is gone.”
The two-storey winery building was located
across a forested ravine, perhaps 100 yards from the Kennedy home (which houses
the wine shop). Gary Kennedy,
Heather’s husband, spotted the flames about 4.30 a.m. The winery was fully
engulfed by the time the firefighters arrived to contain the fire’s spread. A
nearby vineyard was unscathed.
“Thank God it didn’t get the house,”
Heather is quoted as saying.
Cause of the fire has not yet been
determined. The source was in the winery basement. It is not considered
The winery was insured but, as Heather told
the newspaper, “you never get what you put into it.”
Granite Creek will continue to sell its
remaining stock but the winery’s future is undetermined at this point. “I don’t
know what we are going to do,” Heather told the newspaper. “Would we rebuild? I
This is just the second time in the history
of B.C. wineries that fire destroyed a winery. During the summer of 2003, the
massive forest fire southeast of Kelowna
razed the St. Hubertus Estate Winery processing facility. However, St. Hubertus was more fortunate. Except for a few barrels
of port, the wine inventory had all been bottled and was in a warehouse that
was untouched by the fire.
Established in 2003, Granite Creek made
about 2,000 cases of wine in the 2012 vintage.
The following is the winery profile from my
book, The Wineries of British Columbia,
published in 2009. Since then, the number of wineries in the Shuswap has grown
to six (or eight if the wine touring borders extend as far south as Armstrong.
The employment details in the profile are no longer current.
Creek is a partnership of two of the three generations of the Kennedy family
that have farmed in the Tappen Valley since 1959, when Robert Pemberton Kennedy
moved there from the Fraser Valley. Gary Kennedy,
Robert’s son, was completing a doctorate in agricultural engineering at the University of British Columbia when a family crisis
required him to come back to the farm. Doug Kennedy, Gary’s son, was born in Vancouver in 1972 while
his father was at university. Doug and Mayka, his Polish-born wife, juggle
winemaking with bringing up daughter Gabriella, and pursuing international
careers in the oil industry. And Heather, Gary’s
wife, looks after the tasting room when she is not cuddling her granddaughter.
Granite Creek offers the complete family winery experience.
an organic farm and likely an organic vineyard in the future, the Kennedy farm
formerly produced livestock and dairy products. After leaving that business -
most of his family were not interested in dairying - Gary canvassed other opportunities to keep
farming his land. He compared the Tappen
Valley’s climate with wine regions in
Europe and New Zealand,
brought in two consultants and settled on vines.
“We’re right out in pioneer country here,” he
observed a few vintages into the project. In 2003, the Kennedy family planted
four hectares (10 acres) of vineyard and, a few years later, cleared another
hectare on a hillside. There is considerable potential for more vines as the
vineyard was planted primarily with Gewürztraminer, Maréchal Foch, Kerner, a
significant test plot of Pinot Noir and small plots of about ten other
varieties. As a professional agrologist, Gary Kennedy
is proceeding carefully to determine the vines best suited to the site. Doug
hopes that Pinot Noir in particular will be one of the successes of this test.
“If it works out, it could create quite a unique wine in our area,” he says.
His father believes it will be 2010 before they will know with some certainty
whether Pinot Noir will succeed. Foch, on the other hand, is doing very well.
varieties, including Syrah, Merlot and Gamay, are produced for Granite Creek by
contract growers near Oliver. Climate change one day might bring the Tappen Valley’s
growing conditions closer to those of the Okanagan. For now, however, the
valley has a shorter season, cooler nights and more rain – so much so that
several vineyards in the area have not installed irrigation. Initially, Granite
Creek, named for the creek flowing through the property, also installed no
irrigation. Gary, noting a long-term trend to drier weather, has decided to
irrigate new plantings, if only to get the vines well established.
calculated that his vineyard project would really become viable with the
opening of a winery, the third in the Shuswap Lake
region. The idea was embraced enthusiastically by Doug and Mayka. “My wife and
I have been home winemakers for years,” Doug says. Trained in computer science,
Doug started his business career in northern British Columbia with Schlumberger
Ltd., an international oilfield service company operating in 100 countries.
Doug soon found himself promoted to management and working in central Africa
He and Mayka, a chemical engineer and also a Schlumberger employee, have
travelled Europe’s wine regions extensively.
with an initial production of 2,000 cases, Granite Creek is on its way to a
target of 5,000 cases. The long-term
plans call for building a new winery into a mountainside, using gravity in the
production process and burying the cellars. The tasting room is currently on
the ground floor of Gary
and Heather’s home, with the existing winery just visible across a forested
ravine. There is a picnic area and a seven-kilometre trail system that the
Kennedy family has developed for hikers. It connects with a more extensive
network of trails on adjoining Crown land, popularly with horsemen.
it is well worth making an appointment for a tour. The family is thorough about
it, spending up to 90 minutes on a leisurely walk through the winery and its