Terrabella winemaker Tom DiBello
In Greek mythology, Helios was the god who
drove the sun in his chariot across the sky every day.
Winery entrepreneur Rob Ingram has chosen
Helios as the name of a proposed new West Kelowna
winery because the vineyard he purchased in January is exposed to the sun from
morning to night.
Ingram, a chartered accountant, is the
chief executive office of Terrabella Wineries Ltd., a Summerland company that
began to build a portfolio of wineries with the 2011 purchase of Perseus Winery
Helios will be Terrabella’s second winery,
with a tasting room to open next year on Boucherie Road, not far from Quails’ Gate
Estate Winery. The first wines under the Helios label, however, will be
released in September this year.
The Terrabella business plan projects a
third winery in the South Okanagan, likely on Black Sage Road, and a fourth in Greater
Vancouver. The timing of these is contingent on Terrabella’s future financings.
Ingram raised $6 million from investors after taking over Perseus and he is
about to go back to investors again to support the development of Helios.
The business plan calls for Terrabella to
raise up to $20.5 million through a combination of debt and equity to develop
its wineries to the point where the four are producing 60,000 cases a year.
Most of the wine will be made either at central processing facility or at a
custom crush winery in order to keep the capital costs down.
“By consolidating certain operating,
management and marketing and sales strategies of multiple wineries, Terrabella
will improve financial returns in what can already be a high-margin industry,”
the company said in a news release.
There are comparable models already in the
Okanagan. The Jackson-Triggs winery at Oliver does some or all of the
production for four other wineries in the Constellation group. The Calona
winery in Kelowna
makes all the wine for Calona, Sandhill and Peller. The Mission Hill winery
produces for a long list of brands. In this model, production and marketing
costs are spread over several brands.
Terrabella wants all of its wineries in
high traffic locations so that a substantial
volume of wine can be sold directly, and most profitably, through the tasting
The Perseus winery is in a heritage house.
It is almost within walking distance
of downtown Penticton
and it is on the street taken by virtually every wine tourist heading to Naramata Road. A
renovation currently under way is expanding the wine shop and adding a small
Because of its location, the Perseus
winemaking capacity is too limited to produce more than the minimum needed
under the winery license. Because it is in a residential neighbourhood, it is
unlikely that the neighbours would stand
for the construction of a big producing winery.
In the 2012 vintage Perseus arranged to
have 8,000 cases made at the Okanagan Crush Pad
Winery in Summerland. The winemaker for Perseus (but not for Helios) is Tom DiBello, the
California-trained winemaker who spent 10 years at CedarCreek Estate Winery
before launching his own label and also becoming a Terrabella vice president.
Perseus may make several more vintages
there until Terrabella has a central processing facility of its own. Helios is
also likely to be an OCP client in the short term.
Helios is based on an 18-acre vineyard property
immediately north of Quails’ Gate. It was acquired from Horst and Ilse Mueller,
a retirement age couple who have grown grapes there for about 20 years. The
vineyard has six acres each of Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc and three acres of
Gamay Noir. Until now, the grapes have been sold to Mission Hill.
The Helios wine shop, including some modest
winemaking facilities, will be built 0n Boucherie Road in order to capture the
drive-by wine tourists. “I was told Mission Hill is pulling in 130,000 visitors
a year,” Ingram says. “Most of those people also visit Quail’s Gate. If we can
get 10% of that ….”
Ingram is thinking of building a 10,000-15,000
square-foot production building in the southeast corner of the property near
the Quails’ Gate production area, keeping truck traffic and crush pad noise
away from the wine shop.
Photo below: Terrabella's Rob Ingram