Photo: Brenda Hetman-Craig and Layne Craig. Photo by Sara Silver
The largest vineyard and winery in the Comox
, 40 Knots Vineyard and Estate
Winery, has just been acquired by a business couple who have moved from Fort
This is the second Comox winery that has changed hands this
year. Earlier, film maker James Cameron bought Beaufort Vineyard & Estate
Winery. The two transactions represent a show of confidence in the region’s
small, but growing, wine industry.
owners of 40 Knots, which opened its tasting room just two years ago, are Brenda
Hetman-Craig and Layne Craig.
release from the winery says this about the new owners:
“Hailing from Fort
St John, the couple were
seeking to start the next chapter of their lives in Comox. Layne, who grew up
on a Saskatchewan farm, wanted to put his love of the land into play, while
Brenda wanted to put her business management skills toward building a
successful family business, one that would ultimately involve their grown
children. It was an added bonus for Layne, a pilot, that the Comox air force
base is nearby. Planes can often be seen overhead adding to the force of energy
that surrounds the site. The pair met founder Bill Montgomery who was pursuing
retirement and quickly came to an agreement.”
Bill and Michal, his wife, had grown accustomed to planes
overhead since buying this property in 1990 but it clearly is still a thrill
for visitors and for those tending the nearly 40,000 vines here.
Bill (right) also was new to the wine business. Born in Prince Rupert in 1949, he had operated a towboat company
until he sold it and moved to Comox. He operated a hobby farm for a number of
years before making the plunge and planting vines.
He prepared the 18-acre vineyard on a gravel-rich plateau
above the Powell River Ferry dock, burying drain tiles so that the vines would
not have wet feet. The vines were planted in 2007 and 2008. About a quarter of
the vineyard was Pinot Noir. The other varieties include Chardonnay, Pinot
Gris, Gamay and Merlot. The latter, the result of poor advice from a
consultant, was a startling choice for this cool growing region. When Bill
discovered that Merlot would not ripen, he replaced the vines – about 3,200 –
with Pinot Noir and early-ripening Siegerrebe.
A grandly renovated former barn was turned into a 10,000
square foot winery, However, when the elegant tasting room opened in the summer
of 2012, the Montgomerys
listed the winery and its executive home for $4,900,000. Bill had perhaps
bitten off more than he could chew.
“I am 63 and I wanted to know if there was a market out
there,” he told me in 2012. “I have been living and breathing this place since
I started it. As you are well aware, it is seven days a week. I thought we
would kind of shut it down at the end of November, come back in February, early
March. That’s not the way it works at all. It is 12 months of the year.”
The Craigs appear to be younger and they have lined up some
help. To quote the news release:
“Brenda and Layne will maintain the name 40
Knots Vineyard and Estate Winery. A line-up of Okanagan-grown wines is added
under the name Stall Speed. The pair will be working with Summerland-based
Okanagan Crush Pad winemaker Matt Dumayne, who will assist with viticulture and
work with Vineyard Manager, Lucas Renshaw, on the wine portfolio.
“The new Stall
Speed label, depicting an illustration of the air speed indicator from Layne's
plane, offer a Meritage and a Merlot Icewine.
" ‘The wines that we can craft from Comox-grown grapes
are delicate, aromatic and fresh. Our reason for adding a lineup of wines from
the Okanagan is to allow for some bolder reds and Icewine that we cannot
achieve locally so that we can present something for everyone's taste’, noted
The current 40 Knots portfolio
includes a Chardonnay, a Pinot Gris, a Pinot Noir, a rosé and an aromatic blend
of Pinot Gris and Schönburger called Whitecaps. As well, the winery has a 2010
sparkling wine, Spindrift Brut, made with a classic cuvée of Chardonnay and
Pinot Noir. This wine won a gold medal in a 2013 competition.