Photo: L to R Urs and Barbara Baessler, Jesce Walker, Sharon Herder, Charlie Baessler
Corcelettes Estate Winery co-owner and winemaker Charlie
Baessler got his first job in the B.C. wine industry in 2008 as a cellar hand a
vineyard worker at Herder Winery and Vineyards.
Born in 1985, he had just graduated with a degree in
environmental engineering in Lethbridge
in December, 2007. He was visiting his parents in Cawston when he met the
owners of Herder and was offered a job.
Now, Charlie, in partnership with his parents and a business
couple from Brandon
is taking over Herder and turning it into the new home for a larger
This is a major development for Similkameen wineries.
Corcelettes, which now makes about 1,000 cases a year and has a small winery
and tasting room off the beaten patch near Cawston, has the potential to triple
production and to welcome visitors at larger winery that is part of an emerging
growing destination for wine tourists.
It also is a positive conclusion to the unfortunate history
of the Herder Winery, which had virtually closed after the partnership of
founders Lawrence and Sharon Herder broke down two years ago. The Herder name
now will disappear, although Charlie and his partner, Jesce Walker, are considering
reviving Herder’s iconic Bordeaux blend, Josephine, under the Corcelettes
brand. Jesce is the winery’s sales and marketing manager.
“At Corcelettes, we don’t currently have a Bordeaux
style red,” Charlie says. “We have a
Cabernet/Syrah and a single varietal Syrah, but we don’t have a blend similar
to Josephine. If we were going to bring one on, this would be a nice
transition. It carries a great name. Lawrence
never disappointed anyone with that wine. It kind of immortalizes the whole
history there, which we are keen on keeping. I did have some attachment to the
Corcelettes was opened in 2013 by Charlie and his Swiss-born
parents, Urs and Barbara. The winery is named after the family farm in Switzerland
There are also Swiss touches in the three-acre vineyard, where one of three
white varieties is Chasselas, Switzerland
leading white. The winery’s flagship red is a Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend
called Menhir, the name of stone obelisks found in Europe
(including on the Baessler family farm).
Herder Winery was opened in 2002, also near Cawston, and
moved in 2008 to a property on Upper
Bench Road, not far from the Grist Mill and
Gardens near Keremeos.
The somewhat baronial house already on the Herder property
is perched on the side of a mountain with a panoramic view of the Similkameen
modified the extensive basement for a winery. On the stony, sun-bathed slopes
below, he planted about 6.5 acres of vines, including Malbec, Petit Verdot,
Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir.
That vineyard certainly expands the winemaking horizon at
“I have been looking forward to making Pinot Noir,” Charlie
says. “In fact, I had made some arrangements to source Pinot Noir prior to
having concluded this deal.”
The Herder winery has been listed for sale for about 20
months. Charlie watched as other potential buyers kicked the tires and, with
the sale of existing inventory, as the price came down. There is a little bulk
wine remaining in tanks and Charlie is currently evaluating it.
“It has certainly been on my radar,” Charlie says of Herder
Winery. “This is not something I put together in a week. I have always had my
eye on that place since I worked there. It was such a beautiful place. It
recently became a reality to be able to do this with our partners coming on
board, Gordon and Diane Peters.”
The Peters and the Baesslers, who once farmed near Brandon, are long-time
friends. Gordon Peters, now 61, is the founder and chief executive of Cando
As one of his biographies says, Gordon founded the company
in 1978 “with two employees, a tractor and front-end loader and a contract to
tear up a rail line in the Tilston area.”
(Tilston is a small community 144 km southwest of Brandon
.) Today, Cando has more than 300
employees and does business throughout North America
“They have always shared that passion [for wine] with us,”
Charlie says. (The Baesslers came to
Canada and bought a grain farm near Brandon in 1978.) In recent years, Gordon
and Diane have helped the Baesslers at crush at Corcelettes.
Both Charlie and Jesce also work for Clos du Soleil Winery;
he manages the vineyard and she manages the wine shop. Clos du Soleil is
located immediately east of the new Corcelettes. Currently, Clos du Soleil is
building a new winery and tasting room.
“We have made some commitments to Clos du Soleil and plan on
honouring those,” Charlie says. “We are really happy to continue. Believe me, I
need that job more than ever now.”