An Ontario company’s recent announcement that it is purchasing three Okanagan-based properties opens a door for smaller wineries in the region, says the former owner of a popular South Okanagan-based winery.

Ontario-based Andrew Peller Limited, which already owns Naramata’s Red Rooster Winery and Calona Vineyards in BC and other wineries in Nova Scotia and Ontario, expects to add to its holdings with the $95-million purchase of Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, Black Hills Estate Winery and Grey Monk Estate Winery.

Peller announced its bid to purchase the three wineries Sept. 11., saying it had signed definitive agreements to acquire 100% of Black Hills and Grey Monk and a letter of intent to purchase Tinhorn Creek.

Completion of each transaction is subject to a number of conditions customary for transactions of this nature, Peller noted.

But Bruce Fuller, formerly the founder and proprietor of the Rustico Farm & Cellars winery north of Osoyoos — now the Rust Wine Co. under new ownership — says the acquisition of premium properties within the South Okanagan by larger entities will benefit smaller, family-owned wineries.

“It’s good for the little guys, the boutique niche marketers” he said. “Provided they do some smart marketing and not just sit on their hands awaiting customers.

Mr. Fuller explained the larger wineries —especially those under a corporate umbrella — make their product available where potential guests live — with tastings all over the city and in liquor stores close to home.

“But the little guy has to stay at home and take care of business. That makes it unique,” he said. “So, if you’re here wine-touring in the Okanagan, you want to try and find the unique ones.”

The Peller bid is the second extraordinary funding announcement for the South Okanagan wine industry in just over two months.

In July, a Vancouver family announced it would spend up to $100 million to purchase lands and build a winery in the Black Sage bench region between Osoyoos and Oliver.

“Our very young wine industry is maturing,” said Jennifer Bussmann, executive director of the Oliver Osoyoos Wine Association. “That’s a good thing.

“Peller Estates would have bought wineries that are strong business models with strong brand equity and strong labels.”

She expects the wine industry’s future will be a mix of corporate properties and smaller family-owned enterprises — a direction forward she sees as growing the local wine economy.

“Our bigger winery partners pave the path,” she explained. “They have the budget and the infrastructure to help the industry grow.”

“The smaller wineries will benefit from that so I expect we’ll see a good mix of both.”


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