An Osoyoos-based company took its wine-infused bread to market last month. It came home with orders for a lot of other products as well.
Wine Crush Market originally wanted to to take grape crush — a byproduct of the wine-making process that tends to end up in the compost heap — and turn it into flavourful breads.
But after a visit to the Vancouver International Wine Festival in late February, the small startup quickly realized the process it was developing could be used in creating unique cheeses, sausages and other products.
“It went really well,” says Tyson Still, Wine Crush Market’s VP in charge of market development, of the company’s festival appearance.
“Constellation (a liquor distributor) launched our brand in their hospitality suite. We thought they were just going to have samples on their tasting table but they decided to make our bread available to everyone.”
It was a big leap forward for a company that came from a fortuitous episode not three months earlier.
In December, Tyson’s partner, Bill Broddy — who also happens to be his father-in-law — came across a dump of pinot noir grapes on the side of a Summerland road. Remembering an article he had read on making sourdough starter using grape yeast, he decided to take some home and give it a try.
He discovered the grapes added a great deal of texture and flavour.
Later that week, while visiting with a friend at a local winery, he realized that the marc destined for the compost had the same flavour and texture as he found in his new sourdough bread.
Around the dinner table, as the amount of crush available in the Okanagan was calculated, the idea blossomed into talk of a potential commercial enterprise. Wine Crush Market was born.
The small team of five is now working through the process of stabilizing the crush and creating a powder product it can add to flour.
“The crush has yeast in it, it has other bacteria in it,” explains Bill. “It’s going to continue to ferment. It’s going to go stinky on you.”
The solution is to transform the crush into a dry, stable, consistent substance. And that solution comes with the added complication of maintaining the product’s organic property.
“We don’t want to add chemicals, don’t want to add anything that isn’t natural,” said Bill. “All we want is a stabilized product that we can add to the local flour here.”
Over the next couple of months, with a lot of trial and error, the team developed some breads that Bill calls a “great product.” But, he adds, “we want a fantastic product.”
In late February, the team took its perfected loaves to Vancouver. Very quickly, Bill and Tyson realized other products could be infused with the wine flavourings as well.
“We met up with a sausage maker and he’s going to be making us sausage now,” said Tyson.
“And we met with an organic cheese farm based out of Agassiz. We’re going to work on making some cheese with them out of the grape crush, too. We’re going to infuse the grape powder into the cheese.”
The possibilities don’t end there. The company bought a pasta maker and quickly determined it could produce some amazing strands of spaghetti and linguini as well.
“It tastes so good,” says Tyson. “We’re going to go with it.”
The 2016 marketing plan involves selling product through farmers’ markets throughout the Okanagan.
The team will also be approaching local wineries with the intent of developing winery-specific breads.
“We can make a bread from their premium vintage, entirely out of their vineyard, their crush,” explains Bill. “The only thing that won’t be theirs will be the flour and the salt and the water.”
The bread, he added, would be sold through the winery in its tasting room, restaurant and other sales points.
“It will be their product,” says Bill. “The winemaker will sign off at the end.”
The five-year plan includes larger designs.
“For us, I don’t think a single storefront would be the right way to go,” explains Bill. “The product is something you want to distribute throughout the valley and not just from one doorstep.”
Wine Crush Market has a decidedly local bent. It uses local products — the crush comes from local vineyards and the flour from Heritage Mills — and plans to expand locally as well.
“That’s our focus — keeping everything local,” says Tyson. “We want to support our local community and keeping everyone involved locally.”
The breads won’t sell cheap. Bill expects a loaf to fetch between $8 and $8.50, but, as he explains it, “our product is going to be more expensive because the cost of making this stabilized product is not cheap.”
It’s also not a quick route to intoxication.
“There’s no alcohol content in this bread,” says Bill. “It’s just bread. You get the flavours from the crush but it’s perfectly good for the kids to eat.”