Any business owner or operator can attest to the certain feeling they get when a decision is made to execute a fresh start for the sake of their brand. One might suggest it’s invigorating, purifying, cathartic. For the team at Monte Creek Winery, in British Columbia’s Thompson Valley, these are exciting times.
Formerly known as Monte Creek Ranch, the winery unveiled its long-in-the-works rebrand strategy this past January, starting with an updated name. Details on a new mission focus, updated packaging and a significant $10-million investment in infrastructure were also shared. The creation of new wine tiers with a focus on pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling grapes are sure to draw most consumers in. But more importantly – and what Monte Creek would like customers to get behind more than anything else – is that they have significantly advanced their sustainable efforts.
We’re seeing this happen more and more in the winegrowing space. Especially now with sustainability being such a major focus for farmers. It’s all part of a realization that to stay ahead of the curve, businesses need to re-think and in certain cases reset.
“We feel as though we owe it to ourselves, to our community, and to this special place to be as sustainable and responsible as possible,” says Erik Fisher, GM of Monte Creek Winery. On the question of why it’s important for Monte Creek and why this was the right time to have its re-branding reflect this, Fisher simply says that “this came naturally, as our team is very passionate about quality, innovation, and sustainability.”
“With sustainability being one of our leading mindsets, it felt right to start transforming our brand to reflect this.” – Erik Fisher
“In recent years, we’ve implemented a variety of new sustainable initiatives to enhance the land that we work on. We are now certified as a Biosphere committed entity, which is an international certification that verifies that our winery is committed to the well-being of our company, customers, community and environment,” continued Fisher.
The winery’s viticulturalists are also utilizing regenerative agriculture to help conserve the land and enrich the soil. Robust compost and cover crop programs are in place, and they’re working on several other innovative practices to ensure the soils are truly alive, their vines are balanced, and that the fruit is as concentrated and flavourful as possible.
“We loved the nostalgia and history our brand communicated about this region,” says Fisher. “But ultimately felt we weren’t telling enough about the story we are living now. With sustainability being one of our leading mindsets, it felt right to start transforming our brand to reflect this.”
Many of the new enhancements made at Monte Creek Winery aren’t even visible to the consumer. They’ve heavily invested in their winemaking process and have focused on ensuring a greater supply and handling of quality fruit. In recent years, they have planted 50 acres of grapes and constructed a state-of-the-art greenhouse so that they have a consistent supply of healthy plants. In controlling this part of the process, they’ve ensured that their vines are clean and strong when being planted, all the while significantly reducing their carbon footprint.
In 2021 the winery also completed an exceptional new onsite gravity flow production facility with the notion that this gentler winemaking process will enable the winemaking team to make more elegant and refined wines.
“Now that our supply picture is set-up for future growth, we are looking to focus on the experiential side of our business. With 1,200 acres of land and the South Thompson River connecting the property, we are really excited to begin unveiling more unique agro-tourism experiences,” confirms Fisher.
When you visit Monte Creek Winery, you can see the impressive hoodoos, breathtaking vineyards, and South Thompson Valley River. When rebranding the wines, the winery wanted to pay homage to the surrounding geology and geographic history that gives Monte Creek its distinctions.
“Our name itself is a reflection of purpose and place but our collection of wines are specific references to places our grapes grow,” says Fisher. “For example, our Ancient Waters series was named after the geological events and subsequent water ways that formed the land and prized soils we now grow on.”
“You must promote and maintain an environment that is healthy and working with nature, not against it.”
The Thompson Valley is a very special and unique opportunity for viticulture and is now recognized as one of BC’s official wine producing regions with its very own Geographic Indicator – Thompson Valley. “There is a long lineage of farming in this area, and it is very important to us to acknowledge what it means to not only be good stewards of the land, but to enhance our surroundings to the best of our abilities.”
One of the winery’s most successful programs was its awareness and fundraising campaign for Badgers in BC. After learning that the stretch of highway outside the winery was one of the worst in the province for badger mortality, the folks at Monte Creek were dedicated to finding a solution. The winery partnered with the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure as well as the Manager of the Wildlife Program, to make badger travel safer, while also raising money for Badgers in BC and the BC Wildlife Park to help support and care for their resident badger, Bloom. This work earned them the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association’s 2021 Sustainable project of the Year.
“As a small business, we’re very connected to our community and this region,” notes Fisher. “It wouldn’t feel right to disregard the land and all that it has given us. Instead, we’ve made it our goal to continue creating our award-winning premium wines without jeopardizing the eco-system we participate in. We even dedicated our Living Land series to celebrate this idea, as it was named after the notion that to grow incredible fruit, you must promote and maintain an environment that is healthy and working with nature, not against it.”
Monte Creek 2019 ‘Ancient Waters’ Chardonnay
From 15-20 year-old vines and a relatively flat vineyard site containing glacial silt soils, this is a delicate chardonnay that beautifully reflects the terroir of British Columbia. Having spent 15 months in both concrete eggs and barriques, this is medium-bodied and rich with aromas of caramel, pineapple and a hint of nutmeg. The palate is fresh with citrus notes, minerality, refreshing acidity and closes with a caramel-like finish. An impressive wine with superb value. ($24.99)
Monte Creek 2020 ‘Living Land’ Riesling
Sourced from a single vineyard site in the Similkameen Valley, which sits on a stony old riverbed. It’s a site recognized for producing fruit with excellent flavour intensity early in ripening, and that makes a lot of sense when tasting this riesling. It’s fresh with vibrant and balanced acidity and an inviting citrusy flavour profile. Its on the dryer side (6.7 g/L of residual sugar) and its 11.4% ABV makes this very quaffable, especially with warmer days ahead. ($21.99)
Monte Creek 2020 Sparkling Rosé
Made from 100 percent estate grown Marquette, this sparkler is ready for summer with its aromas of fresh strawberries, citrus and an undertone of musk. The palate is crisp, with its strawberry, hibiscus and juicy watermelon flavours. Made in the Charmat method, this has 17 g/L of RS and comes across dry and clean on the finish. No special occasion required before uncorking. Just pop and pour. ($23.99)