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Fire Destroys Okanagan Winery (August 27, 2003)

The forest fires currently raging through British Columbia have already claimed one Okanagan Valley winery and are threatening at least three others.

St. Hubertus Estate confirmed that their administration office, wine shop and production facility were destroyed in the Okanagan Mountain fire. The winery building and retail shop date back to the 1930s. The storage room, which contains St. Hubertus' bottles ready for shipping, was undamaged, although it is not known if the heat of the fire has affected the quality of the wine.

St. Hubertus looked like a little piece of Switzerland above the city of Kelowna on the shores of Lake Okanagan. The brothers Leo and Andy Gerbert named the property after their family lodge in Switzerland. They own two adjacent vineyards – St. Hubertus and Oak Bay – which are among the oldest plantings in the Okanagan, dating back to the 1920s. Each vineyard property represents a different wine style: those bottled under the Oak Bay label are barrel-fermented and/or aged in oak, while St. Hubertus labeled wines are unoaked.

The vineyards were purchased in 1984 and the winery license issued in 1992.

In a statement, the Gerber brothers said, "While we lost one of the two family homes we are thankful that no one was injured and well all escaped harm. Once the evacuation order is lifted we will be able to fully inspect the site and reopen to limited operation... As soon as we are able to do so we are committed to rebuilding any buildings that were destroyed and returning to our love, producing great wines."

Three major forest fires are still raging in British Columbia's wine region. Also threatened are CedarCreek Estate Winery and Blue Mountain Vineyard & Cellars. Shifting winds and dry weather have made it almost impossible for firefighters to control, let alone douse, the blaze.

 

 

 

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