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October 28, 2017 2:02 am

Winery’s Success Means Short Shut Down

Thursday, October 15, 2015 @ 3:59 AM

2015-10-14 11.27.43

Northern Lights Estate Winery  has been embraced by  community – photos 250News

Prince George, B.C. – To say the first year of operations for the Northern Lights Estate Winery  has been a success  would be an understatement.

The  winery officially opened on June 26th,  and  has sold about 15 thousand bottles of the  fruit based  wines since that opening day.  That’s more than owner Doug Bell expected “It absolutely exceeded our expectations for the first year.  The community was  so supportive of the winery.”

That support  means the  winery is running out of product  and is looking at a short shut down “That’s the tough reality of the business” says Bell.  “Our expectations  were that hopefully we would be able to stay open right  through to the new year,  and we will re-open in December,  but unfortunately  for  November, and part of October potentially, we will have  to shut down  because of the success  we’ve had  and the support of the community.”

Word of the  temporary closure  has created mixed feelings  says Bell  as it  is a sign of the winery’s success, but  those who had hoped to buy a bottle of  wine may not  be able to,  at least not until the winery  reopens in December.

Those who work at the winery will still be reporting to their jobs during the public closure,  Bell says their duties will simply be re-focused to making more  wine “So we’re going to be bottling and finishing as much wine as we can that we’ve been making through the summer so  we’ll have some  wines for Christmas, including a cranberry wine”.winery

(At right, Farm Manager Noemie Touchette  stirs  the fermenting  apple wine )

The winery  is  processing some 5,000 pounds of apples  gathered  this fall  and will start bottling that, 100% Prince George  wine in February.  “We are going to have some great apple wines coming out as well as some apple blends that are really really nice.”

Other than the apple based wine  which will be 100% from  Prince George harvest, it will likely be about 3 years before the winery’s own orchards are   producing  enough rhubarb, berries and apples,  to  make all of the wines 100% Prince George grown.


We did 20 cases of Okanogan grapes this year. Crushed it nearly a month ago and now it’s all pressed and waiting for its first transfer in a week or so. For transferring after settlement we’re going 2-3weeks, one month, and three months, and then wait about a year after its bottled before drinking. I’d like to try apples some time, but just not sure what variety to go with yet.

where’s the hair net

somewhere in number 5, whineo. don’t worry, it’s bio-degradable. will just add a little body to the product.

Great job Pat Bell. Love to see a successful Prince George start up business thrive.

Whieno- where is the gloves, uniform and face mask?

Bonaparte Winery in Cache Creek closed down this year. According to their website Northern Lights Winery bought their equipment and wine inventory.

Sounds like they gathered apples from the local area which is a good thing, cranberries would come from the Vancouver area.

Rhubarb is the one plant that you can probably rely on the most year in and year out.

As their market increases there will be more problems in sourcing fruits to supply the winery. Kind of a catch 22.

Actually Rhubarb, Apples, and Raspberries are pretty hardy.

Palopu, I believe that the reason for any funding that they may have received from different levels of government, is because of the foresight.

The success of their winery means that more fruit is required. Thus local producers can produce the fruits for them. Thus creating more land and agriculture based industry in the area. Thus creating a new tax base ten -twenty years down the road.

Do they have to jump through the same hoops as a medical marijuana grow op does?

If not, why not?

When people are still operating the winery, why would one call it a short shut down? The winery is closing the retail space to the public for a couple of months because they have sold out of product. That’s it!! Something which is likely unavoidable at the start-up of this particular type of business.

I am amazed that they were able to build a building, get equipment installed, begin production, and open it to the public, etc. as quickly as they did.

There are also still parts of the interior space – additional public spaces for events – which need to be completed, at least as of a month ago that was the case. Of course they will also be adding some production capacity

This is a wonderful addition to the community.

Should be some sort of Bistro and Restaurant next year. So you will be able to order food with you wine.

Not sure about the supply situation for the various fruits etc, however one thing is certain, fruit picking is very labour intensive.

Having the liquor laws changed so that you can buy local wines in grocery stores will also help.

Great to see the , Virtuous Cycle at work . Positive feedback is a thing of beauty .

Palopu wrote: “one thing is certain, fruit picking is very labour intensive.”

I do not think much in this world is certain, Palopu. For now, when we speak about the social world we live in, human death seems to be about as certain as one can get. Even taxes are not all that certain anymore for some.

Put harvesters associated with any kind of farmed produce into a search engine and you will get some of the latest mechanical aids.

Here are some for starters.

Apple harvester: machinery from the Netherlands munckhof.org/

Raspberry harvester: Machinery from Lynden, WA youtube.com/watch?v=3iXJFDoKEvI

Blueberry harvester: also from Lynden youtube.com/watch?v=bt73GOk4JRY

Grape harvester: from France – youtube.com/watch?v=WBmFH7fNxnA

Result? Same as in the timber harvesting, production of lumber, paper – significant reduction of manual jobs.

That is accompanied by a significant increase in “smart” jobs dealing with technology change whether on the biology and managing of growing products, marketing products, and creating and manufacturing, distribution, maintenance of the engineered tools to make jobs easier as well as fewer.

The interesting thing is that those types of smart jobs are actually happening in rural, small town areas where the harvesting actually takes place. They are not typically jobs which are located in large cities.

The Raspberry/blueberry machinery is manufactured in Lynden, Wa, a community of about 10,000 and shipped all over the world as far as I understand.

As many keep pointing out, PG needs to keep working on getting more of these kind of “smart” jobs here which supply products and services to the rest of the country and the world. We have some, but that is the sector that needs to grow if we want to remain a sustainable community and especially if we want to get back on a slow growth cycle rather than a slow declining cycle.

Is the retail shop already closed for the season?

“Do they have to jump through the same hoops as a medical marijuana grow op does? If not, why not? ”

No they do not in the same context as you probably mean. They have “hoops” which are different. The reasons is because to the best of my knowledge the products in the field is not a potential mind altering agricultural product. However, the fruit wine is, so they have to meet all regulations with respect to BCLCB as well as those dealing with the manufacturing of consumable products.

Virtually everyone who operates a service or a production business has to jump through hoops. Some of those hoops are specific to the industry and others are common to all.

Pat Bell has to jump though hoops?
I bet not as many any anyone else would have to.

We’ve seen pics from the road . From across the river . From inside . Geez when are we going to get a drone shot from up high . So we can see the whole operation in its glory . Before the snow flies at least .

We visited a fruit wine winery in Black Creek (near Campbell River) this year. As we pulled into the estate there was quite a machine that was harvesting blueberries. The owners said the equipment made harvesting fruit very easy. They even gave kids a ride on it while it was in use.

Now all they need is a safe pedestrian crossing over the pulpmill road.

bcracer wrote: “Pat Bell has to jump though hoops? I bet not as many any anyone else would have to.”

The huge difference between Pat Bell and many others is that he “knows the drill” and likely does not complain too much about it. He knows it from both his business background before he was in government and certainly knows a lot about it from being in government.

In my opinion, the noise coming from people in PG having to deal with government comes from those who do not know how to deal with the regulators because they do not know the regulations and they do not hire people who do.

That does not mean that one should not try to change regulations when they are too onerous, nor challenge regulators when they make mistakes – and they do make mistakes more often than some may think – but the first requirement is that one become familiar with the regulations and even the purpose for them. People like Pat would fit into that category.

gopg2015. The machines you are talking about are used is areas where they have thousand of acres of various fruits. They also have a much longer growing period.

Not likely that you will ever see that type of an operation in Prince George considering we have a 5 month growing window at best. The risk of losing your crop to freezing weather would always be a problem, having thousands of acres under cultivation in this area would not be a wise investment.

The present area under cultivation at the Northern Lights Winery could be picked clean in two days. The problem is the whole crop would not make very many bottles of wine.

My guess is that if this Winery is to be a success it will need to import a lot of the various fruit from the lower mainland or from the southern interior. Having a Bistro and wine sales on site, plus selling in stores, etc would certainly help generate revenue.

Speaking of shut downs I see the pulp mill in Chetwynd that shut down for maintenance in September has now decided to stay down until January.

Again . Two negative views on as many posts . Why have you righties always look at things the way you do ? Thousands of acres ? Too expensive ? It would only be risky if farmers were dumb enough to plant bananas or passion fruit . Have a positive thought once in awhile Palopu . Treat yourself . Positive thoughts always precuse positive action .

I agree with the positive comments made by Palopu. We visited the winery, had a tour and tasting session and purchased three different wines which are great. The owners indicated that a restaurant is planned. I wonder if they would experiment with a type of ice wine made from rhubarb and berries picked after a good solid frost? Apparently freezing concentrates the natural sugars.

Palopu … instead of guessing, why do you not do a bit of research before you post and waste everyone’s time? I know … because others will find the accurate information….

from the linked site, just as an example …. lahavenaturalfarms.com/favoured-harvesters-mechanical-picking

For the OXBO berry harvester manufactured in Lynden, WA
• The basic formula is one harvester per 40 acre orchard.
• The picking speed is around one mile an hour and can pick about 5 to 6 acres a day.
• A ten acre Haskap orchard is needed to pay for owning the larger self-propelled machines
• and a five acre orchard is needed for the tractor towed harvester.
• Harvesting costs ex financing is about 15 cents per pound.
• The cost of the large, self-propelled harvester for the 10 acre orchard is $180,000

Finally, if you are familiar with the typical wineries, such as in the Okanagan, you would realize that the acreage around the building is what they started with. The larger operations actually grow the grapes and fruit in many locations.

Who would’a thought that the intuitive answer is wrong, eh?

BTW, if you were to go and have a tour of the winery, Palopu, you would learn that compared to wine made from grapes … also a fruit of course, but interestingly not called a fruit wine …. they can do 3 rotations a year with their equipment as opposed to one annual one for grapes.

Speaking about things changing … there are many fruit trees that will grow in Zone 3, including varieties of cherries, pears, apricots, apples, and plums.

We used to have a pear tree in the back yard which produced edible pears but succumbed to pests after about 10 years.

Now that we have a fruit winery here, I am sure there will be some experimentation going on.

Too bad no one ever did any significant experimentation at the experimental farm when we had one.

What did they do at the Experimental Farm, back in the day?

gopg2015. You know diddly squat about what experimentation was done at the Prince George experimental farm. The experimental farm was established in 1940. Where were you then???

I have been at the Winery on Pulp Mill road but only gave it a cursory look.

There are very few small wineries such as the one here in Prince George in all of Canada, and from what I could find out only about 700 in the US.

These **fruit** wineries should not be confused with the bigger wineries in the Okanogan, or other parts of Canada where they have good weather.
These are basically Mom and Pop operations who produce a variety of wines and primarily sell to the local area residents, liquor outlets, restaurants, and eventually grocery stores.

So there certainly is a place for them. My point was that with our shortened growing season and the cost of actually growing and harvesting various fruits, that it would be a scary investment if done on a large scale.

As far as your statement goes in regards to growing pears, apricots, cherries, apples, and plums, have fun with that thought. With a little luck you might get the apples other than that, Nada.

I am sure they will stick with their original plan which is raspberries, apples, rhubarb, perhaps strawberries, and I would guess maybe blueberries. Saskatoons, Pin Cherries, and Choke Cherries, also grow well in this area along with black and red currents.

Grapes are berries . Apples are fruit.

“You know diddly squat about what experimentation was done at the Prince George experimental farm. The experimental farm was established in 1940. Where were you then???”

LOL ….. so one has to be there to observe and cannot learn from other people, books, new media ….. come on Palopu, you can do better than that.

Ever hear of tillage experiments? Crop sequence? Addition of lime and manure to soils? …. those were some of the types of experimenting that was done in PG.

Grapes are berries, apples are fruit ….. this stuff is getting worse as we go along…. obviously never took botany ….

dictionary definition …. do not even have to have a botany resource

berry – a small roundish fruit without a stone

from a botany source – any fruit that has its seeds enclosed in a fleshy pulp, for example, a banana or a tomato …… (there is the answer for those who were wondering whether a tomato was a fruit …. not only that, but a tomato is a berry by botanical definition)

Shirley Bond is hardly ever in her office, but yet we always see her frequenting this winery.. Maybe she bought all the wine.. (just a thought)

I don’t know if you noticed bcracer, and gopg etc.. that Doug Bell is the owner.

In any event gopg2015 Prince George is on the North End of Zone 3. Quesnel and Williams Lake on the South End. Quesnel gets at least a 2/3 week longer growing period than we do, but even so you don’t see very many (if any) orchards in those areas.

As far as the labour component goes, harvesting is only one aspect, you also need pruning, planting, thinning, so lots of labour costs.

The experiments you talk about were done all over the Province and eventually became the basis for TFL’s and ALR’s.

Don’t hold your breath for any big fruit tree plantations in this area.

“My point was that with our shortened growing season and the cost of actually growing and harvesting various fruits, that it would be a scary investment if done on a large scale.”

Then make that point in the first place ….. you realize, of course, that any kind of agriculture, especially on a large scale, is a scary investment …. frost in Florida, drought in California, dust storms on the prairies ….. pests …. blight killing total orchards, such as fire blight and apple and pear trees ….. it is man against nature …. have you ever seen orchards of fruit trees growing naturally? There is not such thing. Agriculture is man-made endeavor and just as susceptible to natural forces as natural systems themselves.

Look up pickyourown.org to have a look at the Alaskan fruit and vegetable picking time from farms
Apples – july to September
Apriocots – july to august
Asian pears – august to September
Blackberries – july to august
Blueberries – july to august
Boysonberries – june to july
Cantaloupes – july to September
Cherries – june to july
Gooseberries – july to august
Grapes – july to august
Nectarines, pears, plums, raspberries, saskatoon, strawberries

From bearcreekwinery.com comes this notice:
We buy berries and fruit by the pound from our Alaskan community. The varieties that we buy are: red raspberries, yellow raspberries, blueberries, black currants, strawberries, gooseberries, apples, low bush cranberries, and rhubarb.

“Shirley Bond is hardly ever in her office, but yet we always see her frequenting this winery.. Maybe she bought all the wine.. (just a thought)”

And that means you must frequent both her office as well as the winery …. ;-)

gopg2015….. good one..ahahhah Noo just my observation from all the News stories

gogp2015. I am wagering the Alaska area where these things are grown are on the Coast.

Furthermore we can grow much the same products in Hazelton which is a zone 4 or Terrace which is a zone 5.

Prince George on the Northern end of a Zone 3 not so good,.

From the Art Knapp, PG web site

“….soil, location, sun, shade, drainage, moisture, nutrients all play a part in a plants survival so just because a plant is listed as zone 3 does not mean that it will automatically survive because all these other elements are also very important to a plants health.

There are times when we can get away with growing plants listed as zone 4 depending on where you live and also the winter conditions.

…… if you live in a protected area where the conditions are not as harsh, or if the plant will receive some extra protection from the wind or cold temperatures, by gardeners doing the extra work by giving the plant some extra protection with mulch or wrapping it with protective fabric.

The list of plants that can grow in our Prince George zone 3 climate continues to increase each year. With hybridizing and finding new plants coming from all over the world including Canada our local gardens are becoming much more diverse then when I first came to Prince George 32 years ago.

I understand that the winery site was chosen because it is in such a protected zone. The hill protects it from the north winds, it is at river level not in the Hart, Pineview, or Cranbrook Hill.

The weather around the Landsdowne Water Treatment plant is different from that of the bowl and that of the Hart.

This plant hardiness map of BC from Natural Resources Canada shows Prince George in a 4b to 4a zone.

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