Northern Lights Winery – A Growing Business
Prince George, B.C.- When Northern Lights Estate Winery officially opened in June of 2015 on the north bank of the Nechako River in Prince George, there were hopes for success, but no one expected the level of success would be this high just a year and a half later.
With product on the shelves in liquor stores from Williams Lake to Prince George, Smithers and Valemount Bell says the demand is high “The product is really being accepted and we need to continue to grow that and get the product into Fort St. John and Dawson Creek, we are certain we are going to be accepted there as well.”
But in order to grow the business, they will have to grow the fruit supply. “One of the big constraints that we have is the amount of fruit that we can grow. The site that we’re on today at the winery, is really a demonstration site, and over time, it will be capable of producing about 50 thousand pounds of fruit per year. Next year, we are expecting somewhere in the 12 to 15 thousand pound range. We’ve leased some property up near the (Prince George) Airport about 7 acres we are going to be expanding into, and our plan for next year is to plant somewhere between 4 and 7 thousand additional plants.”
When the winery first started, it planted 2200 plants and now the plan is to double or possibly triple that. Bell says the winery has also leased some property in Quesnel “And we’re working on some additional partnerships. Fruit is a huge constraint for us right now and I think that ( more plantings in the region) is good news for agriculture in B.C.”
The winery also works with the local community having accepting harvested fruit in support of Northern Bear Awareness, and the Railway and Forestry Museum.
Expansion plans aren’t just about planting more fruit “We have submitted some early applications to the City of Prince George and the province of British Columbia for expansion” says Bell, “We’ve got, virtually every weekend sold out for 2017 for weddings and special events. At this point I think we have one or two weekends that are available for next summer. That’s going to require additional parking and additional facilities. We’ve applied to the City to expand our washroom facilities to make sure we have the capacity internally within the building, and we’re starting to think about a storage facility because we are unable at this point to keep up with the market demand for wine, and having that storage facility on site would create more space in the back and allow us to bring more tanks in.”
Eventually, the winery may see a commercial kitchen added to the site, one that could service all the special events being booked for the location.
“What we’ve discovered in our first, 15 or 17 months of operation is that the business is way larger than we originally contemplated” says Bell. So we see this as a winery that will be in the top 10% in British Columbia, and by far and away the largest fruit winery in B.C.”