“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
– Steve Jobs
If one word pinpoints the key to the success and longevity of Blair Dillen and Fiona Berry’s Nanaimo UVin, it is innovation. Since launching their Wine Works brand in 1992, this trailblazing couple has remained at the forefront of the local Ferment-on-Premises business, marrying state-of-the-art developments to a deep knowledge of, and passion for, the products they sell.
“I’ve always tried to stay ahead of the curve,” says Blair. “I attend lots of trade shows to see what’s out there in terms of new products, techniques and filtration systems…in fact, everything new in the world of wine, and how those things can be applied to make what we do even better. I am always considering growth potential, both in our business and the industry we are in.”
“Yes, we are always trying to stay ahead of the game,” Fiona concurs. “Doing so has worked well for us, our clients seem to really appreciate everything new that we bring in. For example, we were the first to introduce oak barrel aging, bringing in a dozen barrels from the Napa Valley. We have now incorporated the use of oak staves. Our clients are able to specifically select the oak characteristics that they like in their wines. We offer French, Hungarian and American oak, we can layer that choice with different levels of toast on the oak. Oak staves are much faster and more versatile than barrels, they are completely suited to smaller volume kit wines. Another thing we do that is a little extraordinary in our industry is the making of sparkling wines. For those who love their Cavas, Proseccos and Champagnes, we have that covered, and then of course there is The Olive Branch.”
The latest Wine Works innovation comes in the form of reusable screw tops for sparkling and still wines. While it may be argued that the replacement of corks with the new technology of screw tops dampens the celebratory romance of a champagne cork pop, the fact remains that they are a distinctly greener development that in no way affects the quality of the champagne, with no loss of freshness or fizz. As more and more, high end commercial wines are being packaged with screw top closures, we are feeling rather ahead of the curve.
Of the Vineyard-to-Table microwinery addition of 1000 litre temperature controlled tanks to the Wine Works, Fiona says: “We can now start sourcing organic products which are not available to this industry in kit format. We will be sourcing varietal grapes from Oregon, Washington and the Okanagan Valley. In late October, we spent a day picking Riesling grapes along the banks of the Similkameen River at the small and impeccably run, Lady Hawk Vineyard. Because regulations require client participation, we’ll be inviting clients to come along and initiate fermentation, Blair will be explaining exactly what is going on, there will be a whole education process around that, and of course, celebration is a must for the start of any fine vintage! If anyone wants to unleash their inner winemaker they can do so to the fullest by following their wines development very step of the way. We totally encourage that!”