Our Story a story rooted in the history of Summerland. A little mountain town with a proud history of orchards, vineyards, and personal sacrifice. Ours is a story that is much the same…
It Grew from an Apple Seed:
It all began during the Great Depression when our property was just a small apple orchard that stubbornly endured the hardships of that miserable decade. The foundations along with the very framework of that modest, turn of the century orcharding homestead are still visible today in its new role as our cozy little Wineshop.
Directly behind the Wineshop sits our cellar, which was originally the shed for the orchard. When Back Door Winery first began operations, we found the entire structure was supported by a single pillar, which had withstood the weight of seven years of abandonment and neglect all by its lonesome self. Today its burden is now lessened following some much-needed renovations to the building, including a host of new pillars that now share this responsibility. But the original still proudly stands by itself in the centre, surrounded by a host of new friends and sheltering barrels of young wine still growing accustomed to their new home.
If you know just where to look, the past is always in plain sight here.
And with a Little Hard Work:
As Summerland entered the new millennium, the orchards began to disappear and, in their place, grew vineyards. One such orchard to be transformed into a vineyard was our own. A local partnership which operated a small winery in the south of the town went its separate ways, and a young entrepreneur set out from that venture to carve his own place in the still-burgeoning Okanagan wine scene. He purchased the historic orchard, toiled in the summer heat pulling the trees and planting the vines, and lay the first foundations for this winery. Seven acres in all were planted, with seven distinct varietals rooted in this tough terroir. Through these labours he helped to write the next chapter of our valley’s history.
Sadly, as quickly as our entrepreneur began his enterprise, he soon found his dreams dashed by the Great Recession of 2008. The banks closed the winery and our entrepreneur locked the front gates and left the property abandoned. It seemed as if the property that had bravely endured the Great Depression would not survive the Great Recession. And for seven long years the grapes sat neglected. No pruning, no care, and no watering. For seven long years…
…but this little winery’s story was far from over…
When Pieter Smits came out to Summerland on a trip in 2014 from Edmonton to visit his parents, the owners of Sonoran Winery, he happened to take note of this abandoned lot. Throughout the next week he found excuses to keep driving by, examining the lot, and asking questions of neighbours. He quickly fell in love with this property and decided to purchase it. To which his friends and family all said, “what are you thinking? The only good thing about that place is the back door!!”
Pieter quickly started working hard day and night to restore the winery and tame the now feral grapes. It was an arduous task, but fortunately his parents had more than a few years of experience with grape vines!
The house, having been built in the depression and having received no prior renovations, was a mess when he started working on it, and he quickly learned his folks and friends had been right: the only thing good about the place was the back door! But that very door that now hangs in the wine shop for all our guests to sign! A constant reminder of all the hard work that built this winery. And a message board for all of Pieter’s doubting friends.
An Unexpected Partner:
The work was backbreakingly hard and the hours were long. At one point while leveling out the house approximately 5 feet of sawdust came crashing down and nearly buried him! During this time, Pieter slowly started to doubt wither or not this had been a good decision. The renovations were costly, his body was sore, his wife Leizel was pregnant with their first child, and his keys seemed to be constantly disappearing…
Then one day he ended up discovering a small hole in the far corner wall of the house. He peeked inside and found a small crow sitting atop a nest so shoddily built Pieter had to assume it was her first. He chuckled to himself at the realization that he was not the only fool who had seen the potential in this overlooked lot. And when he had the chance, he took her ambitious project out to the vineyard, and so he gave her a place among our Pinot Noir so that she could oversee his own ambitious project. It was at this point as he was handling her nest that he discovered where his all his keys (along with a surprising amount of other shiny objects) had been disappearing to.
The Winery Grew:
Over the next 5 years with great care and attention the vineyard was re-established. Clients from far and near began to enjoy the wine being produced and the winery began to grow year over year. By 2019 the winery was outpacing the supply of grapes and meeting the demand for wine was becoming challenging.
A New Era:
At the end of 2020 nearing Christmas, and during the challenges of the Covid 19 Pandemic, the vineyard and winery were acquired by Okanagan Hills Winery Group from Pieter. Okanagan Hills with its ample supply of vineyard estate grown grapes are continuing to produce the wines that our clients and wine club members have enjoyed year after year at Back Door Winery. With grape supply no longer a challenge, Back Door Winery can continue to produce the wines that our loyal clients are accustomed to. A continuation of the journey that was started from those first apple seeds planted so long ago.
As the years go by the crow is still here. She and her offspring still watch over these vineyards. The crows occasionally steal a few grapes to eat, and the winery has become a place for all of Summerland to call home. Come visit Back Door Winery to find excellent award-winning wines at reasonable costs, and to enjoy a friendly conversation with knowledgeable staff.
… just keep an eye on your keys!