The Off the Grid Organic Winery is nestled between the two houses of the Paynter brothers in Westbank. Nigel and Travis Paynter are from a long line of farmers who have worked their land for over a hundred years. They are lucky enough to be married to two very smart and ambitious women. Together, they can make great wine. As a “net metered” winery, they have a unique experience to offer from solar panels to the straw-bale wine shop. They are organically minimizing their footprint with each bottle produced.
The original lot purchased by Edwin Paynter from Walter D’Aeth ran from Butt Road down to Powers Creek. In total it was 80 acres. The decision to grow grapes following certified organic guidelines stemmed from their devotion to the land. Originally a fruit orchard, the family decided to be done with the many pesticides and move forward in a new, and more green, direction. The first vines were planted in 2007 in conjunction with two other family properties. Now there are 18 acres of Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Zweigelt, Riesling, and Pinot Noir.
For years they sold grapes to other local organic wine makers. They decided to make their own labeled wine in 2012, with the first vintage being released in 2015. The winemaker Sheri Paynter has worked with many industry friends and consultants to create the first vintages.
2014 Gewürztraminer (550 cases): This is a 100% Gewürztraminer wine with a dry, medium acid, nose includes lechee fruit, orchard blossom, and cologne. Full body and makes for excellent pairing with Thai & Spicy foods.
2012 Unplugged Red (500 cases): This is an very equal mix of Merlot and Cab with about 20% Syrah. The Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah mingle in this full body fruit forward wine with a warm jammy nose, medium tannins, balanced by a hit of pepper from the Syrah. The Cab and Merlot is sourced from an Organic Grower in Oliver.
I was grateful for the opportunity to discuss the vineyard and winery operations with Sheri. Here are her comments:
2015 provided us with a number of challenges and opportunities! The longer growing season and warm summer, was challenging as we had to speed up our pick by about three weeks. We did end up with some really interesting fruity flavors this season that we are excited about though! Our 2015 Chardonnay has the most amazing tropical fruity nose, the pineapple is so prominent that we decided to make an on-oaked version. The flavor and smells is exactly what I think of when I think Okanangan Patio.
This year we will be releasing ~ 200 cases of the Gris, Chard, and Gew and hopefully the same amount of the Pinot Noir. We are going to bottle in early March with our 2015 Gew, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. We hope to bottle our pinot noir by June and expect to release Zweigelt & Riesling for the 2017 season.
Our business model and our family goals run similarly, we strive to operate with the lowest footprint possible. We are always looking at new farming practices and ways we can operate in a greener manner. The newly built tasting room is straw bale construction, with a roof design to accommodate solar and green roof. We plan to outfit the roof come spring and once in operation we should operate at a “0” foot print. Our winery is a converted 40 year old greenhouse and as we grow we plan on building a similar “off the grid” structure. We want to achieve a business our family can be proud of for years to come, this is also part of the sustainability for us. We know how hard it is to stay in the Okanagan valley and as a large family we want to stay where our roots are and want to provide a future for our kids. We see this business as a way to make that happen!
The four of us may be the owners, but Off the Grid is so many more people, this is a true family effort and if it wasn’t for my father in law, Geoffery Paynter and his brother David and there years of experience farming and hard work in the vineyards we would not have the quality fruit we have today. My daughter Paige, helps out around the farm and is our photographer, producing most of the website photos and the cards we sell in the winery. My mom, Betty Russell puts in many hours working not only in the wine shop, but on the property and in the office. Hayley’s parents, have done the same. But on top of that, Henray Paynter “Cousin” of Wooden Arms, created everything in our wine shop from re-claimed wood, everything from the cabinets, to the tasting bar to the front door. This list could go on, we had 30+ volunteers help us stuff straw, plant grapes, landscape, fence and so much more. We think every day how blessed we are to be surrounded by so much support.
The last note is about our farm, we do operate a small farm on the winery property, where we raise chickens, turkeys, and goats currently. We plan to move some of our goats to a new pen by the tasting room, with a ramp to the green roof. We find guests love the opportunity to see our animals and interact with them. We are excited about sharing them with the community and providing some interest for families who vacation with their kids. We are also looking into bringing in some miniature sheep to help us with the weeds in the Vineyard.
You really should checkout Off the Grid Organic Winery the next time you are in Westbank /Kelowna.