When Rick Thrussell began Sage Hills Estate Winery in 2006, Summerland had a small but growing wine industry.
“We wanted to grow grapes that were designed to grow on the site that we had,” he said.
He and his wife looked at properties in Washington, Oregon and Vancouver Island before choosing to start a winery in Summerland.
When he began the winery, his property on Matsu Drive was the only winery in that part of Summerland. Today, from his tasting room windows, he can see five others nearby. “These didn’t exist when I came here,” he said.
The wine industry in the community has grown, and today Summerland’s Bottleneck Drive represents 18 wineries, three cideries, one brewery and one distillery, with more to come.
Thrussell is the president of Bottleneck Drive and is working to promote the wineries and the community.
“Bottleneck Drive is about driving tourism to the town,” he said. “There’s so much the community has to offer.”
He added that the growth of the wine industry has changed the way Summerland has promoted itself.
In the past, he said the Summerland Chamber of Commerce used the lake and the beaches as the focus of its tourism efforts, but Thrussell said the focus has needed to expand beyond the lake. Everybody’s on the lake and everybody’s got beaches,” he said of the communities in the Okanagan Valley. “We’ve got to start marketing what’s different about Summerland, not what’s the same as everywhere else.”
Thrussell expects the wine industry in Summerland and in the Okanagan will continue to grow, with wineries emphasizing the quality of the wines.
“The valley as a whole is going to continue to make its name based on the quality of the wines we produce,” he said. “Our focus has to be on quality.”
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