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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Canadian Wine Marketing

Air Date: Week of

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Canadian food writer Don Genova says he's found a remedy for stress at an unlikely vineyard in the Canadian Okanogan, where wineries are popping up like mushrooms.


CURWOOD: The term “Canadian wine” was once synonymous with sticky syrup and a wicked hangover. But Canadian wines are now selling well and winning international awards. Across the South Okanagan region of British Columbia, acre after acre of desert land is now sprouting grapevines. Competition for customers is fiercer than ever, and as food writer Don Genova found, a few winery owners are trying some unusual marketing twists.


CIPES: The sounds in this hallway, going up to the pyramid, are especially beautiful, because of the resonation, you hear the echo off the walls, and everyone is always enchanted by the candlelight,


GENOVA: Most pyramids are found in the Egyptian desert; this one is at an organic winery, the Summerhill Pyramid Winery near Kelowna, British Columbia.

CIPES: The dimensions of the pyramid are based on an eight percent replica of the Great Pyramid. And it's the same angles as the Great Pyramid, and it's also oriented to true North, just as the Great Pyramid is…(fade under)

GENOVA: Stephen Cipes is the proprietor of the winery. He's a New York City real estate developer who escaped to the calm of this valley to raise his children. He believes the two pyramids he built here have the power to somehow improve the quality of the wines he ages in them. While he says they're not scientific claims, he's fond of telling visitors how the vortex created by the pyramid can change the properties of foods and liquids placed within it:

CIPES: For instance, if you put raw milk in here, it will turn to yogurt, it won't rot. If you put meat in here it will petrify. It changes the flavors of liquids, that's the most amazing thing. It brings out the qualities or the bad things about it whatever they are.

GENOVA: Skeptics can joke about it all they like, but this guy is good for the Canadian wine industry. His sparkling wines have won Champagne awards in France. He's bought specialty equipment for organic grapegrowers to share so they can keep their businesses going. And, during peak tourism season, up to three thousand people a day visit the winery.

As we left the pyramid, we stopped by a large crate heaped full of grape stems, skins and seeds left over from this year's harvest and crushing process.

CIPES: Nice to feel the touch of it, eh? Feel, it's probably healthful for your skin just to play in this stuff, hey? These are the leftover seeds, they call them pips, that actually are composted and put back into the soil, but now we're going to use the phenolics and the resveratol that's buried in these….

GENOVA: Absolutely nothing here is going to waste. I traced these grape leftovers to downtown Kelowna:

PENDER: Oh great, that's our first harvest of stems right here. So they've been drying so now we're going to use these in exfoliations but these have gotta be milled here and ground so they're not quite so slivery.

GENOVA: That's Debra Pender, owner of the Beyond Wrapture spa in downtown Kelowna. She's recycling the Summerhill winery waste in her new “vinotherapy” treatments.

PENDER: So, let's just go ahead here, Toby...


GENOVA: Her assistant is pounding some grapeseeds into a scrub mixture for my exfoliation and massage:

PENDER: So, what we've done here is we've taken the pulps and the pips and we've just taken a handful of it and we're applying it to the body, can you feel the exfoliation, Don?


GENOVA: At this point I'm in grape heaven. The warm scrub smells and feels good, but vinotherapy is supposed to be good for you, as well. The therapy was developed in the 1990's by a pharmacology professor at Bordeaux University in France. The first vinotherapy spa opened in Bordeaux two years ago, and when Pender heard about it she thought it was perfect for Canada's wine country:

PENDER: Well, this is exactly all the stuff with spa-ing that is so important and with the skin care. We get a lot of people with skin problems in here and here right now Summerhill is just throwing away the byproducts so we can use it and it's beneficial to us as humans. I just thought that was really interesting.

GENOVA: Days later, my skin was still feeling soft and smooth. Bookings for the treatments have been brisk. Pender is developing a line of take-home vinotherapy products such as soaps and lotions. Stephen Cipes is talking about building a spa at the Summerhill winery, near the winery's restaurant. Hmmm. Pyramids, vinotherapy, food and wine. Not a bad place to eat, drink and be cosmic. For Living on Earth, I'm Don Genova, in Kelowna, British Columbia.

[MUSIC: Stan Getz & Kenny Baron “East of the Sun” People Time Verve (1992)]



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