Stag’s Hollow Winery has more than a few firsts to its credit. Here are several. In 1995 it was the Okanagan’s first winery to install energy-saving geothermal technology for heating and cooling. In the 1999 vintage, it was one of the first wineries to sell Futures. In 2006, it was one of the first wineries in the Okanagan to plant Tempranillo, Spain’s major red varietal. And in 2011, it was the first in the Okanagan to plant Dolcetto, a red wine grape from northwest Italy’s Piedmont region.
These innovations flow from the pioneer spirit that brought Larry Gerelus and Linda Pruegger from professional city careers to Okanagan Falls early in this wine region’s development. Stag’s Hollow was just the third winery in the Okanagan Falls region. Born in Winnipeg in 1952, Larry trained as an insurance actuary. He was an independent pension and benefits consultant in Calgary while Linda, a Calgary native, worked in banking and then in marketing with an oil company.
Ready for a career change, Larry sought out career counselling. The test suggested he was better suited either to running a ski resort or operating a winery. When he began researching Okanagan vineyards in 1991, the industry veterans he consulted kept recommending Okanagan Falls. In 1992, he bought a four-hectare vineyard growing Chasselas and Vidal, under contract to Mission Hill. When the contract ended in 1994, Larry grafted most of the Vidal to Chardonnay and all of the Chasselas to Merlot and Pinot Noir. The vineyard was back in production the next year and Stag’s Hollow built its first winery in 1995, opening the following year under a name inspired by a chance deer encounter in the vineyard.
The original winery was incorporated with Larry and Linda’s residence. The building was equipped with the first geothermal heating and cooling system among Okanagan wineries. The energy savings were so significant that the investment paid for itself in three years. Stag’s Hollow expanded in 2006, building a separate winery with about four times more production capacity. Once again, the owners installed a geothermal system that circulates liquid through underground lines. The earth’s temperature is used to heat or cool the winery, as required. In the first year of operations in the new winery, Stag’s Hollow saved an estimated 100,000 kilowatt hours of electricity by using the geothermal technology, along with high-efficiency lighting and windows.
Stag’s Hollow was one of the first Okanagan wineries to offer Futures. This is an historic Bordeaux concept where producers sell a portion of each vintage at a modest discount many months before the wine is released. Consumers benefit with savings while producers get cash up front. The winery inaugurated its futures program by offering a limited number of cases of its 1999 Estate Merlot at $17, $3 a bottle under the subsequent release price; and its Estate Reserve Merlot at $21.25, $3.75 under the subsequent release price. The winery now offers futures in Renaissance Merlot, as the Estate Reserve Tier came to be known, and in Renaissance Pinot Noir.
This is an historic Bordeaux concept where producers sell a portion of each vintage at a modest discount many months before the wine is released. Consumers benefit with savings while producers get cash up front. The winery offers futures for Renaissance Merlot, and Renaissance Pinot Noir if they are produced in a given vintage.
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