Wine Industry Marketing Guru Goes Haywire

By / Magazine / August 11th, 2010 / 1

For Christine Coletta and Steve Lornie, the snap decision to purchase an unproductive 10-acre orchard in Summerland, BC, followed by the progression to planting grapes and ultimately making wine, has been a long journey with many twists and turns. “It was never our intention to make wine, but as we got further into the project – financially and emotionally – something took hold and gave our common sense a good shake,” remarked Coletta, who is never above a good laugh at her own expense. “We have managed to hold on to our sense of humour about our move into the winery game, but we are very serious about the wine we will be making. This is the beginning of something: we hope our wine will sit proudly next to the other great wines made in the Okanagan Valley.”

On a whim, Coletta and Lornie bought an old orchard in 2005, but one season of growing Red Delicious apples and apricots that were unsuitable for canning or hand eating was enough for both. They planted the entire site with Pinot Gris in 2006 and settled back, keen on merely growing grapes and keeping their day jobs. They optimistically named the vineyard “Switchback”, to celebrate the switch from losing money as orchardists to losing money as grape growers. Coletta noted, “It will take seven years of profit to pay for the tractor alone.”

Along the way, they received interesting and conflicting advice from friends and industry associates. To Lornie, who has run a construction company for 30 years, it appears there is no wrong way to do anything, just hundreds of right ways. “Really, on a daily basis, seasoned professionals would arm-wrestle their points until we were all downright dizzy,” Lornie commented. “So when it came time to name the winery, ‘Haywire’ seemed an obvious choice.”

The expression ‘haywire’ is derived from the wire, once used for baling hay, which tended to tangle in a chaotic way. The term also aptly describes Coletta and Lornie’s transition from city slickers to farmers to winery owners, which they have chronicled in a journal available on the winery’s website.

This year, they will release a small lot of 2009 Pinot Gris from their Switchback Vineyard (CSPC#147009 $22.90), with wine style being directed by David Scholefield. With three decades of experience in the wine industry and an international reputation for his palate and knowledge, Scholefield has been instrumental in convincing Coletta and Lornie of the potential of their vineyard site and encouraged them to take the leap into winemaking. Scholefield will remain actively involved as a spokesperson and advisor. He is currently selecting a consulting winemaker.

Looking forward, more Switchback Vineyard Pinot Gris will come from the 2010 harvest, along with a Pinot Noir sourced from friend Fritz Hollenbach’s Skaha vineyard in Penticton. Down the road, Haywire Winery hopes to add a rosé and a sparkling wine; but whatever the mix, it will be small lots.

Christine Coletta has been in the wine industry for more than 20 years, where her role evolved from implementing BC’s VQA program to strategic brand planning, marketing wine regions and promoting wineries big and small. With Haywire Winery, she will finally have the chance to personally test her own marketing skills. She will still consult others through Coletta & Associates, her Vancouver-based wine marketing and communications partnership.

It will be fun to watch Haywire grow and progress over the coming years.

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Looking at the small things that make life great and the people who create them.

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