Growing things was just natural for 40 Knots Vineyard & Estate Winery’s Layne Robert Craig as he grew up on a farm, producing grains, in the southern part of Saskatchewan.
“Growing is growing,” he says.
Farming was a hard business though, so he moved into the oil and gas sector but kept a farm going on the side. Eventually, he moved to Fort St. John, B.C., which is where he met his wife, Brenda Hetman-Craig.
He eventually sold the site on the Prairies, but the two looked to set up a winery, and five years ago, in July of 2014, they did just that, taking over a vineyard on Anderton Road in the Comox Valley. Craig gives his attention to the grapes, while Brenda handles the business side of the operation.
In the time since they’ve opened, 40 Knots has made a name for itself, advertising its “clean, ethical” wines.
“We don’t put anything in our wine,” Craig says.
This goes beyond organic, he explains, as the business is in the process to become a certified biodynamic winery – something he thinks is maybe a year or two away from completion.
A definition of the process describes it was a set of farming practices that views the farm or vineyard as whole and self-sustaining, with a reliance on natural materials, soils and composts to sustain the land, as opposed to chemical fertilizers and pesticides. As well, animals such as ducks and sheep play a role by helping to fertilize the soil on which they live.
“It has to encompass your whole business philosophy,” he says.
However, he adds, it doesn’t translate into giving up entirely on the modern world.
“Just because I want to be growing traditionally doesn’t mean I’ve given up on technology.”
So far, their processes have made their mark, increasing yields by 250 per cent over their tenure. The vineyard’s efforts have not gone unnoticed, as the business celebrated to mark the fifth year in business earlier this month.
Over that time, 40 Knots has also received accolades and awards. For example, last October, 40 Knots was one of two local vineyards honoured at the 38th annual Fall Okanagan Wine Festival. They brought home two gold medals for their 2017 Pinot Gris and 2014 Soleil Rosé, and two silvers for their 2017 Ziggy and 2017 Rosé.
One of the secrets is the location, Craig says, which he describes as an “awesome sweet spot” for growing their grapes, and he thinks 40 Knots can be at the cutting edge of a growing wine industry in the region.
“In certain areas of the Valley, we have sublime conditions,” he says.
Ultimately, the process of going biodynamic is designed to produce a better grape and a better wine by producing a better environment. As Craig says, it really just comes down to simple, traditional farming methods like the kind he learned while growing up on a farm.
“It really reflects on the fruit,” he adds.