It's really just farming
by Paul Martin
Two young students - he from Saskatoon, she from Melville - met in marketing class at the College of Commerce in the mid-80s. Today, they are the founders and operators of one of British Columbia's newest vineyards and wineries. Corey (BComm'89), and Gwen (Kreklewich) Coleman (BComm'87), established Township 7 Vineyards and Wineries near Langley last July. Both had worked in the industry in the Okanagan Valley before heading to the coast to create their own label. He was involved with winemaking and sourcing grapes from area producers. She was a marketing consultant who worked with a number of wineries in the Valley. With that experience in hand, they headed to the Lower Mainland and purchased land to accommodate three acres of grapes, their home and winery.
While their grapes are not yet in production, they have been buying Okanagan grapes to make wine under their own label until their vines mature. In the meantime, they have begun to establish their new labels through Vancouver area restaurants and private stores. So how does a prairie couple end up in the wine business? "Ultimately, it's farming," Gwen enthuses in explaining their journey to wine country. After graduation, she was hired by CP Rail and was posted to Winnipeg before joining a pharmaceutical company that moved her to Montreal. Corey followed along and then she was transferred to Vancouver where the interest in wine began to surface. "We did tours of wine country, like Sonoma," she says of their emerging interest in this growing industry. So they moved to the Okanagan, got their feet wet by working in the business and returned to her roots of growing up on a grain farm in the Melville district. "A lot of people think it's more glamorous because it involves wine, but ultimately, it's farming."
Their small operation is a two-person business that produced one thousand cases of wine last year. They project growth to 4,000 cases annually but, says Gwen, the idea is to remain a boutique winery serving a select market in the Vancouver area with the potential to include Alberta and the Seattle region. Establishing a new label in a high competitive business is not easy. They work with private wine stores to reach consumers but also rely on restaurants to showcase their name to patrons who will acquire a taste for their product. "We've been really pleased with the restaurant response and the reviews," Gwen, the marketing half of the duo explains. According to the couple's website, some of the best food establishments in Vancouver include Township 7 on their wine lists.
Corey, the winemaker, has developed product lines - ranging from $12 to $25 a bottle - based on merlot, chardonnay and pinot noir grapes and they planted a new variety destined for the dessert wine niche. Despite the demands of a new business, they have found other ways to remain active - a throwback to their college days when Corey was active in the marketing students association and Gwen sat on the executive of the Commerce Students Society. "People ask me when I'm going to run for public office," jokes Gwen, a member of the tourism committee of the local chamber of commerce and the pilot of a plan to forge a working relationship with existing wineries and two more about to be established. "We're trying to get the group organized to get a wine trail together." She also sits on the tourism committee of the local chamber of commerce.