Published On: Monday, 19 March 2018
Penticton Company Crushing the Artisan Food Market
By Val Lennox
PENTICTON - Wine-lovers can now sip their BC Wine and eat it too, courtesy of Winecrush, an innovative made-in-BC artisan food product.
Less than two years after it was founded, this Penticton-based start-up is crushing the artisan food market, receiving the Best Concept Award in the 2017 Small Business Awards and as a top Innovation finalist in the 2018 awards.
Their Gamay Goat Cheese has been nominated for a Canadian Cheese award. Winecrush is also negotiating province-wide distribution deals, and their packaged products can be ordered online at winecrush.ca.
Winecrush is designed for a resource-conscious world. It squeezes new value, taste, and protein from pomace and lees, both of which had previously been discarded by-products from wine production.
Company co-founder and owner Bill Broddy had retired to the Okanagan after an entrepreneurial career in tech and enjoyed visiting the craft wineries in the region. But he felt wine-tasting experiences fell short because nothing accompanied samples.
“Food always tastes better with wine and wine is always better with food,” he observed. Researching, he learned that the wineries had to meet provincial health and food-safe regulations to offer anything other than pre-packaged foods. With that restriction, it was difficult for them to find bite-sized food to compliment wines and reflect the artisanal ethos.
Visiting another winery during grape crushing, Broddy noticed the pomace - skins, pulp, seeds, and stems - left behind after the grape juice had been drawn off.
Broddy put the pieces together. A hobby chef and wine connoisseur who has completed the WSET Level 2 Award certification, he understood the chemical processes involved in both cooking and wine-making. Plus, neighbour Gary Strachan was a wine bio-chemist.
At the time, Broddy was experimenting with the fermentation for sourdough bread and he wondered if the natural yeast in the pomace would enhance his sourdough. He took some of the pomace home and started experimenting, aided by co-founder Tyson Still.
They discovered the pomace was flavour and nutrient rich, with a wider range of ‘notes’ than the wine. Bread made with the pomace was tastier and healthier, resveratrol from grape skins, and antioxidants from the seeds.
More experiments by Still led to crisp, sourdough-based wine crackers. Those crackers were just the start.
Winecrush developed a process to dry and grind the pomace, creating a wine ‘flavour spice’ – known as Winecrush™ powder - that reproduced the taste of specific varieties. These powders are infused into all of their products.
From the lees, which is the bottom-of-the-vat residue left after the wine has been fermented and aged, they created a paste that added flavour and a creamy texture. In a play on words, they converted the French winemaking term “sur lie” – meaning aged on the lees – to trademark the new “Surlee” flavoured foods.
Winecrush shared their new flavours with Okanagan artisan food producers Helmut Sausage in Vernon, Happy Days Dairy in Salmon Arm and Castle Cheese in Lumby.
Bill’s daughter (and Tyson’s partner) Allie Broddy came on-board as sales manager for the explosion of new products:
- Cabernet Salami, Pinot Chorizo; Pinot Gris Turkey sausage;
- Gamay Goat Cheese; Surlee Red Cheddar;
- Gewurztraminer and Merlot Winecrisps; and
- Hot Surlee and Red Surlee Mustard
The sausage, cheese, crisps, and mustards are perfect for charcuterie platters and as the picnic fare that wineries find easy to market. At tastings, the wine-imbued bites echo the same notes as the sample glass. It’s a match made in culinary heaven.
“It’s a perfect picnic item or appetizer or addition to wine-tasting rooms,” Broddy said. Winecrush expects to be in 50 Okanagan wineries by the beginning of the wine tourist season. This win-win partnership takes away the pomace and lees, which used to be a disposal cost for wine producers, and returns with a product that enhances the winery business.
“The wineries like that we’re actually trying to do something with the pomace and lees by making it into a food product. They especially like it when they start tasting the sausage and cheese with their wine,” Broddy added.
Racking up awards is just the start for this new company, which is also eligible for the BC Eligible Business Corporation investment program.
Broddy envisions taking the proprietary technology and processes developed by Winecrush in BC to other wine-producing areas in Canada, the US, and the rest of the world.
Winecrush is proof for a lifelong entrepreneur that launching a family startup can be both emotionally and financially rewarding. “It sure beats retirement,” Broddy said.