South Okanagan wine brand Birch Block Vineyard is launching its first Birch Merch collection inspired by the Okanagan Valley wine region. The first two products are a Ponderosa pine-scented candle ($60) that uses wild-foraged Ponderosa pine needles distilled into essential oil and infused into a 100 per cent soy-based candle, and a Big Sagebrush Rosé Bath Soak($30) that uses both wild-foraged sagebrush and essential oil with Canadian Prairie pink salt. Both are made in collaboration with Victoria B.C.’s Forest Etiquette. We chatted with Birch Block’s co-founder Sarah Bancroft (yup, founder and former editor of Vita Daily!) to learn more! —Noa Nichol
For those readers who don’t know, tell us a bit about yourself to start.
I come from a magazine background; I’ve been an editor since I was 25. Right around the time I got married and had my first daughter, I co-launched a digital magazine that was the original Vita Daily—the first web-native magazine in Western Canada. Now I work as a content marketing specialist for companies such as Fleurs de Villes in addition to developing our wine brand.
When and how did Birch Block Vineyard happen? What was the process of becoming a winemaker like?
My husband is a chef, so he describes becoming a winemaker like moving to the apartment next door. We had always been interested in vineyards since we backpacked through France in our 20s, and both of us grew up spending summers in the Okanagan. It wasn’t something we explicitly talked about as a goal, but when a foreclosed llama farm in a small lakeside town came up for auction, we wrote a sealed bid on New Year’s Eve and crossed our fingers. That was 2016, and now it’s a five-acre plot of Pinot Noir grapes with a vineyard guesthouse.
What wines do you produce, and where can we get them?
We started with just rosé with our young vines, exclusively in magnums for Cactus Club. Now we have added sparkling wine called pétulant naturel (white, and this spring, pink) and red pinot noir, now that our vines are mature. This past summer we launched a very successful canned wine program, with rosé and piquette, so you’ll be seeing a lot more of that this spring. We sell everything on BirchBlockVineyard.com, as well as at hotels and restaurants (for example, Published on Main, Hawksworth, Nightingale, Collective Goods, Chambar, Tableau at the Loden Hotel, Wickaninnish Inn, Long Beach Lodge, Das Nest, Fat Mau, and many more). Private liquor stores also carry our wines.
You’ve launched a wellness wine pack in collab with Forest Etiquette; can you tell us about that?
We love hiking and foraging wild asparagus in the hills behind our vineyard (which are also home to wild horses) and we wanted to bring some of that magic to our customers. I think wine is becoming more and more experiential, about time and place, and the rituals around it. I had seen Forest Etiquette products at an amazing store called Ad Hoc in Penticton and knew they would be the perfect collaborator. I literally shipped boxes full of wild-foraged ponderosa pine and sagebrush to Victoria, B.C., where she is based, while we were developing the scents for the candle and bath soak. These products (we call them Birch Merch) are based on the tasting notes and terroir of our 2021 pinot noir, which was just released, and brings to mind warm Okanagan nights.
How do wine and wellness go together (why do they go hand in hand)? What does “wine-d” down time look like for you?
During the lockdown we did a lot of the vineyard work ourselves, which is not as romantic as it sounds! When we renovated the house, I converted one of the bedrooms overlooking the vineyard into a spa-like bathroom, where we would light a candle, draw a bath and open a bottle of wine. Our wine is made in a natural way and our farming is regenerative, so wellness products that restore, balance, and relax you was taking the wine experience one step further. It was always my dream to bring those things together in an intentional, wild-crafted way.
Win! A Wine Wellness Ritual Package From Birch Block Vineyard!
Congrats Leah H. of Surrey, BC, who will receive the two-product wine wellness ritual, minus the wine! Please note: if you are the winner, you will receive a DM (direct message) in Instagram directly from @vitadaily.ca. Please be wary of fake accounts, which often use similar handles with an extra or missing letter, number or symbol. We will never ask for a payment or for your credit card number, and we will never ask you to click through a link. If you are unsure whether you have been contacted, via Instagram, by us or a fake account, email us before responding.