‘Pinot noir buffet’: Okanagan-area winery concerned insurance won’t cover wildfire damages

The McDougall Creek wildfire devastated nearly two hundred structures in the Okanagan area, and Joanna Schlosser’s winery was at the helm of it.

The co-founder of Niche Wine Co. says this year’s fire has been the most destructive her business has experienced in the past 10 years. Now, she’s concerned about just how much damage her insurance will cover.

In a video of the winery post-fire, filmed by Schlosser’s friend David McIlvride, torched vines, singed cables, and shattered windows can be seen where the fire breached the winery.

Schlosser says she’s worried the insurance policy she has on her farm, crops, and buildings will only go so far in recovering what’s been lost.

“It certainly, financially, will have a large impact on our small business,” she told CityNews. “It’s devastating to know you’ve farmed an entire season and you won’t realize the fruits of your labour.”

The McDougall Creek wildfire is currently being “held” at an estimated 13,970 hectares. A number of evacuation alerts and orders are still in place in the Okanagan area due to the fire.

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Located at the base of the McDougall Rim trail, Schlosser says her business has been shut down for over five weeks now, and a valuable equipment shed has been lost to the fire.

“In the time we were evacuated and the deer fence being down, we’ve operated as a pinot noir buffet for any deer or bears in the neighborhood looking for something to eat,” she said.

She says she’s been in the wine industry for 20 years and is no stranger to evacuation alerts in her area, but she says she’s never seen anything of this scope or scale.

The magnitude of the McDougall Creek wildfire came with a monumental loss for Schlosser’s business and its visitors.

“The middle of August is what we would call the ‘height of the tourism season’ here in the Okanagan, so to be completely shut down at that time… is pretty devastating.”

However, Schlosser says she’s experienced an abundance of community support and has watched buildings on their farm saved by first responders through cameras placed around the property.

“Our cup overfloweth with gratitude,” Schlosser said. Her husband and fellow co-founder, James Schlosser, says overall, they’re among the lucky ones.

“We got off lucky, it’s all just equipment,” he said. “It’s still beautiful, it’s just definitely scarred.”

-With files from Michael Williams and Dean Recksiedler

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