When Shannon and Rémi Cardinal began looking for a location to build their own winery, Creston wasn’t the place they intended to end up. Having traveled and visited vineyards and wineries in Eastern Canada and France, the idea was born to open their own winery. After several years spent looking at properties that just didn’t fit what they wanted to create, the couple found the perfect place, a former Bed and Breakfast in the Creston Valley. Seeing the potential in the fruit, the climate and the lifestyle, they purchased the property that would become Red Bird Winery, and haven’t looked back.
With their then five-month-old daughter in tow, Shannon and Rémi moved into new home, with their and got to work learning everything they could about making wine, preparing to build their dream. Six years later, the winery is clearly a family affair. Approaching the tasting room attached to the house, the striking view of the vineyards and the mountains is accented by two children’s bikes leaned against the house. Their daughter Zoe is now six years old, and has a knack for tasting the grapes, able to distinguish flavours and nuances as well as her parents. Four year old William loves to help as well, even with tasks a little dirtier than grape tasting, and Rémi and Shannon try to involve the kids in the work whenever possible.
The pride and passion in their product are obvious as the couple speaks about they joy they get from the wine making process, from squishing the grapes, to putting it into the bottle. Their personalities show in all aspects of the business, and especially in this year’s labels, with Rémi’s handwriting featured on every label, and a different red bird on each of their four wines, not only reflecting the their last name, Cardinal, but also their appreciation for the area, as each of the birds can be found at the winery throughout the year. The label art was designed by a local artist and demonstrates the couple’s love for the community they now call home. Not only a great climate for growing grapes, the family also enjoys recreating in the Valley, enjoying the green mountains, and the nearby Kootenay Lake. They found the perfect environment for mountain biking, skiing, and hunting, a little play to counter the work of running the business.
Shannon and Rémi have found a place in the Creston Valley wine market with wines that meet the middle ground, not too sweet and not too dry. Their wines are fresh, crisp and full of flavours, and meet the couple’s goals of making the best wines possible with the fruit they grow here. Their current releases include a Gewurztraminer, a Pinot Gris, a Rosé perfect for summer, and their Atelier Red, featuring flavours of caramel, red fruit, vanilla and spice. “Atelier” is French for small shop or studio, which really represents what Shannon and Rémi would like the winery to become. The goal is to stay small enough to keep the personal touch in their business, and to allow themselves room to grow organically at their own pace. With one employee in addition to themselves, Shannon and Rémi say the winery is just the right size for the time being. Small enough to be hands on, and large enough to keep them busy year-round.
As with so many businesses these past few months, Shannon and Rémi have been impacted by the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Normally, they would spend weekends in the summer travelling from Farmers’ Market to Farmers’ Market throughout the Kootenays, allowing a broader audience to taste and purchase their wine. With COVID-19 impacts this year bringing a halt to wine events and public tastings, the couple have taken the opportunity to expand their online presence. They are still attending certain Farmers’ Markets in the Kootenays, although not to the degree they have in past years. They have also introduced their Wine Club for 2020, a twice per year delivery of twelve bottles of Red Bird wines tailored to the season in which they are delivered. Staying close to home has meant they can be on-site at the winery more, allowing for some experimentation with more natural growing techniques, focusing on being gentle with the land. Taking this time to play may mean additions to their wine selection in the near future, which would be perfect to sample in the new tasting room they’ve been working on.
Speaking to Shannon and Rémi, it is clear they are business-minded, passionate, and eager to learn and test new things. Their personalities shine through in their wines and their packaging, and they are a great addition to the wine industry in the Creston Valley. Red Bird Winery wines can be found for purchase by the bottle at the Creston Valley Farmers’ Market, the Creston Liquor Store and by appointment at the Winery. Red Bird Winery Wine Club membership can be obtained at redbirdwine.com.