Column: A Post Retirement Project

What to do you to when you’ve run a very large and hugely successful winery –  Jackson Triggs – and you reach retirement age? You leave your job and start all over again with your own winery. And anyone who knows Don Triggs won’t be surprised.

At a ripe young age of 75, he still has the passion and determination to succeed with this latest project, Culmina Family Estate Winery. On a recent visit to his vineyards and winery on the Golden Mile in Oliver, Triggs discussed why he chose the name. “Culmina means peak in Latin, high point, and that’s where the name came from. It inspired us to reach for the best we could do, the culmination of a life’s work in the wine business,” he proudly stated.

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Triggs outlined the countless steps it took to start a new premium winery. “When we bought this project, we were looking for a site that could ripen Bordeaux reds, that was sort of our passion. We hired Alain Sutre, he was the guy that we worked with in the Osoyoos Larose Project and that had really raised the bar in the valley. All of a sudden he was making not 100 cases but 10,000 cases consistently in the $40 to $50 range.”

Triggs than asked his French consultant, Sutre, “Is there more? Or have we found the full potential of the Okanagan?  Because it wasn’t about growing 10 million cases again. I’d done that in the past. It was more about something with a little more passion and trying to see what was possible.”

Sutre replied, “Yeah, I think there is more but you’ll have to invest more, you’ll have to be really patient, and you’ll have to really understand your terroir.”

So with that Triggs took on the project in 2006. Triggs and his team started to look for a site along the Golden Mile in Oliver. They wanted to farm organically which is what they’re presently doing, they wanted to manage their operations sustainably and they wanted to grow Bordeaux reds.

Choosing five sites that were available, Triggs did temperature studies every fifteen minutes for a year, calculated the degree days, dug soil pit samples, and from that they picked the site and bought the land in 2007. After studying the data for two years, they chose the varieties and planted them in 2009, made the first vintage in 2011 and built the winery in 2012.

As Triggs reflected on the time and energy involved from dreaming about the concept to seeing it completed, he commented, “You’ve got to have good DNA; you have to live a long time, because everything takes so long!”

Next week, I review a premium selection from Don Triggs’ Culmina portfolio.

Eric Hanson is a retired Richmond teacher and wine educator.

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