A charming winery, award winning wines and a quaint tree area with picnic benches to enjoy your glass. Any visitor would absolutely fall in love with the scenery!
Once a vast orchard, to now a beautiful vineyard with a few pear trees still remaining, Singletree Winery will steal your heart. And if the environment doesn’t do the trick, then we promise the family will be the winning touch. Kind, humble and passionate; Andrew and Laura Etsell along with their parents Garnet and Debbie, were always on the go when we visited and we couldn’t have enjoyed the behind the scenes perspective more. In between shots we would catch them handing off their glass of wine to quickly trim an overgrown vine. Or help move a picnic bench in preparation for their Wine Down Friday event later that evening. They wanted everything to be ready for their guests, and it is that dedication to hospitality that made our visit unforgettable.
TFV – What are you known for in the community? What is your business?
SW – Strong supporters of BC agriculture which fits given that we have a turkey operation and a winery.
TFV – What made you decide on the name “Singletree”? Is there a story behind the name?
SW – We wanted a simple one-word name that would have a story that we could use in our branding. The farm where we are located was homesteaded in the late 1800’s, and at one time was the largest fruit orchard in the Fraser Valley (we have remnants of some of those trees still on the property).We wanted a name that was reflective of that heritage. Since that land was cleared before tractors were used we thought that something to do with horses would be appropriate. A singletree is the part of a working horse harness that is the interface between the back end of the horse and whatever implement it is hauling. The particular style of singletree that we have on our label was used on horses that worked in vineyards as it wraps around and is less likely to snag the vines.
TFV – Could you tell us more about the property’s history?
SW – The land was homesteaded by the John Merryfield, a prospector who travelled up the Fraser by paddle wheeler to participate in the gold rush in the 1870’s. The boat stopped at Lehman’s Landing to offload supplies for the area, and John got off and walked around Mt Lehman. He fell in love with the area and upon his return from the gold field staked out a quarter section homestead and started farming. Over the years the farm has been a fruit orchard, vegetable and soft fruit producer, dairy operation, and more recently a turkey farm, vineyard and winery. The original house built by John was a log cabin but in 1907 he ordered a Sears Catalogue Four-Square kit house that was brought up on the paddle wheeler from New Westminster. It was built for his wife who unfortunately died before it was completed. The house was on the property located almost exactly where Laura and Andrew’s house is now. We looked into restoring it, but due to a couple of fires and disrepairs the cost was prohibitive.
TFV – Single Tree Winery has won quite a few awards now. Is there an award that you are most proud of? And why?
SW – Last year we won an All Canadian gold medal for our 2014 Harness (a red Bordeaux style blend) which was significant because they rank their golds and there was only one other winery ahead of us, which won a double gold. This year we got a double gold for our 2017 Gruner Veltliner in the other white varietal category.
TFV – Tell us a bit about your recent expansion up in the Okanagan. Where is it? What was the driver behind this decision?
SW – Up to last year we have had our wine custom crushed and processed at Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland. We have now reached the size where it justifies us having our own processing facility. We looked into building on our Abbotsford site but the costs were excessive. The opportunity came to purchase on the Naramata Bench for about half the cost and it had the advantage of offering us a second store front, and more land. As we get virtually all of our red grapes from the Okanagan we were indifferent as to where we located our processing, as it means we truck an equal distance no matter where the processing is done. We are very excited about the purchase and can’t wait until it opens later this month.
TFV – What’s your go-to morning fuel, tea or coffee? How do you take it?
Garnet: Coffee, black.
Debbie: My morning fuel is coffee and for me I drink it with frothy hot milk … Latte style. I have loved milk every since a child and still enjoy it as an adult.
Laura: Most mornings I start off with a Smoothie. Kale, Avocado, pineapple, chia seeds, almond milk. Then a cup of water with Apple Cider Vinegar.
Andrew: Coffee, a nice latte in the morning helps me get going. Nothing added.
TFV – Who are a few of your favourite wineries in BC? Which wine is your favourite? And why?
Garnet: There are so many great wineries in BC, and if we started to name them we would be sure to miss somebody, so let’s just say that Singletree is our favourite because of all the energy that has gone into it. Asking a winery owner what his favourite wine is like asking a parent who their favourite child is – they are all our favourites. This year though we are very pleased with our Gruner Veltliner, because it has proven itself worthy of being grown in the Fraser Valley. We discovered the grape on our ski trips to Austria where it is the predominate white varietal produced.
Debbie: Garnet and I have always had an appreciation for wine and the Fitzpatrick family at Cedar Creek and now Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards has been one of my favourites. Really enjoying Township 7’s Seven Stars and new find Little Engine Winery. My most favourite of all of course is the Singletree wines made by my son. I’m so proud of his hard work and what he has been able to do in a short time with the assistance of Matt Dumayne. I love the terroir and wines that the Fraser Valley produces.
Laura: So hard to narrow this down. Hillside Winery – Their new Rose is SO good! I love their staff and the whole facility. I am a avid gardener and the gardens are so on point. It’s beautiful. Another fav winery is The Hatch in Kelowna. The Pinot Noir is delicious. I recently just tried a bubbly from Bella Winery. He thinks outside the box with his winemaking techniques and I like that. I like unconventional. The Rose’ bubbly was a favourite for sure. Plus he has cute little piglets running around the vineyard so that was pretty great!
Andrew: Little Farm, Haywire and Little Engine are a few of my favourites. I do not have a favourite wine, there are so many in very different styles that it is hard to narrow it down to just one. I would say I enjoy drinking Cab Sauv’s lately.
TFV – Tell us a little bit about your lives outside of the winery.
Garnet: I oversee the turkey operation on the farm.
Debbie: I love to do long walks or hikes. We live in such a beautiful part of the world and I enjoy walking and exploring in all seasons the natural beauty. Having my grandchildren live on the farm is a dream come true. I’m ready and willing to walk to the creek and enjoy a lunch with them and our dogs or a quick game of road hockey or baseball. I have to sometimes get the dogs to run after the ball to keep up to the speed of them. My tranquil time is in the garden. I love to weed and get that unique new plant to add to the garden. Especially a new tree.
Laura: Outside the winery I spend a lot of time in my Hair Salon. I am a stylist 5 days a week. I love doing hair and making people feel good. Andrew and I have 2 little boys (7 & 11 ) who are into Baseball and Hockey so I play mom taxi too! We love to hike, mountain bike, camp and ski. We are a very active family.
Andrew: Outside of the winery I am an Auxiliary Firefighter. I enjoy spending time with my children and wife, taking them on hikes, bike rides and traveling.
TFV – What is your favourite rose that you have growing on the property?
Debbie: David Austin roses are my favourite and we have Abraham Darby in the back gardens with its beautiful fragrance and cabbage like formation. Easy to take time to smell the roses when you have this rose.
Laura: I have David Austin English Rose. I brought it with me and when Andrew and I moved to this property. It’s my baby. It smells so amazing. I could smell it for hours it that wasn’t strange LOL.
Andrew: I would say the David Austin roses are my Favourite, they have amazing colour and fragrance.
TFV – If you were graduating High School right now, what would each of you do?
Garnet: Wouldn’t change a thing.
Debbie: I love what I’m doing now and wouldn’t change it. Live in a beautiful place with family and get to share the bounties of the Fraser Valley with visitors. What could be better?
Laura: If I was graduating hight school right now I would be working my butt off to save lots of money to then backpack around the world. I love travelling and I wish I would have done more in my younger years.
Andrew: I would go to UC Davis and get an Oenology degree.
TFV – If each of you could recommend one place in the Fraser Valley, what would it be? And why?
Debbie: If I’m not on our Farm then the next best place is the Trans Canada Trail. We take guests as well as enjoy ourselves. So much history and a special west coast walk.
Laura: I would recommend Chilliwack River area. So much hiking and pretty lakes.
Andrew: I would recommend Cascade Falls. It has great scenery and hiking.
TFV – What is your favourite season here in the Fraser Valley? And why?
Garnet: Don’t have a favourite. That’s the great thing about living where we do. The seasonal variety offers diversity in activities each of which is enjoyable in its own way.
Debbie: Fall is my favourite season. It is the time when we harvest the fruits of our labour and we quite often have some warm weather around September and parts of October. The colours are warm as well and we have many Maple trees that are the most beautiful red.
Laura: I love every season. Each one has its own unique benefits. Fall for the pretty colours, Winter for the snow and ice, Spring for the fresh flowers growing, smell of the first lawn mowing and cut of of hay. But Summer would have to be my favourite. Hot long days are the best. I feel like I accomplish so much in a day. Wine time in the evenings on the patio are definitely perk.
Andrew: The summer, there are tons of activities and events going on and everything is fresh and in bloom.
TVF – If you were a destination, where would you be?
Garnet: Exactly where we are.
Debbie: This was a hard question but I kept coming back to Vancouver in my mind. It is where I was born and where I am so proud of what a great place it is. I see Abbotsford as a bedroom community to Vancouver and therefore still a part of it. We are the rural side of Vancouver and how many people are lucky enough to be able to enjoy the best of both worlds as we are.
Laura: Hmmmm I would be a secluded lake in the wilderness. A peaceful place away from the hustle and bustle.
Andrew: I would be a tropical beach that is warm year round.
From the sound of gravel crunching beneath your tires as you pull in, to the excitement of their dogs greeting you as you step out. You’ll immediately feel at home from the eager welcome, and as you walk through the wooden doors of their Tasting Room you’ll be greeted as if you’re a family friend. When your visit draws to an end, you’ll find yourself tilting your glass to get that last drop of wine, already planning your next visit to Singletree Winery.