The Vibrant Vine has been growing to keep up with its popularity. For four years, it has held the top ranking on TripAdvisor for all BC wineries. That’s brought an increasingly large influx of visitors to the East Kelowna property, which Wyn and Marion Lewis opened as a “retirement project.”
Another Expansion The couple’s passion for wine, art and music are all incorporated into the Vibrant Vine.
“Last year, we had so many people coming we had to close the door several times!” said Marion.
They’ve undergone several major expansions in the past decade. They’ve renovated a 1937 heritage building on the property — first to their house, then to a tasting room. In 2014, another expansion doubled the tasting room’s size. Still, it wasn’t enough to keep up with demand.
This year they’ve undertaken another major renovation project. A new, elegant and vibrant event hall is perfect for corporate and private functions, as well as workshops and classes. A larger gift shop will house all the “extra goodies” the winery offers.
The Wines Demands for their wine demands more grapes and they are now planting another 10,000 Pinot Gris vines. Vibrant Vine has made some of the best wine in the world, winning the Platinum Award for the Best White at the 2013 World Wine Competition in Geneva, Switzerland. It’s the biggest wine competition in the world with more than 10,000 entrants.
The Vibrant Vine Experience There’s more room now to display amazing new art pieces and there will be more tasting bars to ensure that every person who walks through the door gets space to enjoy the Vibrant Vine Experience.
The winery’s tasting room is the only 3-D tasting room in the world. It weaves the family’s Welsh roots into the experience, with a hologram room where a dragon interacts with a bottle. Wine labels are 3-D and will use Enhanced Reality technology to offer even more of an interactive experience.
“You’ll hold the iPhone up to the bottle and the art will come alive,” said Wyn.
“I think the future of wine in the Okanagan is very much about the experience. When you pick up the bottle at home, you’re immediately reminded of the experience in the winery and your enjoyment becomes so much more than the taste of the wine alone. In our focus on the Vibrant Vine Experience, we think of ourselves as being very different from every other winery. It’s not a slight difference — it’s radical.”
The History Originally from Wales, Wyn and Marion Lewis immigrated to North America in 1975, first settling in Montreal. Over the next few decades they worked and lived in Canada and the US, while raising their sons: Phil, Tony and Peter. They eventually retired in Grand Cayman, but still searched for the ideal place to settle.
Friends invited them to go skiing at Big White, and that’s how they stumbled on the Okanagan Valley. They moved to Kelowna in 2003 and purchased their East Kelowna property, which was originally an apple orchard.
They planted 8,000 vines in 2008 in very rocky ground, and had to use a pneumatic drill with a miner’s bit to penetrate the ground in what is now called Stoney Hill.
Their three sons, an artist, a musician and a techie, are all involved in their own unique way – from making the wine, to the art on the walls and bottles, to the technological 3-D wonders at the winery.
Like all wineries, the Vibrant Vine wasn’t exactly an overnight success. On their opening day in 2010 they only sold three bottles of wine.
“Marion and I sat on the swing and when people came in, we assumed they were lost,” joked Wyn.
Fun at the Vibrant Vine Now the winery has 41 tasting room staff, which the couple credits as key to their success. “Without them, we could never have maintained our ranking on TripAdvisor for four years as the No. 1 Winery Experience in British Columbia, and No. 2 in Canada,” said Wyn.
The winery’s Phantom of the Villa event, held in the Italian Fountain Courtyard of The Okanagan Villa, is one of its biggest annual events and sells out each year.
“The entire staff dress up in Phantom costumes and guests are given masks. The audience really enters into the spirit of the performance and they all look fantastic,” said Marion.
This year is the fifth in a row for the Phantom of the Villa, happening August 16-18. It stars Peter Karrie, who has played the lead role in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical The Phantom of the Opera in London, Toronto, Vancouver, Singapore and Hong Kong, Vernon’s Melina Moore and pianist Carol Colpitts. Each year they bring a magical experience to the Okanagan and many of the guests have come back year after year.
As Marion puts it: “In everything we do at The Vibrant Vine, we never forget our one overarching goal for each person who visits. No matter what kind of day you’ve had, you’ll leave with a smile on your face.”