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Frequency Tinery 2
The tiny patio at Frequency in Kelowna, a 'Tinery' founded by former Vibrant Vine winemaker Anthony Lewis.
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Ellaborate Sound Pictographs
Wild experiments with sound at Frequency.
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Former drummer turned winemaker Anthony Lewis marks his history with a percussive flower arrangement at the new Frequency winery in Kelowna.
So, it’s clearly a weird day. I’m standing in a tiny picker shack with a mad inventor, listening to the howl of electronic sound coming out of a huge speaker, and watching as the sound gradually creates an elegant pictograph out of table salt.
This is a winery?
Well, to be more accurate, it’s a ‘Tinery’; the latest brainchild of former Vibrant Vines winemaker Anthony Lewis.
In a single venture he’s come up with a way to help farmers be more sustainable, to help wineries sell more wine, and to help support dozens of children in a Haitian orphanage.
Until recently, Lewis worked in the successful family winery in East Kelowna but left after having a “life altering” experience while volunteering at the La Concorde Orphanage in Port au Prince, Haiti. When he returned to Canada with his wife and two children, Lewis left his well-paying job and decided to start his own enterprise; the Orphan Grape. As usual for Lewis, who is known for his out of the box thinking and inventive solutions (like the world's only above ground grape trellis method for vines), his new enterprise is definitely way out there.
Essentially, Lewis and Orphan Grape are creating eight small wineries on leased farmland. Each of them is absolutely tiny, but they all come with big ideas. The first one, called Frequency, is located just down the street from House of Rose on Garner Road.
When people come in for a tasting, they are also given a demonstration of how sound waves can be used to literally sculpt solid matter into beautiful, symmetrical designs.
“People will walk in here and there will be eight sets of headphones,” Lewis explains. “You put on the headphones. They’ll be playing drums and different music loops in one year, and the other will be me talking and explaining the frequencies, what the vibrations are doing to the molecular structure of matter itself, and then you’ll have a visual.”
While skeptical at first, I quickly had to admit the demonstration was fascinating. Lewis played an exact frequency through a speaker embedded in a barrel, that is connected to a flat metal plate. He then sprinkles salt on the metal plate, and before your eyes the salt grains quickly migrate and spread out to form a picture, or pictograph.
Once I picked my jaw off the floor, Lewis explained he discovered these secrets of sound when he worked as a musician and then as an audio engineer in California. Amazingly, a series of chords in a song can actually be used to form a sequence of pictographs that can be used for communication, like Chinese symbols. For another example, sound can carve intricate designs into ice crystals, visible to the naked eye using a microscope.
Lewis says Frequency will focus on giving people great wine, and a unique experience.
“I want people to have a different experience than they have had anywhere else,” he says. “I want them to walk away with the wine as a memory of the experience they’ve had and share that with other people.”
But there’s more to Lewis’ plan than just his single Tinery. His feverish brain took in a series of facts (impoverished children in Haiti, struggling farmers in Canada, an abundance of bulk wine in the Okanagan) and came up with a concept that addresses all three.
His idea was to lease unused corners of land and old picker shacks from farmers, and transform them into tiny wineries using juice he buys from friends who own larger wineries.
“As far as the winemaking goes, I get to hand select wines from a lot of the wineries,” Lewis says. “I have a lot of friends with wineries, so I can get a thousand liters of this, a thousand of that, and a thousand of this, and make a couple hundred cases of really good wine.
“It’s also helping them sell their excess volume and gives them cash flow at the right time of the season, so it’s a win-win for both of us.”
It’s not enough for Lewis to just have a ‘win-win’. He just had to have a win-win-win-win.
Lewis plans to build eight of the Tineries, one for each of the wine trails in the region. At each winery, profits are split three ways.
“I blend, manipulate and brand and sell the wine,” he explains. “A portion of that profit goes to the farmer, a portion of that profit goes to the orphanage, and a portion goes to us, so everybody wins and nobody loses.”
Donations to the orphanage are made through Love Takes Root (www.lovetakesroot.org), a non-profit volunteer group. Payments to farmers are made directly from the profit per bottle sold.
“It’s not too ambitious for me to say that over time I can sell 5,000 cases of wine,” he adds. “That’s 60,000 bottles. If that farmer was to receive a royalty of a dollar, that would be $60,000 supplementary income."
Part of the goal is to make farming more sustainable by creating a new profit stream for the farmer.
“What I’ve learned is farmers are really good at farming, but not necessarily good at running a retail or tourism business,” Lewis says. “That’s something I know how to do.
“Often, as soon as you take a farmer out of the farming situation you’ve made a stressful situation, not just for the farmer but for his family, the people around him, everything.
“Farming is a big undertaking, and it’s a really rewarding experience when you turn dirt into food, and I want them to keep doing it. So, I can help by taking care of this part of the business.”
The benefit the farmer provides is the land and building. Because that’s being provided for profit-sharing, it cost Lewis under $50,000 to open the first winery, and less than half of that to open the second winery on Gordon Road. Lewis is currently scouting locations to build six more tiny wineries around the Okanagan Valley. ■