Meet Wildlife Habitat Stewards, Steve & Kim of Forbidden Fruit Winery

On the banks of the Similkameen River near Cawston, Forbidden Fruit Winery has been welcoming guests to its tasting room for ten years. The winery gets its fruit from the family-owned Ven’Amour Organic Farms, which encompasses 142 acres of orchards, vineyards and natural habitat. The farm is bounded to the east by pine and sagebrush slopes, and to the west by a cottonwood riparian forest nestled into a bend in the river.

The tasting room is in a modest bungalow. Open the door, and the character and passion of the owners Steve Venables and Kim Brind’Amour are immediately evident. Kim’s brilliant-hued paintings, mosaics designs and jewellery glow from walls and shelves, reflections of the fruits, flowers and natural landscapes of the farm.
Steve purchased the property in 1977 and by 1984 it was a certified organic farm. On most summer days, Steve is behind the tasting-counter so visitors can hear first-hand how the wines are made and how the winery developed. Forbidden Fruit is best known for its stellar fruit wines with cheeky titles such as “Crushed Innocence”, “Adam’s Apple” and “Pearsuasion”. “Caught”, an apricot mistelle, recently won a Gold Medal at the 2014 WineAlign National Wine Awards.

When visitors express surprise that a variety of grape wines are also produced, Steve replies, “We’ve heard that grapes are fruit too! People do appreciate the fruit wine, like our Dry White Peach and Plum Noir which have no histamines to bring on headaches or that flushed feeling.” The winery makes table wine, sparkling wine, and dessert wines.
Recognising the natural beauty of their property, Steve and Kim set aside a large area of old growth cottonwood forest along the river, as well as some rocky outcroppings, and dry sagebrush grassland habitat on the slopes above their orchards. “Things feel perfectly balanced on the property. We’ve noticed fewer pressures, and less predators and fruit disease. There is mutual benefit, we protect wildlife habitat and they are protecting us. We like to let it go and not interfere too much,” mused Steve.
Their commitment to being stewards of their land for thirty-five years, along with continued work on soil sustainability, farm sanitation and supporting natural insect predators, has helped Kim and Steve produce high quality fruit and award-winning wines.
As Wildlife Habitat Stewards with Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship (OSS), Kim and Steve have signed a voluntary stewardship agreement to protect sections of their farm. OSS helps them with interpretive signage, drawing attention to the importance and fragility of the natural areas they steward. This year Forbidden Fruit is donating tasting fees to the stewardship organization, which follows their interest in supporting initiatives such as the Organic Farming Institute and the Suzuki Foundation.
OSS Executive Director Alyson Skinner explained why Ven’Amour Organic Farms is such a special property. Streamside cottonwood forest is an endangered ecosystem in the Okanagan and Similkameen region and the Ven’Amour property contains a spectacular example of this habitat. Their beautiful section of cottonwoods and shrubs provides a home for numerous threatened species including the Western Screech-Owl and Western Rattlesnake. The river valley and protected grassland above the farm provide passages for wildlife travelling between South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area and the Similkameen River.
“Steve and Kim’s generous donation of tasting fees helps Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship support land stewards and communities carry out important habitat conservation and improvement projects throughout the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. Their commitment to stewardship on their property goes to show their conservation ethic on the ground and is a wonderful example of how agriculture and conservation can coexist in our region,“ stated Alyson.
Guests visiting Forbidden Fruit Winery can relax on the patio or outdoor picnic tables and can stroll down to the cottonwoods, while wine tasting and Kim’s Piece D’Amour Designs are the main attractions inside.
To learn more about Forbidden Fruit Winey visit http://forbiddenfruitwines.com and to learn more about Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship visit www.okanagansimilkameenstewardship.ca.

This article featured at Scout Magazine.

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