by Fiona Vance
Note: The winery is now located at the Banach farm, located about 3 km south of Battleford. See bottom for contact information.
The wine bottles catch a glint of sunshine filtering through the
liquor store window, and the light warps into a mirage of reflected
color. The labels are lined up horizontally on the shelf, like even
threads on a paper loom, all facing outwards. Battle River Red.
Harvest Gold. Lady Di. Sir Walter. These wines range from pale yellow
to hushed pink to deep red. Made by some winery called Banach. You
lean in to take a closer look. . . and promptly do a double-take.
Battleford, Saskatchewan! Does it really say that?
This reaction is typical when people find out about Banach Winery. But what the casual wine-buyer in a liquor store
doesn't know is the inspiring story behind these wines. Banach
is the little winery that could.
|Diane and Walter
Banach at their winery in Battleford.
"We're treated as any other winery," says Diane Banach, co-owner
of the winery. "We have the same kind of markup, we have to go by
the same regulations, et cetera, et cetera."
Diane and Walter have been making fruit wine
for close to 20 years. When they went commercial in late 1996, they
started out with a chokecherry wine called Battle River Red, a wine
they'd been making for years that's named after the river that runs
just north of the Town of Battleford. They've since expanded into
crabapple and strawberry wines, with raspberry added just recently.
"I, myself, I really like the raspberry," says Stormie Douville.
She and her husband Roger live near Battleford and are good friends
of the Banachs. She's tried all the wines and likes them.
"They're very unique, of course. Many people have said, 'well,
they don't taste like this', you know. But you cannot compare it
with a grape wine because it's a whole different - it's kind of
like comparing pop to a real juice."
|Visitors to the
winery are encouraged to sample the products.
Diane and Walter have found that chokecherries and other prairie
fruits make excellent wines.
"I've always jokingly called the chokecherry the 'grape of the
prairie', eh," giggles Diane. "Everybody gets a kick out of that."
Through word-of-mouth, the Banachs let area residents know they
are in the market for prairie fruits. Local people pick strawberries
and raspberries on U-Pick farms, or else hunt out chokecherries
and crabapples in the wilds. They bring their fruit to the Banachs,
who buy them by the pound.
The Banachs freeze the fruit, thawing it out when they are ready
to make the wine. Diane estimates their winery yields about 30,000
to 40,000 bottles a year. Except for bottling time, however, it
is only Diane and Walter who do the work.
"I'm sure they're doing the job of about four or five people, just
the two of them," says Stormie. "People don't realize how much work
is involved in that winery."
Diane admits they are 'not getting rich overnight'. And although
she's quick to emphasize how proud she is of having made it this
far, Diane is not reticent when it comes to discussing the problems
Getting the licence from the province was a nightmare. Saskatchewan
had no policy in place for wineries such as Banach, so there was
much red tape and delay right off the bat. But the Banachs never
"Many, many a time I went to bed at night very, very frustrated
and ready to give up," Diane says. "Then we'd talk it over and,
I guess, the more they pushed us, the more stubborn we got."
|Diane shows visitors
how the fruit press works.
That stubbornness is at the root of the Banachs' success.
"They persevered," says Roger Douville. "They pushed it and, you
know, if you believe in something, you'll go for it. And they believe
Then came the problem of marketing the wine. Even with Saskatchewan
liquor stores now carrying their wines, the Banachs find publicity
difficult to garner, even in the immediate vicinity. Nevertheless,
they are determined to keep their low prices static for as long
They are now in the process of expanding their market into Alberta,
since many of their customers are Albertans who spot their winery
from the nearby highway. Albertans are only part of the tourist
"We get them from all over the place," says Diane, "anywhere from
Vancouver to New Brunswick. We've even had some people stopping
in from the States."
She keeps a guest book for visitors, who are usually stunned to
find their winery.
"Most people associate a winery with grapes, you know," explains
Roger. "You have to be in an area that you've got sunshine nine,
ten months of the year. And here they are producing wine out of
Saskatchewan-grown fruit, like choke berries that no-one wants.
And they grow every year."
|A Regina visitor
browses through the offerings.
The reliability of the wild fruit crops is one less worry for the
Banachs, but the community involvement in picking the fruits is
equally important. Except for the raspberries, all the fruit is
bought locally. Roger saw this community spirit in action at the
winery's grand opening.
"There were people there that picked chokeberries and said 'we're
here to try the end result'. And they were astonished. . . They
couldn't believe that, 'hey,I was a part of this'."
"I think that's really nice," adds Stormie, "because they're really
promoting other people and helping other people in our community
by purchasing the fruit. . .
"You really do have Saskatchewan flavor when you buy the wine."
The Banach Winery is located about 3 km south of Battleford. Visits by appointment, call: (306) 937-3209.
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