Lytton fire: how a small vineyard is helping to rebuild

Just across the river from where the village of Lytton once stood is a small vineyard that was somehow spared from last summer’s devastating forest fire.

“We actually had very little smoke, no damage to the grapes,” said Noni McCann of Winch Spur Vineyard.

At harvest time, Fort Berens Estate Winery in Lillooet purchased these grapes as they do every year. But this time, the company also wanted to find a way to use them to help the people of Lytton.

“We decided, ‘Let’s do something. Let’s do something with these grapes. Let’s give these grapes a special purpose,” said Rolf de Bruin, one of the owners of the winery.

So they turned the grapes into a special wine.

They named it ‘Lytton Strong’ and launched a fundraiser and online auction.

“It’s pretty special, let me tell you, and especially after a year of wanting to do something and not knowing what to do,” McCann said of learning how the grapes would help her community.

The money raised from the sale will help rebuild the community pool, which McCann says has always been the heart of the village.

“If you grew up in Lytton you probably learned to swim there, you probably hung out there with your friends,” she said. “It’s part of growing up in Lytton.”

The more than 1,400 bottles of ‘Lytton Strong’ wine have already sold, but there are a few more left in the auction, including the very first.

“It’s a very special bottle because it was the first bottle that came off and it will be a treasured possession,” de Bruin said.

The fundraiser, supported by dozens of sponsors, has already raised more than $95,400.

“We’re just trying to do our little part,” de Bruin said, adding that “the devastation in Lytton is a bit overwhelming.”

He said the first priority, of course, is to rebuild homes, but he hopes a new swimming pool will also give people something to return to.

Fundraising is perhaps a reminder of the strength of community, even in the face of adversity.

“People here, we work together. We help each other as much as we can,” McCann said.

The online auction ends June 12.

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