By Richard McGuire
Special to the Chronicle
To look at Bruce Fuller with his cowboy hat, long whiskers and neckerchief, you might think he’d just stepped out of the Old West.
That’s the image he cultivated when he ran Rustico Farm and Cellars south of Oliver for almost a decade, working from a late 1800s log cabin.
And the Old West will be the theme of his newest venture, an urban wine bar in Osoyoos, which he hopes to open late this fall if the pieces fall into place.
But Fuller’s actual past is something other than roping and branding cattle and riding his horse across the sagebrush. He built his career in advertising and marketing, climbing the corporate ranks of Jim Pattison’s empire.
He speaks without a trace of a brogue, and can’t even fake one, but Fuller was actually born in Glasgow, Scotland.
“I’m a war baby,” he says. “Dad was in the Canadian Air Force and stationed in the Shetland Islands. He found my mom, I guess, on a wild weekend in Glasgow, and here I am.”
But his love of the Old West is genuine. When he left Rustico early in 2017, he rented an 85-acre farm near Anarchist Summit, an area steeped in cowboy history. He collects antique cowboy memorabilia.
And he soon became active in the Desert Park Exhibition Society, becoming its president shortly afterwards.
Fuller is excited about getting back into the wine business with the first urban winery in Osoyoos.
He has what he describes as a “preliminary agreement” to purchase the Wildfire Grill, but he’s still lining up investors.
The name has changed in recent weeks, but its most recent moniker is “Lonesome Quail Osoyoos Urban Winery and Saloon.”
So what’s an urban winery? Fuller describes it as a winery located in an urban environment without a vineyard. Grapes or wines can be sourced elsewhere.
He’s drawn inspiration from TIME Winery in downtown Penticton, but has also been learning about Vancouver Urban Winery, a successful urban winery on Vancouver’s downtown east side.
“They’ve got a whole tap system, they’ve got a lovely restaurant there, they’re very saloon-like, very country style,” he said, adding that an owner there has a long connection with Osoyoos and had met him at Rustico. And he’s been giving Fuller advice.
It’s that tap system that’s opened Fuller’s eyes to the potential.
Wine flows through the tap system from kegs – more accurately tanks – never coming in contact with oxygen. Instead of air flowing into the keg as it’s drained, a gas consisting of three quarters nitrogen and one quarter carbon dioxide provides the pressure.
And this means the wine can be stored for long periods of time without losing its flavour or going bad. This keeps the keg good from the first glass to the last.
Fuller plans to make deals with local wineries to sell their products by the glass or carafe, fresh from the tap.
“It’s a tasting saloon, a tasting bar,” he said.
But he also plans to continue the restaurant and to operate 12 months of the year.
At a later stage, he plans to buy grapes or juice from growers and produce his own wines on the premises – bottling some and serving the rest on tap.
The tap system eliminates the cost and environmental footprint of traditional bottle packaging and transportation. And, for a business selling by the glass, it eliminates the waste of partially used bottles.
Fuller says there’s potential with the tap system to branch into local craft beers and ciders, or even mixed drinks.
For local wineries, he sees this as a chance for them to sell more product and also to make their product better known. A customer who likes a wine at the saloon may decide to visit the winery directly.
For now, Fuller is talking up the idea on social media, trying to generate a buzz, as he puts the pieces in place.
A marketer and winemaker by vocation, a cowboy at heart, Fuller is trying once again to bring those strands together.