A chat with ‘rustic’ wine cowboy Bruce Fuller

A chat with ‘rustic’ wine cowboy Bruce Fuller


(The Chronicle sat down with everyone’s favourite character in the South Okanagan – Bruce Fuller, formerly of Rustico Farm and Cellars – and peppered him with questions on what the heck he’s doing now.)

OC: After Rustico fame, what is Bruce Fuller up to these days?

BF: Looking to somehow replicate Rustico’s well-loved concept of thinking about wine as a many-splendored experience … not just a glassful of something-or-other to guzzle then soak its stains off your white shirt.

OC: Are you still homesick for the old winery? What do you miss most?

BF: Yes, I very definitely miss the old place; the never-ending delight of sharing what we created over a dozen years with guests who found us “not just another winery.” Miss also the fine folks who worked so hard with me often under some duress. They had my back and made every day mosey on.   

OC: How much wine do you drink now to drown your sorrows?

BF:   Most certainly my wine consumption, with visiting friends and guests, generally meant my saloon glass always held a few sips at the ready. These days my wine drinking is really quite limited and I’ve amazed myself even missing days, weeks of uncorking anything at all. I was never happy the way the business was scooped, but not drowning sorrows any longer.

OC: What is your top recommended wine in the South Okanagan? And don’t say Rustico’s.

BF: Difficult question to answer for sure. After Rustico I’ve enjoyed wines from many of my former neighbours … this didn’t happen when I had my own inventory … and I must say as a wine aficionado I keep discovering bottles that are just amazing. I’m exploring the local “bubbles” or champagne-style wines these days.

OC: Would you call yourself a true cowboy? Where’s your horse?

BF: I’m thinking that a true cowboy is one who swings his legs off the bed every day and into well-worn jeans and comfy old cowboy boots … and gets that first mug of yesterday’s black coffee reheated in time to get outside for an Okanagan dawn, then feeds his critters before himself. At Rustico, old-style cowboying and lifestyle was the dream we all loved. I had two horses stabled on the property and I often took an early morning ride through my vineyard. Had horses around and access to them most all my life but today the closest I get is looking at my old saddles and hanging out as a director at Desert Park race track in Osoyoos.

OC: Do you think the South Okanagan is over-saturated with wineries?

BF: I don’t think so. There happens to be good variety of wineries; lots of ‘em but each tends to be unique, and I’d say that all have something special to offer, and a guest’s job is to explore and search out favourites.

OC: How are new wineries able to compete in this ubiquitous marketplace?

BF: They must create a niche that’s unique to themselves… they must offer a true and enjoyable overall experience and have something their guests won’t forget.

OC: Some people hate wine. Does that mean they can’t be your friend and swap cowboy poetry?

BF: Often I’d meet people who wore the designated driver hat, and of course, folks who had allergies and those who just plain were not into wine. We swapped all sorts of stories, about wines, about the local industry, the place where we were standing and its history.

OC: What wine goes best with, say, ham hocks?

BF: My preference would be a well made Pinot Noir … or maybe a Zinfandel. At the end of the day it’s what you like. Forget about white with this and red with that; they all work their magic. I’m a self-professed foodie and like to taste the food and the wine. Gotta complement each other. 

OC: Okay, something controversial: Do you favour a national park reserve in this region? Why or why not? Should there be a referendum?

BF: I’m feeling we shouldn’t have anything pushed down our throats and the locals should have their say.  

OC: What should people remember about Bruce Fuller when he’s gone?

BF: That he was an innovator and not afraid of pushing the envelope.

OC: What was your most embarrassing moment in life?

BF: I was talked into “mooning” a boatload of BC cabinet ministers … we raced by their vessel in our speedboat and everyone was going to pull their shorts down on the count of three. I did… they didn’t!

OC: Who is the love of your life?

BF: Without hesitation I can say my kids … I am so much in love with them. And then I have my winery dogs and a batch of new pups.

OC: What is your favourite movie?

BF: Lonesome Dove (a made-for-TV western), and of course Blazing Saddles, a politically incorrect western comedy. We had both running 10 hours a day in our saloon for 10 years.

OC: Who would you like to be reincarnated as?

BF: Mark Twain

OC: Have you ever seen a real live ghost?

BF: I believe so. I loved and lived in an 1895, grass-roofed log house, originally a bunkhouse for miners. A number of times things would be moved or changed around and on a couple of occasions I could have sworn I saw a figure pass by a doorway. Nothing scary, though.

OC: What about a UFO?

BF: Don’t believe I spotted anything when I was at the winery … but up here on Anarchist, that’s another story.