July/August 2020 – Facing the Music

With a mission to inform, empower, celebrate and advocate for British Columbia's current and aspiring business leaders, BCBusiness go behind the headlines and bring readers face to face with the key issues and people driving business in B.C.

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dames like Summerhill, Mission Hill and its five sibling wineries, plus the shiny new billionaire-built wineries, other major players in B.C. include eight-winery Arterra Wines (owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board) and Andrew Peller, a publicly traded com- pany that also owns eight Okanagan wine brands. Consolidation, as congomerates acquire B.C. wineries started by families and entrepreneurs, is one effect of a mod- ern industry that is only now entering its second generation. But succession looks different across the industry. Paul Brunner, a mining engineer and former CEO who bought the postcard-pretty Blue Grouse Estate Win- ery near Duncan on southern Vancouver Island in 2012, now guffaws at his original retirement plan, to split time between Peru and a rural B.C. "hobby business I'd fiddle around with from time to time, that wouldn't make or lose a lot of money and wouldn't make a lot." After a massive investment in infra- structure, acquiring more land and plant- ing grape vines, Brunner has a "200-year plan" for what he hopes will be a sustain- able, organic winery for generations. Famed Peruvian wine consultant Pedro Parra "has told us we can make very high- quality Pinot Noir here," he says. On West Kelowna's wine trail, just down the road from Frind, Mt. Bouch- erie Estate Winery was putting finishing touches on a gleaming new winery build- ing and hip Modest Butcher restaurant this past spring. "We don't like pretension here," says the amiable vice-president, Craig McCulloch, a onetime produce executive. "People can come and spend $200 on wine and $100 on steak, or they can sit on the patio after a round of golf and have a glass of wine." The winery languished in receivership for years after a dispute in the founding Gidda family, major regional grape growers. Its happy ending and contemporary vision are cour- tesy of a new ownership group headed by president and Richmond-based business- man Sonny Huang. Other farmers are turning their exper- tise and success into new wineries, some- times by luring back second-generation family members. Three Sisters Winery, a Naramata Bench vineyard that Rebecca Mikulic's father, John Lawrence, named for his trio of daughters, is now the label under which her husband, Matt, makes bold wines like a peppery, licorice-tinged Tempranillo. Rebecca is vice-president of EarlCo Vineyards, the vineyard manage- ment company her father founded. "It's a really tricky industry because of the cash flow," she says as her two young daughters snack on crackers in the DIY-chic tasting room. "But it works because we have the viticulture company, too." At Deep Roots, a former orchard that's been cultivated by the Hardman family for 100 years, fourth-generation farmer and winemaker Will is now his father's best cus- tomer. "About five years ago you couldn't give away grapes," Brian Hardman says. "Now it's a seller's market." Wines like the 2017 Deep Roots Syrah, which won the 2019 Lieutenant Governor's Award for wine of the year, have turned grapes from a fickle commodity crop to a potentially lucrative value-added business. If you build it "This is not an agricultural industry; it's an agritourism business," says Tony Hol- ler, wearing a crisp linen shirt the same tint as the Poplar Grove Winery rosé in HELLO WORLD At West Kelowna's Indigenous World Winery, proprietors Bernice and Robert Louie (right) share First Nations history and culture with visitors 50 BCBUSINESS JULY/AUGUST 2020 SNAP PHOTOGRAPHY/INDIGENOUS WORLD WINERY DRIVING SPIRIT Vancouver industrialist Richter Bai (left) opened Phantom Creek Estates to the public this spring

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