We are Jamie and Leah McDowell, and we bought this beautiful piece of paradise in the fall of 2016; 10 short weeks after first discussing the idea of owning and operating a winery with some friends over dinner. The idea was simple enough – buy in the right location, build small, keep production small, sell every bottle to guests good enough to come through your doors, work co-operatively with your neighbouring wineries and do all the work yourselves. Easy, right?
So, as it turned out, that is exactly the plan we followed and continue to follow today, almost six years after the initial discussion. Easy? Not so much. Admittedly, the stars aligned when we hired a consultant to help us develop our plan. Through this consultant, we found this fully functioning vineyard planted to varieties we wanted to work with and in the perfect location from a grape growing standpoint. It was also the perfect retail sales location. Everything after that was A LOT of work; sometimes easy, joyful work in lovely, temperate weather and other times difficult, back breaking work in extreme cold and heat. Ah, the life of new farmers…
Our past careers prepared us well for this next phase of our lives. Jamie was a distribution and logistics manager. This job demanded a great deal of time and patience but what he brings to the winery operation is an extraordinary attention to detail and the most stubborn work ethic you can imagine. Ten acres of vineyard does not seem like much in the big picture but Jamie knew right away that he wanted to change some things and make improvements. He also realized these things would take a hugely steep learning curve. And the aforementioned patience? Luckily, he brought that too because improving a vineyard is a long-term commitment. Sample the wines and you will see what careful work in a vineyard tastes like. Jamie, although not shy, is not as extroverted as I, so he prefers vineyard work to tasting room work, but make no mistake, he is proud of his vineyard and happy to share details with guests when he stops by the winery. He will be the guy sitting in the shade drinking a GatorAde.
I owned and operated two VQA stores – stores that sell only wines made from 100% BC grapes. Over the course of my journey, I had the opportunity to taste many wines from every grape-growing region in BC and I also interacted with thousands of wine drinkers sampling wines in my stores every weekend. Eventually, I developed a palate that appreciated all BC wines – the nuances of different regions, the touch of different winemakers and the impact that each different growing season had to offer. I also had the privilege of getting to know a number of people with intimate knowledge of the BC wine industry. All of which was hugely helpful as we were developing our winery. I also had a very good idea of what everyday people liked as they tasted wines so was able to bring all of that retail experience with me and it all helped develop the wine style we wanted to offer. I am not shy at all; I will happily blabber away all day long about the wines, the winery, the branding or whatever else you’d like to talk about. Vineyard work? No thank you.
We have two children; a son, Rhys, who started his career in forestry and is currently studying to be a GIS professional. We also have a daughter, Laken, who is finishing a business degree but has already started a career with a major greenhouse operation in Chilliwack. The children show no interest in taking over the winery but they seem happy enough to have parents that own one. We also have a dog; a whoodle named Cedar who is thrilled that her humans own a winery because there are millions of sticks to play with, acres to run on and horses to chase. She misbehaves a lot!