Devour! Winemakers in the Spotlight: VANESSA VINEYARD

Devour! Osoyoos is coming soon! We’re so proud to be a sponsor of this fantastic festival.

The sights and flavours of Devour! Osoyoos perfectly exemplify all that makes food, wine, and film so appealing.

The winemakers and chefs that will be showcased during this highly-anticipated event are all unique and amazing. We’d like to let everyone get to know them a little better.

We’ve started a series that highlights each of the participating Similkameen Independent Winegrowers. In the true spirit of our down-to-earth, welcoming region, the winemakers and proprietors have answered a variety of questions –from quirky to sincere. Their answers may surprise you…

We hope you enjoy learning about these dedicated and talented folks as much as we have!


Vanessa Vineyard Estate Winery

Proprietors Suki Sekhon and John Welson knew they had found something special here in the Valley. True connoisseurs, they travelled the world to find the perfect spot to produce premium wines while maintaining their commitment to environmentally sound practices. In pursuit of their shared passion, they joined together to create Vanessa Vineyard in 2006.

Vanessa’s lush vineyard has come a long way from its origins as rocky pastureland. The unique Similkameen microclimate and terroir make this 220 acre farm ideal for producing vinifera grapes. Capitalizing on the southwest exposure, and focusing on cultivating the highest quality red wine grapes, legendary vineyard managers Robert and Nathan Goltz ensure perfectly ripe, intensely-flavoured fruit that showcases the diverse flavours of the Similkameen Valley.  Under the direction of BC winemaking godfather, Master Winemaker Howard Soon, Vanessa has become an award-winning winery that truly represents this amazing region.

Owner/Winemaker: Howard Soon

What path led you to a career as a winemaker? I‘ve loved science all my life. I studied Biochemistry at UBC, then learned about the science of brewing at Labatt’s in my first post-graduate job. Then, once I started working at Calona Vineyards, I realized that I’ve always loved making things: when I was young, it was cooking and crafts, and later, model airplanes.

If you were a wine, which wine would you be? I would like to become a Meritage blend with Cabernet Sauvignon as part of it. These kinds of blends are like people: unique and diverse.

If you could only drink one wine for the rest of your life, what wine would it be and why? Really good Cab Sauv or Pinot Noir. Again, unique and diverse in their expression. Making it –and drinking it– requires thoughtfulness and appreciation. From grape growing to winemaking to wine drinking, it’s literally a transformation from Mother Nature to something miraculous made with man’s (and woman’s!) intervention.

What is your greatest passion? Our family. Even though they are now adults, it’s just another phase of parenthood. It’s who we work for, really.

What might people be surprised to learn about you? For the last 4 years, I have been taking piano lessons. And in my opinion, I’m not even close to being any good. The fun is in the challenge.

What’s your secret food craving? Like Men in Black’s Agent K says, “Pie solves all problems.” I’ll take blueberry, pecan, apple, peach…butter tarts are pretty good, too. Vanilla ice cream is a plus. I think it’s good that I don’t have too many problems…

What’s your favourite food to eat while watching movies? Good pilsner and even just a lager. Chips would be good, too. But I don’t usually eat while watching Netflix.

What is your favourite grape, and why? Sangiovese is a very old variety. Any grape named by the ancient Etruscans, “Blood of Jove”, deserves a lot of respect and winemaking attention.

What drives you? It’s internal. Seeing that a grape grower has worked so hard to grow a great batch of grapes makes me want to be a great steward of his/her fruit and take it into the best, truest expression of his/her vineyard and site.

If you couldn’t do this, what would you do? Teach, coach, mentor. I like to get people excited about the task at hand, and to lead by example.

What is your favourite South-Okanagan/Similkameen activity? Hiking (or driving) through vineyards and trying to understand the site. Asking the vineyardist, “What were you thinking?” I’ve always said I don’t know much about growing grapes, but sometimes I know what I like to see and what I need to question.

Describe your dream meal: Probably Italian, even gnocchi if it’s homemade, or else some nice and juicy lamb on a warm summer evening with a killer red wine and friends.

What is your favourite food or wine film, and why? Somm (the first one, I haven’t seen the sequel). Right from the opening scene, I was struck by the intensity and desire to succeed of these young people studying for the Master Sommelier exams. The film does a great job in conveying this, and how some fail and some succeed. At the Vancouver Wine Festival one year, I met some of those somms that were in that film. When people from outside our industry view this, I think they also are incredulous that a person would want to know this much about wine and be accredited for it. I admire anyone who exhibits this passion about wine, and I am proud to be part of this industry.

Vanessa Vineyard Estate Winery
1090 Highway 3, Cawston, BC

Watermark Beach Resort is very pleased to offer a special package rate for Devour! Osoyoos. Visit us for more information, including event tickets and schedules.