Family Owned Wines: Good Stories

Getting to know the people behind the labels

— by Shelley Boettcher

Family-owned wineries aren’t as common as you may think. These days, many are gobbled up by corporations looking for a taste of the good life. I get it. I love the good life, too.

But I also love getting to know the people behind the wines, the mom-and-pop start-ups, with hard-working, hands-on families. Others have been in the industry for generations, but despite decades of success, refuse any offers to sell and, instead, prefer to keep the business close at hand.

You don’t have to look any further than the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, to find dozens of fabulous family-owned wineries. Some to seek out: Daydreamer Wines, Meyer Family Vineyards, Quail’s Gate Estate Winery, Sperling Vineyards, Stag’s Hollow Winery, Summerhill Estate Winery. The list goes on and on and on.

But further afield, you’ll find others making equally fine wines. Here are a few of my current favourites.

Haywire 2017 White Label Pinot Noir

(Okanagan Valley, British Columbia)

Christine Coletta is co-owner of Okanagan Crush Pad, which makes a range of wines under the Haywire label, and her daughter Alison Scholefield is the marketing and communications manager. Alison’s cousin, Julian Scholefield, is the winery’s operations manager.

In other words, it’s a true family affair. The Haywire Pinot Noir has been remarkably consistent the past couple of years, and the 2017 vintage is no exception. What to expect? Look for earthy clay, cherry and raspberry flavours, plus a hint of spicy cardamom. About $27.

Chateau Timberlay 2014 Bordeaux Superieur

(Bordeaux, France)

There’s a real chateau behind Chateau Timberlay, and it’s one of the oldest in Bordeaux, dating back to 1366. The Giraud family, who owns the winery, still lives on the estate, surrounded by vineyards. Philippe Giraud is the winery’s president, while Florence Giraud is the finance director.

This intense red blend is mostly Merlot (85 per cent) with 10 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and five per cent Cab Franc. It’s best with venison, roast beef, steaks or barbecued red meat, but it will still shine served with grilled Mediterranean-style vegetables And this price? An awesome deal for Bordeaux of any kind. About $18 per bottle.

Bodegas Montecillo 2012 Reserva

(Rioja, Spain)

One of Spain’s oldest winemaking families, the Osbornes started making wine in Spain in 1772 and, today, the sixth generation of the original family is still involved. Rocio Osborne, for one, is the brand ambassador, a direct descendent of Thomas Osborne Mann, who moved from England to Spain more than 245 years ago.

Mostly Tempranillo, the Montecillo Reserva has a bit of Garnacha and Mazuelo (the regional name for Carignan grapes) in the blend. This lovely, smooth red has spicy, dark fruit flavours and will pair well with red meats — steak, roast or stew — or try it with a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano or aged cheddar. About $23.

Noble Ridge 2015 Reserve Chardonnay

(Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada)

Jim and Leslie D’Andrea took their kids on a three-month trip across Europe with their children in 1998. When they came back to Canada, they decided to start a winery. By 2001, they were in business, and they still work incredibly hard, doing everything from making the wines to marketing them. Watch for them at the next BC wine tasting in Calgary, or stop in at the winery.

This creamy, buttery, peachy, rich Chardonnay is very food friendly; try it with salmon, grilled chicken or a creamy pasta dish. Serve chilled. About $35.

C.G. DiArie 2015 Zinfandel

(Shenandoah Valley, California, USA)

Chaim Gu-Arieh and his wife Elisheva are behind the C.G. DiArie winery, and Chaim’s story is a great one: Born in Turkey, he grew up in Israel and then ended up in the U.S. working as a food scientist. He helped develop Cap’n Crunch cereal, Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing and Power Bars, too.

In other words, he’s great at figuring out what people like to eat — and drink. This soft, rounded, classy Zin goes down very easily; you may want to buy a couple of bottles. $35.

Roberto Voerzio 2016 Barbera d’Alba, Il Cerreto

(Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy)

One of the legends of Barolo, Roberto Voerzio first worked in the wine business with his brother, Gianni, and, then, started his own winery in 1986. His son, Davide, joined him a few years ago. Just like those early days, however, the Voerzio team makes only small amounts of each of their wines, so you’ll have to hunt to find it in Alberta. It’s worth it.

This Barbera had delicate rose and stony notes, with fine balance between acidity and tannins. One of those wines I could drink every day, if only he made more — and if I had the budget. About $50.

Taylor Fladgate Historic Limited Edition Reserve Tawny Port

(Douro Valley, Portugal)

Taylor Fladgate is one of the world’s oldest family-owned businesses, with roots dating back to 1692, the year it was established. There are still family members involved in the business, which leads the way as one of Portugal’s finest Port houses. This sweet, balanced blend of aged tawny ports is packaged in a bottle modeled after early 18th-century hand-blown “bladder” bottles, which held more wine than the typical “onion” shape. Yes, you’ll get a litre of fine port in this bottle, instead of the typical 750-mL. One for collectors! About $70.

Viberti Giovanni 2013 Buon Padre Barolo

(Barolo, Piedmont, Italy)

The Viberti Giovanni winery was founded in 1923 by one Cavalier Antonio Viberti, who named this handsome Barolo after the family’s restaurant, Il Buon Padre. The third generation is now involved in the winery; the youngest son, Claudio, is part of the winemaking and management team.

Since 2012, the Buon Padre has been made from grapes group in Albarella and Serralunga d’Alba. A classic style, it has gorgeous leathery, tarry, spicy, rose petal notes, with a medium garnet colour and a finish that goes on for eons. Don’t feel you have to drink this wine right away, though. It will cellar for years and will continue to evolve for at least a decade. Awesome price for Barolo, too. About $60.

Shelley Boettcher is a Calgary-based food, wine and travel writer. Follow her on Twitter @shelley_wine, on Instagram @shelleyboettcher or check out her website at