Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Top Okanagan winemaking jobs filled

Photo: Nikki Callaway with her dog, Olli

Three of the Okanagan’s best winemaker jobs – at Burrowing Owl, Quails’ Gate and Osoyoos Larose – have now been filled.

Quails’ Gate Estate winery has just announced that former Mission Hill winemaker Nikki Callaway moves to Quails’ Gate August 1, taking over from Grant Stanley.

Osoyoos Larose announced last week that Bordeaux winemaker Mathieu Mercier is filling the post left vacant when Pascal Madevon left in January to join Don Triggs’s Culmina Family Estate Winery.

Burrowing Owl Estate Winery has yet to make a formal announcement. However, Tom DiBello, the former CedarCreek winemaker, is taking over from Bertus Albertyn, who left Burrowing Owl July 12 to focus on his own project, Maverick Estate Winery.

Here is the text of the Quails’ Gate news release.

July 23, 2013 (Vancouver, BC) – Quails’ Gate winery is pleased to announce that Nikki Callaway has joined the team as winemaker.  Nikki is already well known in the BC wine industry, and she brings with her a wealth of experience gained working in vineyards around the world.  She worked the harvest in South Africa's Stellenbosch region, as well as holding several cellar master positions throughout France, including in the Loire, Burgundy and Bordeaux regions. Nikki’s official start date at Quails’ Gate will be August 1st, 2013.

A Canadian by birth, Nikki spent nearly a decade living in Dubai, UAE before returning to Canada for her formal education.  She successfully completed her Bachelor’s in Biology at the University of Victoria in 2004, then headed to Europe to learn winemaking from the ground up.  Her winemaking career began with the 2004 vintage in the Beaujolais (Château La Louvière) and Bordeaux (Château Palmer) regions of France and culminated when she graduated with a Diplôme National d’Oœnologue (DNO) from the Université Bordeaux II in 2007.  Upon her return to Canada in 2009 she worked as a winemaker for Mission Hill Family Estate.

Tony Stewart, CEO and proprietor of Quails’ Gate winery, notes “We are very excited to announce Nikki as our new winemaker.  She is intimately acquainted with several renowned international wine regions as well as having experience crafting wines right here in the Okanagan.  Her spirit of collaboration and vision for the future of Quails’ Gate are a perfect match for our long-term plans, and we are thrilled to bring her aboard to work on what is already proving to be a strong vintage.”

Here is the text of the July 17 Osoyoos Larose announcement.
Osoyoos, BC - There's always been a unique union between Old and New World winemaking at the South Okanagan's Osoyoos Larose; with the arrival of new winemaker Mathieu Mercier, that bond grows even stronger.

Mercier has winemaking in his blood. Born in Cognac, France, he grew up in the vineyard at his family's estate. "When I was a kid I spent all my free time with my father in the vineyard, or in the winery," says Mercier. "I learned at a young age the significance of every detail when striving for the best quality."

It was natural that he would study winemaking as a career. He holds both a Masters in Viticulture and Enology and a National Diploma of Enology from the respected Agronomic School of Bordeaux. In 2012, Mathieu spent time expanding his skills in viticulture and winemaking at Concha Y Toro's Don Melchor in Chile; at Swanson Vineyards and at Cain Vineyard and Winery in the Napa Valley; and in Bordeaux, working at several estates owned by Groupe Taillan. It was at the latter that he began to take an interest in Osoyoos Larose, and in winemaking in the Okanagan Valley.

"My enthusiasm for the quality of the 'Grand Vin' and the pursuit of new challenges made me want to play a role in the continued success of the wine." In March of 2013, he moved to Canada for the opportunity to manage all the steps from vineyard to the cellar at Osoyoos Larose. "The incredible potential of the Okanagan Valley became obvious to me when I arrived here. The climate here is very good, with a lot of sun exposure and spectacular day to night temperature variations."

Today, he is working closely with the team at Osoyoos Larose to implement exacting viticulture and vinification techniques that will help the finished wine express the unique terroir of the South Okanagan. "My goal is to always produce better quality grapes to make better quality wine year after year, without any compromises."

Burrowing Owl’s decision is a full-circle appointment, returning a California winemaker to the cellar run during Burrowing Owl’s first seven years by Bill Dyer, a legendary California consulting winemaker.

American-born Tom DiBello – now a Canadian citizen – previously made wine in California, Washington State and Australia. “I love making wine here more than any place I have ever been,” he told me several years ago.

Tom right) took over at CedarCreek in 2000, succeeding Kevin Willemborg, another American winemaker. Born in 1957 in New York, Tom grew up in California’s Newport Beach, acquiring a lifelong love of surfing. After vacillating between medicine and business, he qualified as a winemaker at the University of California. His first job in 1983 was at Napa’s respected Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, where he became director of cellar operations before leaving on a winemaking odyssey through several countries and states.

CedarCreek recruited him from a Washington winery. CedarCreek’s aging winery was rebuilt; by 2002 Tom had state-of-the-art winemaking tools, including some of the most expensive French barrels to be found in any Okanagan winery. CedarCreek was Canadian winery of the year at least twice in the Canadian Wine Awards during Tom’s tenure as winemaker.

He left CedarCreek in 2010. He has since consulted widely on the Okanagan and he launched his own label, DiBello Wines, which produces less than 1,000 cases a year. It is unlikely that he will continue consulting but it is probable that Burrowing Owl will let him continue making his own label.


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