Photo: Den Dulik in the vineyard where he spent a lifetime
The recent obituary of Daniel (Den) Dulik, a legendary
Kelowna grow grower, was surprisingly understated.
struck me as a strong and genuine personality. His life needs to be fleshed out
and I will try to do that by reproducing what I wrote about Den in my 1996
book, The British Columbia Wine
Companion. For greater perspective on that life, I include the entries on his
father, Martin, and on his daughter, Susan.
First, here is an excerpt from the brief
“DULIK, Daniel Martin (Denny): Passed away peacefully
after a prolonged battle with cancer on November 17, 2016 at the age of 77.
Survived by his loving wife Pat of 54 years; daughter Susan Dulik of Kelowna;
son Robert (Nicole) Dulik of Calgary; grandsons Mark and Jake; sisters: Doris
(Henry) Johnson and Diane (Earl) Fabian both of Kelowna; numerous nieces,
nephews as well as many, many dear friends. Born and raised in Kelowna, Denny
lived his entire life on the family vineyard, Pioneer Vineyards. He was a
pioneer of the BC wine and grape industry. His lifelong quest to grow the best
grapes and to produce the best wines possible will succeed him for future
generations. He will be dearly missed.”
An appreciation by Tantalus Vineyards, which bought the
vineyard in 2004, adds more to the portrait:
Den or Denny, as he was known to friends and family, will be
dearly remembered for his incredible sense of humour, warm heart and
unbelievable work ethic.
was an absolute pioneer for the BC wine industry - having owned and operated
Pioneer Vineyards in South East Kelowna for several decades. He established
some of the earliest vinifera in Canada on our site, planting Riesling sourced
from the Weis family of Mosel's St. Urbans-Hof winery back in 1978.
We at Tantalus credit Den, his wife Pat and daughter Sue with
much of our success. From tying vines in the spring, to tasting ferments with
our winemaking team, to spending hours on the tractor mowing rows - Den was
integral to our operations and his wealth of farming knowledge has enriched our
Although Den didn't feel up to harvesting grapes with us this
year, he still popped by daily on his John Deere, cracking jokes and keeping
our picking team's morale up. Anyone who crossed paths with him was touched by
his sharp wit, infectious smile and caring heart.
Here are the
excerpts from my book (which is out of print):
(Den) (1939-): Born in Kelowna, Dulik learned the art of grape
growing from his father, Martin, gradually taking over the operation of the
Pioneer Vineyard at the very end of Hughes Road, east of Kelowna. The amiable,
barrel-shaped Dulik is one of the few growers who made the jump from labrusca
grapes to vinifera without a significant stop with the hybrids. The first of
the vineyards planted by J.W. Hughes, Pioneer
was given over entirely to labrusca table grapes, many of which were sold to
wineries for the fortified pop wines popular in the 1960s. With the exception
of a small planting of maréchal foch, Den Dulik declined to plant hybrids
because he did not think those varieties were sufficiently better than his labrusca. (After all, his vivacious wife
Patricia, an accomplished home food processor, was able to win awards with her
home-made white wines made from diamond grapes.) However, in 1978 Dulik -- and
his even more skeptical father -- were persuaded by Jordan & Ste-Michelle
winemaker Josef Zimmerman to plant white riesling. Zimmerman argued that, if
the variety was hardy enough for German vineyards, it would also thrive in
Kelowna. The clay-loam vineyard, because of its southwesterly slope, is one of
the warmer sites among the vineyards east of Kelowna. The Duliks planted five
acres and, over the next decades, learned that Zimmerman was right. At the
first industry-wide competition in 1982 (at Septober), the winery won a gold
medal for a 1981 riesling special reserve made from Dulik grapes. Pioneer
Vineyard, now with twenty-nine acres under vine, also includes bacchus and
optima (also Zimmerman recommendations), pinot noir, pinot blanc, chardonnay
and pinot meunier. "I'm happy with them all," Dulik says.
(1907-1987): Born in Czechoslovakia, Dulik came to Canada
when he was fifteen and, after a decade in Saskatchewan, he and his new bride
came to the Okanagan, looking for work. In 1934 Dulik was hired by J.W. Hughes
to work on the Pioneer Vineyard just southeast of Kelowna and ultimately became
a foreman. In 1944, when Hughes began selling the vineyards to his foreman,
Dulik agreed to buy the Pioneer Vineyard. The terms (which were extended to
other foremen as well) were unusual but then neither Dulik nor the others had
ready cash. Dulik acquired the vineyard over seven years by paying the income
tax on the crop and giving Hughes the proceeds from half the crop. Grapes were sold both to the fresh market and to Growers' Wines in Victoria, with the wine grape market becoming the major market
with the expansion of wineries in the 1960s. Dulik also was one of the leaders
in the 1961 formation of the Grape Growers' Association.
(1962-): Born in Kelowna into one of
the pioneer grape-growing families, Susan Dulik was drawn irresistibly to the
wine industry by the infectious enthusiasm of the winemakers who continually visited
the family's Pioneer Vineyard. When she asked for work at Jordan &
Ste-Michelle, the winery to which her family then sold grapes, she was offered
a tour guide's post in 1980 at the Ste-Michelle winery in Surrey. "I just
had a ball," she recalls. After three years, she was promoted to sales and
administration work and stayed with the winery until it closed in 1990, took a
year's sabbatical and then came back to the industry, first working with CedarCreek and then with Summerhill.
"I decided I wanted to open my own winery,"
she said. Winemaker Eric von Krosigk, her mentor at Summerhill, instilled the
belief that good wine begins with good grapes. Susan Dulik had not been a great
student of viticulture before but she joined her family at Pioneer Vineyards in
1992 and was surprised that she enjoyed vineyard work. She soon began making
trial batches of wine in preparation for the farmgate winery planned to open in
1997 under the name, Pinot Reach Cellars.
Susan Dulik's wines are clean and fresh, the result of a minimalist style of
winemaking that dictates interfering with the wines as little as possible.
"I just leave them alone -- keeping them incredibly clean but letting the
wines be," she says.
I interviewed Susan and her parents just before Pinot Reach opened, she
explained the rationale for the name: the winery would focus on Pinot varieties
and it would reach for quality.
the first Pinot Reach wine to attract international praise (from Jancis
Robinson, no less) was the Old Vines Riesling from that her father’s 1978 planting.
winery was renamed Tantalus after Vancouver investment dealer Eric Savics bought
the Pioneer Vineyard. It continues to make Old Vines Riesling, and the wine
still gets plaudits from Robinson and other wine writers. It is arguably the
best Riesling in the Okanagan.
those vines were originally planted, Den is said to have christened a few with
wine from a bottle of St. Urbans-Hof Riesling. Now, someone should pour a
bottle of Old Vines Riesling on Den’s grave.