Sunday, May 10, 2020

Winemaker Graham Pierce joins Kitsch

 Photo: Winemaker Graham Pierce

Veteran winemaker Graham Pierce has joined Kitsch Wines as general manager and winemaker.

Kitsch is a Kelowna boutique winery that opened in 2016 and that has made a name for itself with its Rieslings and Pinot Noir wines.

Graham takes over from Grant Biggs, a Vancouver Island native who decided earlier this year to take time away from winemaking.

Graham, who grew up in Horseshoe Bay, started his career initially working in Vancouver restaurants. About 2000, he moved to the Okanagan to be the culinary director at Summerhill Pyramid Winery. That is where he developed an interest in winemaking and viticulture. After studying winemaking at Okanagan University College, he joined Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery where, in 2003, he was named head winemaker.

In 2008 he moved to Black Hills Estate Winery. He took over from the legendary Senka Tennant after the founders of Black Hills sold the winery. Graham was able to expand the Black Hills portfolio. He also took Nota Bene, already a cult wine, to an even higher level of quality.

In 2018, he joined the late Harry McWatters as the director of wine at Time Winery in Penticton.  

In its announcement, Kitsch says: “His passion for winemaking and viticulture paired with a love of culinary arts and hospitality makes him a natural and exciting fit to work with the expa dinb team at Kitsch Wines.”

Kitsch is owned by Trent and Ria Kitsch, an entrepreneurial couple with an unusual background for the wine business. Initially, they began a business in 2006 to develop and market innovatively designed SAXX briefs. Five years later, when the business was proven, they sold it to a well-resourced manufacturer.

“We had an exit strategy,” says Ria, who has a business degree. “It was essential that if it was going to be big, it get into the hands of people that could make it big, because that wasn’t us. So we sold the brand, and that allowed us to pursue our Okanagan dream of planting grapevines and starting the winery.”

On property in northeast Kelowna owned by Trent’s family, they planted 12.7 acres of vines. The largest planting is Riesling; the other varieties are Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir. The vineyard occupies a plateau, with a panoramic view to the south over the city and Okanagan Lake. In 2019, they acquired a nearby cherry orchard where they will 14 acres of vines, primarily Pinot Noir, in 2020.

They are also planning to build a winery this year, moving production from a former three-car garage that has served them for five years but will be too small to handle additional planned production.

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