Task Group bios
Ezra Cipes – Chair
Ezra Cipes grew up with the modern BC wine industry. As grape growers, his parents were founding members of VQA in BC and industry pioneers with Summerhill Pyramid Winery, which launched with the 1991 vintage.
After a successful career as a published songwriter, session musician and touring musician, Ezra moved back to his family farm in 2005. He grew vegetables there for three seasons before becoming Chief Operations Officer of Summerhill in 2008, and CEO in 2013.
Ezra currently serves on the board of directors of the British Columbia Wine Institute and the Canadian Vintners Association. Formal education includes the Biluim Leadership Training Institute, Permaculture Design at Selkirk College, and Viticulture from Okanagan College. He has worked in viticulture, winemaking and wine sales, and has experience as an exporter of wine, in branding and marketing, and in corporate leadership.
Christine Coletta is co-owner of Okanagan Crush Pad, a family-run custom crush winery located in Summerland, BC that is home to Haywire and Narrative wines. Christine has been a key player in the wine industry since 1990 having spent nine years as the executive director of the BC Wine Institute where she was instrumental in establishing the VQA program and growing BC wine market share. She then spent fourteen years consulting in the field of marketing, branding and communications and had the privilege of working on many global and domestic wine brands in addition to Wines of Australia, Wines of Chile, and the Washington Wine Commission.
Christine is widely recognized as one of the industry’s most innovative marketing experts and has been recognized with several awards for her work. She is vice chair of the BC Hospitality Foundation, sits on the PADS and Summerland Chamber of Commerce boards.
Known as one of the BC wine industry’s most passionate advocates, Bill is the proprietor of Fairview Cellars in Oliver. The winery is the culmination of a life long quest of Bill’s to own and operate his own winery. The 10-acre property located adjacent to the first green of the Fairview Mountain Golf Course was purchased by Bill in 1989. The first commercial vintage was produced from the 1997 crop.
Bill came to BC from Ontario where he managed his uncle’s mixed fruit and vegetable farm and grape vine nursery. A 5-year stint as general manager at Covert Farms strengthened his love for farming and it was during this time that he bought his farm. While building the winery Bill took on the duties of teaching the vineyard management course at Okanagan College for years. This exposed him to an entire new generation of winery and vineyard owners who are now spread throughout BC.
Bill has served several terms as a director on the wine institute along with directorships on several other boards has given Bill a broad perspective on both the wine industry and the area as a whole.
Andy Johnston – Vice Chair
Andy worked as an MD in Edmonton for several decades, establishing a highly successful chain of primary-care clinics. The 80s and early 90s were focused on raising a family and growing the business, but by the late 90s, he was ready to create a career from another great passion—premium wine.
After gaining experience working at wineries in Tuscany (Villa Delia), Australia (McGuigan Wines), France (Chateau de Terride), and New Zealand (Trinity Hill, Escarpment), Andy decided he was ready, and found his ideal site. He chose the Cowichan Valley, lured by its dry-summer subtropical/ mediterranean climate. Having grown up on a Welsh hill farm, Andy’s return to his agricultural roots has proven to be a natural transition.
His favorite place to be is in the vineyard, pruning vines by hand with the rest of the Averill Creek crew.
Derek Kontkanen, winemaker for Innsikillin Okanagan, has 16 years’ experience in the Canadian wine industry between Ontario and British Columbia. Derek studied Oenology and Viticulture at Brock University, where he received a BSC Hon. and an MSc on Icewine research. He also recently received an Alumni of Distinction award from Brock University. Derek has been a member of the BCWA Wine Industry Advisory Committee over the past 10 years. He has also been a part of the CFIA National Icewine Standard Committee. His accomplishments are many in the wine industry, winning Best Dessert wine two years in a row at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in the UK, and many other international awards over his career.
Outside of work, Derek enjoys long distance bike riding and playing with his three young children.
Eugene is a business executive and lawyer, born in Shanghai, grew up in Vancouver, graduating from UBC. Eugene is actively involved in the wine industry and is a member of the Wine Industry Advisory Committee. He and business partner Anthony Cheng own and operate Chaberton Estate Winery located on 55 acres, amongst the rolling hills of south Langley, British Columbia and just 45 minutes from Vancouver. Chaberton is one of the largest estate wineries in British Columbia and the oldest in the Fraser Valley.
For most of his life Ian’s career has been focused on marketing and creative strategies for brand development. As marketing manager for Salomon Sports Canada Ltd. Ian was part of a team that saw market share go from 17% to 54% in 3 years. In his next role at the Montreal Creative Centre Ian managed Canada’s largest advertising and creative development house.
Later as VP Sales and Marketing at Sunice Sportswear Ltd. Ian created one of the most successful apparel brands of the 1980’s. It became the Official Clothing Supplier to the 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Games, and was a recipient of the Canadian Government Award of Excellence in Marketing. Ian then founded Moving Products Inc. (MPI), the Official Provider of Outfitting Services for the Olympic Games. Spanning 25 years and 14 Olympic Games MPI worked with Host Organizing Committees, the IOC and Games sponsors to uniform and merchandise a total of nearly 400,000 people.
He is now President and Founding Partner of Liquidity Wines, a stunning new winery and bistro located in Okanagan Falls that is rapidly becoming a key destination in the South Okanagan for the wine tourism industry.
James Mack is the Assistant Deputy Minister (Agriculture and Science Policy) for the Ministry of Agriculture.
Growing up at the Blue Mountain estate winery in Okanagan Falls, it was natural for Christie to work in the vineyard, in the plant nursery, and in the winery cellar during her high school years as a summer job. During those years she became familiar with the operation of the vineyards and as well as the processing of the grapes from harvest to bottling.
Christie’s formal education started in the Okanagan and then transferred to the University of Victoria where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Art History. Her interest in the wine industry continued as she took Professional Wine Education Courses and then successfully completed the International Sommelier Guild Diploma Program. Throughout these years, wines and foods continued to be very important to her as she continued to complete further education and work experience.
Christie now works at the management level in Sales and Marketing at Blue Mountain Winery.
For over 47 years, Harry McWatters has been a driving force and a leader in the thriving British Columbia wine industry. He was founder of British Columbia’s first estate winery, Sumac Ridge Estate Winery, and See Ya Later Ranch Estate Winery. In 2000, Sumac Ridge Estate Wine Group was sold to Vincor Canada and Harry continued as president of both wineries, held the position of Vice-President of Vincor Canada. Harry “retired” as President of Sumac Ridge Estate Winery in 2008. The next day, he established Vintage Consulting Group Inc. to provide consulting services on all aspects of the wine business, from site selection of vineyards to marketing of the end product.
In 1980, he led a group of wineries and local businesses to establish the Okanagan Wine Festival Society and acted as founding president. In 1990, he was appointed by the province of British Columbia to chair the then newly formed British Columbia Wine Institute, a position which he held for five years, then served as a Director for 17 years.
In 2003, Harry was presented with the prestigious Order of British Columbia, for services to the British Columbia wine industry. Harry has an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Okanagan University College in recognition of the pivotal role he played in the development of both British Columbia’s and Canada’s wine industry. He is the founding chair of the British Columbia Wine Information Society and of the British Columbia Hospitality Foundation, and was instrumental in founding VQA Canada.
Following a career in the investment business and raising two young girls, JAK and his wife Janice decided to completely change directions and get into the wine business. They set out to establish themselves as one of BC’s top wineries focusing on primarily on terroir driven premium Chardonnay and later Pinot Noir. As in business and my business models the plan was to surround myself with the best people I could in each area. They enlisted James Cluer and Rhys Pender to build their business plan. We hired Chris Carson who had just returned to Canada after honing his skills and education in Central Otago who not only looks after all of the wine making but is also in charge of all viticulture decisions allowing us complete control of the wines from the vineyard to the bottle.
JAK now spends his days actively in sales, administration, tastings, events, viticulture, winemaking (cleaning tanks), landscaping and wherever else the experts will let him.
Sandra Oldfield grew up in Marin and Sonoma counties in California. After earning an undergraduate degree in arts for business administration and international business, she worked in the tasting room at Rodney Strong Vineyards where she discovered her passion for the wine business. Enrolling in the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) to further her studies in the production side of the wine industry, Sandra met Kenn Oldfield. Kenn had recently purchased the Tinhorn Creek Vineyard in Oliver, BC. Kenn convinced Sandra to get involved in his new business and they struck an agreement. Serendipitously Kenn found both his winemaker and a wife.
Sandra oversaw the first vintage at Tinhorn Creek in 1994 by commuting between BC and California while on a work visa. In 1995, she moved north to Oliver and eventually brought the production from 1,000 cases in 1994 to over 37,000 today. Once at full production, Sandra resumed her studies and was awarded her master’s of Enology in 2002.
Rhys Pender, MW
A passionate educator, wine lover, judge, writer, and grape grower/farmer, Rhys has worked in the wine industry since he was a teenager. Rhys pursued his food and wine passion by completing a Professional Culinary Diploma to ensure he eats well and all levels of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) programs to make sure there was always good wine at the table. In 2004 Rhys began taking on the grueling Master of Wine program. This culminated in Rhys becoming Canada’s youngest Master of Wine in 2010. Rhys was named by Western Living magazine as one of the “Top 40 Foodies Under 40” in Western Canada.
Rhys runs a WSET wine school and consultancy through his business Wine Plus+ and between travelling around the world can be found with his boots in the dirt at his small 4 acre vineyard and winery in the Similkameen Valley – Little Farm Winery. He is a regular contributor to Canadian publications such as Macleans, Montecristo and Taste and is a Principal Critic and writer for WineAlign.com. Rhys judges wine competitions internationally such as the Decanter World Wine Awards as well as the National and World competitions for WineAlign and the Vancouver Magazine Wine Awards in Canada.
John was a stockbroker in Vancouver for more than 25 years, during which time he became an avid wine enthusiast. John and his wife Trish dreamed of having their own vineyard after spending time exploring wineries in the South of France with their family. In 2004, recognizing that the quality of wines in this region was improving dramatically and driven by both his passion for wine and his desire to create a legacy business for his family, he purchased the land in south Penticton known locally as “The Blackhawk.”
He planted in 2005 and 2006 and now has roughly 25 acres under vine, all of it Bordeaux reds or Syrah except for a block of Chardonnay. On the advice of consultants, he has planted multiple clones of every variety, giving his winemaker good blending options. John was confident that this terroir and its site influences presented “a unique opportunity to create exceptional wines” and that he had “both the opportunity and the obligation to do this property justice.”
John and Trish’s vision was and remains to grow exceptional grapes in their estate vineyard to produce ultra-premium wines that reflect the perfect marriage of new world fruit and old world processes, employing the best modern technologies and expertise, while respecting old world traditions.
Bob and his wife Senka are this year celebrating their 20th year in the BC grape/wine industry. Senka served as winemaker and Bob as vineyard and business operator at their first business, Black Hills Estate Winery. In December 2007, Black Hills was sold and Bob and Senka, not wanting to leave the industry, started looking for a small piece of property on which to establish a new vineyard and winery. Their idea was to concentrate on a couple of white grape varieties that had been attracting their interest. They transplanted to the Naramata Bench where they began their new winery Terravista Vineyards in 2008. In the spring of 2012, Terravista Vineyards opened the doors of its striking new sustainable winery facility.
Bob is originally from Vancouver and is a graduate of UBC’s Dept of Agriculture. He currently serves as a director of the Naramata Bench Winery Association.
Following his MBA from the University of Western Ontario (now the Ivey school of Business) in 1968, Don embarked on a high-trajectory career path in Marketing and Management, first working in consumer packaged goods for Colgate Palmolive, and then transitioning into the wine business with John Labatt.
When the chance to start up his own wine business emerged in 1989, Don could not pass up the opportunity to build and develop his own business. Don, three friends, and 26 fellow employees then pooled their life’s savings to purchase John Labatt’s wine business. Don partnered with Alan Jackson to co-found Jackson-Triggs, which then went on to become the most powerful wine brand in Canada. As CEO, President and founder of Vincor International Inc., Donald and his team developed a global wine business that spanned five continents with super premium wineries in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, California, Washington State and South Africa. This part of Don’s career came to a close in June of 2006 when the business was sold.
Don holds an Honorary Doctorate of Commerce from Ryerson University, an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Brock University and was the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Canada in 2013. He was the recipient of the American Marketers Association (AMA), Toronto chapter Marketer of the Year and was inducted into the AMA Hall of Legends as a builder. Don serves on the Board of Governors of the Ivey Business School, and the Canadian Vintners Association; he has served as Chair of About Face, an organization which assists those with facial differences, and has also served on the Board of Directors of the Shaw Theater Festival, the Wine Council of Ontario, Brock University, Samsonite Corporation and BC Hydro.
Instead of retiring, Don along with his wife Elaine and daughter Sara embarked on the next chapter of his life – the culmination of his life’s work – to develop an Ultra-Premium wine estate in the Okanagan valley, Culmina Family Estate Winery.