Karnail Sidhu, owner of Kalala Organic Estate Winery in West Kelowna, is the recipient of the BC Grapegrowers Association’s inaugural viticulturist of the year award.
BCGA president by John Bayley presented the award to Sidhu at a small ceremony at Kalala on June 19.
Bayley says the award was established, “to commend those in our industry who rarely get the public recognition, yet provide the grapes needed for the fantastic wines we produce.”
Recipients of the peer-judged award are selected by a BCGA board member, an industry member and a government researcher during vineyard visits.
“Karnail, it is no surprise that your colleagues in the industry had nothing but kind, supportive and encouraging words to say about your approachability and positive attitude, and your vineyard practices,” Bayley said at the ceremony. “More than one person commented on the very high level of quality wine they produced using your grapes.”
Sidhu emigrated to Canada from India in 1993 with his family. He was originally an electrical engineer, not a farmer. He began picking blueberries in Surrey and later worked seasonally in Okanagan vineyards before landing his first full-time job in the industry at Summerhill Estate Winery in Kelowna.
“I have always really appreciated [owner] Steven Cipes and Allan Marks [winemaker at the time]. If they hadn’t given me a job, I would probably not be here today,” Sidhu says. “My belief is whoever helps you, you don’t forget about those people.”
Karnail eventually became vineyard manager at Summerhill before leasing and buying 10 acres in Oliver in 2004. His home property was bought in 2005 and he opened his winery in 2008.
All told, Sidhu now owns 70 acres of organic vineyards, primarily in West Kelowna. The winery produces about 6,000 cases of wine annually. It also sells bulk wine and grapes.