Naramata Winemaker Brings International Experience To BC

Note:
Katie O’Kell is available for interviews. To schedule, please contact Sujinder Juneja | 604-367-6745 .

Serendipity Winery’s Katie O’Kell has just returned from a three-month stage at New Zealand’s ultra-modern Delegat Wine Estate, where she worked harvest for the 2016 vintage. This new winemaking experience falls on the heels of O’Kell earning her winemaking certificate from UC Davis in California, where she received an impressive 100% on her final exam. O’Kell brings this newly-acquired knowledge and experience to the cellar at her family-owned, Naramata-based winery.

In Bloom

Katie New Zealand Crew

Serendipity’s Katie O’Kell (back row standing, 5th from left) along with her fellow international winemakers in New Zealand.

Becoming a winemaker was not O’Kell’s first career choice, but this role has evolved naturally since her mother Judy Kingston purchased the land on what would become Serendipity Winery in 2005.

O’Kell was born and raised in Toronto and received her BSc in Biology with a specialization in microbiology and pathogens at Hamilton’s McMaster University. After ruling out medical school, O’Kell was accepted into law school, but during a break between her undergrad and the start of the next session, she traveled to Naramata to assist her mother. She had already spent a few summers helping at the winery, so knew what she was getting into… almost. O’Kell ended up loving the work at the winery so much that she deferred her law school acceptance and stayed on at Serendipity full time since 2011.

Adopting the role of ‘second in command’, O’Kell wears many hats: at the winery, vineyard, and at the wine shop. While she prefers to spend time in the cellar, she has also conducted tastings, acted as a sales representative for the winery, delivered cases of wine to stores and restaurants, and has managed the popular wine club as well as on-site winery events. But since winemaking is her greatest passion, she knew that she needed more than just hands-on experience to truly make her mark.

California Dreamin’IMG_3921

Most budding winemakers recognize that the winemaking certificate from California’s UC Davis is one of the most thorough and respected programs in North America. For the past 18 months, taking breaks only during the BC harvest, O’Kell worked in her spare time to complete the program, designed for those that already work in the industry. The course focuses on quality control and sensory analysis, viticulture, the history of winemaking, and the biology of wine. O’Kell attended video lectures three times per week, successfully handed in weekly quizzes, and completed a new winemaking assignment every two to three weeks, with a final exam for each course. Averaging 95% on her course work, O’Kell scored 100% on her final exam, which she completed in March 2016.

The Land of the Silver Fern

O’Kell wished to further expand her range of experience beyond the Okanagan’s borders, hoping to work a harvest in another wine region. She initially set her sights on Australia so that she could work a harvest during spring in the Southern hemisphere and return in time for the fall vintage in BC. Eventually, she chose New Zealand as its climate and grape varietals are very similar to British Columbia. Proving the apple doesn’t fall far from the pear tree, her mother had also trained at a winery in New Zealand. Ultimately, O’Kell chose Delegat Winery in Blenheim, within the Marlborough region on the South Island, the centre of New Zealand’s wine industry. She was interested in working at an ultra-modern facility that processed varietals similar to those that she worked on at Serendipity, including Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. She also wanted to learn processes that are not widely used in BC, including environmentally progressive clarification and filtration methods.

“I specifically requested to be put on the flotation team at Delegat,” O’Kell says. “It’s a process for removing suspended solids in the wine, using micro-bubbles of food-grade nitrogen injected into the must. It allows a winemaker greater control over the degree of desired clarification, and can improve the efficiency of filtration and water usage. It’s a new technology that’s just beginning to be implemented in the Okanagan, and I want to make sure we’re ahead of the curve.”

Since mid-March 2016, O’Kell worked 12 and-a-half hours a day, with one day off every eight, with a crew that consisted of 12 full time staff, along with 66 international winemakers from France, the Ukraine, the USA, Australia, and Russia; which gave her additional insight on winemaking techniques from across the globe.

“There were some international winemakers finishing up their PhD studies while I was there,” O’Kell notes. “Even though I was focused on one aspect of winemaking, I spent as much time as I could learning about their particular areas of expertise. For example, I learned a lot about new methods of extraction in red wines, efficient cellar management techniques, as well as creative solutions for pump overs, racking, and how to effectively manage tank space. These ideas will be integrated into the work that Bradley [Cooper, Serendipity’s head winemaker] and I do in the cellar this vintage.”

While on this group international experience, each of the visiting winemakers brought a bottle of wine from their home country for comparison and discussion. O’Kell shared Serendipity’s terroir-driven 2014 Rosé, a blend of white and red grapes from her estate vineyard, purpose-planted exclusively for rosé wine.

Home Sweet Home

O'Kell in front of Serendipity Winery's emblematic cellar door.

Katie O’Kell and her winemaking certificate in front of Serendipity Winery’s emblematic cellar door.

Now, armed with valuable international experience and her winemaking certificate, O’Kell plans to fully-integrate what she has learned to the winemaking program at Serendipity, while sharing new tips and tricks with her fellow winemakers on the Naramata Bench. Working alongside Bradley Cooper, O’Kell is putting the final touches on the first vintage of Sparkling Truth, a traditional method sparkling wine made from the 2014 vintage, which has been O’Kell’s pet project. Watch for the Sparkling Truth to be released in August 2016.

Looking forward to the forthcoming harvest this fall, O’Kell says, “I have had the privilege of working with many young winemakers from around the world, and I am inspired by their techniques, and I’m looking forward to bringing new methods and practices to the table at Serendipity. After all, I’m a scientist at heart, and experimenting with new ideas is the most exciting thing about what I do.”

Meet Brian Cant #withTownHall

By Leeann Froese

It’s a new week to introduce you to one of the fabulous personalities in the world #withTownHall!

This does not mean they work as part of our team, or are our client (although sometimes in these posts they are).

We just interact with so many amazing people that we want to expand networks and introduce them to you, and you to them. This week #withTownHall, we introduce you to Brian Cant.

Brian Cant Tartan GroupBrian works at the Tartan Group in Victoria focusing on travel and tourism public relations and is the chair of the BC Chapter of the Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC).

Brian’s passion for travel and the desire to share that passion to encourage people to grow during their travels is what brought him into the travel industry after a summer job working in the Rossland Museum. Brian has been able to work with Tourism Victoria and Destination BC in his career.

He joined the Tartan Group in 2011 as a senior communications coordinator and helps clients to develop and deliver stories to media.

We are happy to work with Brian through his chair position at TMAC, or when our clients overlap for collaborative efforts.

As a member of TMAC, Town Hall Brands has been able to attend some fantastic workshop events to learn from the industry, media and destination marketing organizations. And our own Amy Chen will be heading to the conference that is being held in Sydney, Nova Scotia in June!

The BC events are made by possible because of Brian’s efforts along with the rest of the TMAC board, and the entire communications team has benefited from their March ‘Star Wars’ event.

With all of that said about Brian, will you please give a big hello to him?

Leave a comment below – or go give this post a like or share on Facebook or Twitter

Meet Natalie Browne #withTownHall

By Leeann Froese

It’s a new week to introduce you to one of the fabulous personalities in the world #withTownHall!

This does not mean they work as part of our team, or are our client (although sometimes they are).

We just interact with so many amazing people that we want to expand networks and introduce them to you, and you to them. This week #withTownHall, we introduce you to Natalie Browne.

croppedNatalie Browne Uncorked Kitchen withTownHallNatalie is a stay-at-home mom and food blogger who Town Hall Brands regularly has the pleasure of working with.

Her philosophy to food is straightforward: delicious, simple and mostly homemade. She shares recipes and food discoveries on her blog, Kitchen, uncorked, and believes by keeping those three guiding principles in mind with food you’re already ahead of the health game.

Natalie loves cooking, recipe creation and generally being in the kitchen now but it wasn’t until she moved out on her own that she was able to take charge and fall in love. It’s possible she inherited some of her kitchen love from her grandma. Her grandma lives across the country, so Natalie makes sure to have fresh baked bread and recipes to discuss on hand for their visits.

I personally love the smoothie recipes she has shared, and have tried lots of them.You definitely need to try Natalie’s goat cheese and mushroom tart paired with Serendipity wine.

With all of that said about Natalie, will you please give a big hello to her? What do you like to make that is healthy?

Leave a comment below – or go give this post a like or share on Facebook or Twitter

Meet Dino Pascoa #withTownHall

By Leeann Froese

It’s a new week to introduce you to one of the fabulous personalities in the world #withTownHall!

This does not mean they work as part of our team, or are our client (although sometimes they are).

We just interact with so many amazing people that we want to expand networks and introduce them to you, and you to them. This week #withTownHall, we introduce you to Dino Pascoa.

Dino Pascoa withTownHall

After more than 20 years in the restaurant business Dino joined the wine industry in 2007 and trained through the ISG Sommelier certification as he made the move to sell wine from all over the world. He is a sales representative with Vancouver-based agency The Wine List.

Next year Dino will celebrate his 10th year in wine sales. Over the past decade he has proven his expertise in wine, food and service, and has a strong reputation for loyalty and a desire to go above and beyond for his customers. He prides himself on the solid relationships he has created.

We are pleased to work with Dino via our client ENCORE Vineyards, parent to Evolve Cellars, McWatters Collection and TIME Winery.

A side note about these wineries – their wines are featured all weekend at the 10th Anniversary of the Chefs’ Table Society of BC Spot Prawn Festival.

With all of that said about Dino, will you please help us give a big hello to him?

Leave a comment below – or go give this post a like or share on Facebook or Twitter

Meet Lindsay William-Ross #withTownHall

By Leeann Froese

It’s a new week to introduce you to one of the fabulous personalities in the world #withTownHall!

This does not mean they work as part of our team, or are our client (although sometimes they are).

We just interact with so many amazing people that we want to expand networks and introduce them to you, and you to them. This week #withTownHall, we introduce you to Lindsay William-Ross.

Lindsay William-Ross, VancityBuzz 01The lovely Lindsay is a foodie and senior editor at VancityBuzz and her first published piece was in 1980 in The Province; her letter to Santa Claus. If you love Vancity Buzz and its food section that’s because of Lindsay! She currently runs the food section.

Although Lindsay grew up in Vancouver a fourth generation Vancouverite, she spent two decades in Los Angeles. During her time in LA, Lindsay was the editor-in-chief of the city’s top blog, she earned her master’s degree, attended culinary school, and put her master’s to good use as a professor.

Town Hall is lucky to work with Lindsay collaboratively because of our foodie clients Well Seasoned: A Gourmet Food Store, the Chefs’ Table Society of BC and all our winery PR clients. Lindsay has attended events Town Hall has hosted and been part of the Travel Media Association of Canada‘s (TMAC) events to help writers and media learn more about what an editor looks for.

We can’t thank Lindsay enough for her support of our clients and we appreciate her love of the city and food.

With all of that said about Lindsay, will you please help us give a big hello to her?

Leave a comment below – or go give this post a like or share on Facebook or Twitter