The De Jager family have been harvesting at their Columbia Gardens Vineyard and Winery since the beginning of October. The family-run business was recently awarded international top honours in Atlanta

The De Jager family have been harvesting at their Columbia Gardens Vineyard and Winery since the beginning of October. The family-run business was recently awarded international top honours in Atlanta

International accolade for Columbia Gardens Winery

It's been a steep learning curve since the De Jagers bought Columbia Gardens Vineyard & Winery three years ago.

“Kootenay Moments” perfectly sums up the De Jagers lifestyle as owners of Columbia Gardens Vineyard and Winery.

There’s been peaks and valleys, tears and joy, since the family took a leap of faith three years ago and moved west to live out their dream of owning a winery.

The countless hours of toiling the land and harvesting nine acres recently came full circle when the family’s first wine, a rosé called Kootenay Moments Blush, was awarded silver in the 2016 Northwest Wine Summit.

Out of more than 1,500 competitors, the De Jagers also took home silver and Best of Category for their 2013 Port Style Wine.

“For me, this is a high point,” says patriarch Ben De Jager. “We landed and two weeks later harvested the rosé, that’s the first wine we made as a family when we came here in 2013, and that’s why we called it Kootenay Moments- it was our first moments living here, he added. “I expected something for my port, not to boast but my port is really good. But I was surprised and quite happy when I got the silver for my rosé.”

Ben De Jager

Ben still works out of town for a mining company, 10 days out and four days in that leaves his wife Tersia in charge of day-to-day business. And in three years, the winery has blossomed into a family affair that’s grown from a small vineyard into a popular wedding venue and guest accomodation that houses visitors from all over Canada.

Tersia’s hard work is paying off locally as well earlier this month, the De Jagers were given top honours in business excellence with a 2016 Tourism Award by the Trail and District Chamber of Commerce.

“I would definitely say it’s way more work than we expected it to be,” Tersia said. “And for me personally, I am very involved with the guest house. It’s been absolutely wonderful, we’ve had so many weddings this year it’s getting to the point now where you may have to consider booking me a year in advance.”

So how does the mother of three keep it all together?

Fortunately, she has help from within. Her older son Werner, 29, moved from Manitoba to join the family a year ago, and 15-year old Darin, is always on hand to help after school and on the weekends.

“It is a family business especially now with Werner, we are so excited to have him home,” said Tersia. “He is really helping me out. Having someone to do all the practical stuff for me is awesome, because before this, it was really challenging.”

These days Werner spends his days in The Burl (tasting room and gift shop) and on the road marketing and selling wines that include Station Road White, Garden Gold, De Jager’s Merlot, Gewürztraminer, Foch Private Reserve and Private Reserve Pinot Noir.

“I came for a visit before I moved here,” said Werner. “When I got off the plane I loved the place, right away. I enjoy the relaxed atmosphere more than the job I was involved with it’s so great to be outside, this whole Kootenay area is more relaxed and laid back compared to what I was used to.”

While daughter Leandri continues her studies in Victoria, the De Jager’s youngest son, Darin, has become much more than a pair of hands in the vineyard.

“He’s quite the expert in certain functions during harvesting,” says Ben. “And that’s crushing and pressing he’s an expert, and it’s only the two of us. You really need four people, but it’s just the two of us doing the crushing and pressing and putting it into the fermentation tanks he’s quite a help on that side of it.”

Darin and Tipsy

As for Darin, the teenager says he enjoys living in a vineyard and helping his family, for now.

“It’s fun, I’ve grown up with it,” said Darin. “For me it’s not really work, it’s family life, it’s what we do,” he laughed. “But I want to do something else (for a career).”