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Nurturing a second career
Grapegrower
president Manfred
Freese has spent his
‘retirement’ pursuing
a longtime love of
wine and how it’s
made.
By T
W
racy Clark
hen Manfred Freese
retired 13 years ago
career as an electrical engineer he
from his successful
knew exactly where he wanted to
spend the rest of his life: in an
Okanagan vineyard.
project and a longtime interest in
“Basically it was a retirement
wine and how it’s grown,” said the
German native, who immigrated
to Canada in 1952.
TRACY CLARK
B.C. Grapegrowers’ Association president Manfred Freese with his nose where
in close proximity to grape-
Freese spent many of his years
he knows it belongs.
growing regions, growing up near the Rhine in Germany and
(BCGA) and within two years was a director on the board. It
In 2001 he joined the B.C. Grapegrowers Association
living in St. Catherines in the Niagara region of Ontario.
was right around the same time that the industry started to
life took priority. This included school, where he studied
While he loved wine for many years, “other things” in his
take off in the Okanagan, he said, adding that while he is not
physics and communications at McGill and the University of
a pioneer in the local industry he is an “early adventurer.”
Manitoba, where he earned a PhD in electrical engineering.
he has witnessed many changes in the industry, most of them
As such, Freese who is now the president of the BCGA, said
development for both government and private industry,
After spending 30 years working in research and
in the last couple of years.
Freese retired in 1996. He began doing some consulting
work, but had not forgotten his longtime passion for wine. It
which he suggests has probably reached about 10,000 by now
Among the changes are the substantial increase in acreage,
was just a few years after his retirement, and the retirement
(it was assessed at just over 9,000 in summer 2008).
of his wife Barbara from her career as an adult educator, that
the pair purchased a plot of land on the picturesque east
years.
The profile of vineyard owners has also changed over the
bench in Osoyoos.
the transition to grape growers—people he says are
There are still professionals like Freese retiring and making
been to the valley skiing before and loved it. They wanted to
Freese said they chose the Okanagan because they had
“obsessed” with grapes and wine and in it more for the love of
get away from the crowds of the eastern Canada, he said,
wine than for the money.
joking that they had since followed him to Osoyoos.
corporate farming is continuing to grow and expand. And
While there have always been the bigger industry growers,
acreage, Freese spoke to local growers and did some research
Before decided which grapes to plant on his steep hillside
growing with them is the number of tree fruit farmers who
— something the veteran scientist said is second nature.
are pulling out trees in favour of vines.
part because his land supported the varietals, but also
He finally decided on Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, in
reason for growing, which for more and more growers is
This change in the profile of the grower has also altered the
simply to make a living. He described these shifts as going
34
because he loves red wines.
British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2009
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