Cover Story Organic champion
Karnail Singh Sidhu and family have maintained high standards in their vineyards, and the result has been rewarding for Kalala wines.
By Judie Steeves H
e has worked in packinghouses, in orchards, in vineyards and wineries throughout the Okanagan Valley, and now Karnail Singh Sidhu has opened his own winery—and it is already gaining international recognition.
In March, the Kalala Organic Estate Winery 2007 Chardonnay Icewine brought home a gold medal from the prestigious Chardonnay du Monde competition in France, and the next week it won a silver in another contest, while three other Kalala wines picked up silver and bronze medals—all at international events.
to do it all on the farm, perhaps by raising a lamb, he grins, which would keep the weeds down while fertilizing the land.
Prior to purchasing his own vineyard in West Kelowna, Sidhu worked for 10 years for Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna, where he began by pruning the vines, and went on to do many other tasks in both the now-
organically-certified vineyard and winery. It was there he met winemaker Allan Marks, who has consulted as
winemaker at both Chandra and Kalala, along with Josh Scott. In the wineshop, they hired Tibor Erdelyi in 2008 to do sales and marketing, while Sidhu’s wife Narinder is the controller of the company.
JUDIE STEEVES Karnail Singh Sidhu in his West Kelowna vineyard.
The West Kelowna winery opened in 2008 with its 2006 vintage on the shelves and it hasn’t looked back. The Sidhu family also opened a smaller winery, Chandra, last year, on Oliver’s Golden Mile, in partnership with Dave Dhillon and his family. They had purchased the 10-acre vineyard there in 2005 and it is now certified organic.
The 18-acre West Kelowna vineyard has completed transition to organic, but Sidhu said he hasn’t filled out the application for organic status yet.
In the winery, he said they try to follow the organic standard in winemaking, and if they find they can do it, they will go after organic winery certification as well. “People are very interested in organic, and this is a nice valley in which to grow organic grapes.” As well, he notes, the ecosystem benefits, as well as people.
Sidhu fertilizes with green manure and some composted pomace and other manure. One day, he says he would like
With his family
roots in agriculture, as well as his training, it
is in the vineyard that Sidhu’s skills excel, and he sells grapes to other wineries, as well as juice and bulk wine. He also crushes other growers’ grapes if needed, since he has three presses at Kalala.
“I guarantee quality and they win gold medals with my grapes,” he says proudly.
He explains the diversification: “I don’t put all my eggs in one basket. We try to stay out of debt. It’s helpful to bring in cash at a time in the year when it’s needed.” Sidhu also is an organic vineyard consultant and believes what is done is the vineyard is more important than how the wine is made. Without the foundation of good grapes, the winemaker has little chance to produce a fine wine.
He admits they are still learning how to make wine, with the pinot noir, for instance, becoming better every year. Even the award-winning zweigelt, a top-selling wine, is one he’s not yet satisfied with, so he changes something each year in the wine making, to try and achieve his goal. Although raised in a farming family in India, Sidhu went on to university to become an electrical engineer.
British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2010 7
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