Family-run Naramata wineries teaching children about business

Classroom in the vineyard

Dale Cory

School's out, but class is still in session.

That's very evident on the Naramata Bench, home to around 40 wineries, many of which are family run.

With schools expected to remain closed after spring break due to the The COVID-19 crisis, this is the perfect time for parents to teach their children the business.

“We can always use extra hands,” said Marcus Ansems, who along with Rachel, owns Daydreamer Wines. “My wife and I will incorporate some time of schedule where we'll do some home schooling then some work around the vineyard and winery. It’s actually really nice to have the kids out here. We have a lot of work this time of year because we run a vineyard without systemic chemicals. That generally means there’s a fair bit of labour. The kids are just composting at the moment. It’s been a nice opportunity to teach them how to run the vineyard. Rachel and I are using it as an opportunity to spend more time with them.”

Daughter Amelia, seven, and sons Taylor, nine and Jasper are in class daily — at the vineyard!

“I’d rather be out here than sitting in a class,” said Jasper, 15. “I’m working at being a farmhand and helping my dad out. I've been learning the way to grow a vineyard properly and successfully, and helping in the winery a lot. It’s just really educational.”

At Elephant Island Winery, the business model is rapidly changing.

“We’ve done some promotions that we’ve never done before, and have offered our family discount to everybody in the short term,” said owner Miranda Halladay. “We recognize that’s not sustainable in the long term, but hopefully it keeps wine flowing to people’s tables, keeps our team going for a while, and also brings a little bit of simple pleasure to people.”

At Daydreamer Wines, the Ansems are going digital to market their organic offerings.

“We’re trying to drive on-line sales more, and do curb-side pickup. People can order online and we’ll ship for free for up to six bottles, and deliver for free in Naramata and Penticton. We’re just trying to keep the sales going.”

At Elephant Island, Miranda is considering a unique wine experience.

“We also have curb-side pickup. We haven’t broken out the roller skates yet, but we’re reinvigorating the A&W car-hop model. If you honk we’ll bring the wine out to you in the parking lot.”

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