Founder of Lake Country's Gray Monk Estate Winery dead at 81

Winery founder passes

The founder of a longstanding Okanagan winery has died.

George Heiss planted the first grapes at Gray Monk Estate Winery with his wife, Trudy, in 1972.

Heiss died June 29 in Kelowna. He was 81.

"It's with sadness that we share the heartbreaking news that Gray Monk founding father George Heiss passed away last week," the winery posted on its Facebook page.

Gray Monk was the first to plant Pinot Gris in Canada, and the third estate winery to open its doors.

He was known as a winemaking visionary who always had a story to share.

Heiss was born in Vienna, Austria, on Dec 24, 1939.

George and Trudy met in Edmonton and with their move to the Okanagan switched careers from hairdressing to the wine industry.

The family initially grew grapes for commercial wineries, but later decided to go it alone.

In 1976, they imported Pinot Gris, Pinot Auxerrois and Gewurztraminer root stock from Alsace, France.

The name Gray Monk came from the English translation of the Austrian name for the Pinot Gris vine.

After allowing for a few years for the vines to begin producing, Gray Monk opened its doors in 1982.

The first vintage was produced out of a garage on the property and consisted of just 125 cases. Since then, production has increased to more than 100,000 cases per year.

After 35 years of proprietorship, the Heisses made the difficult decision to retire and the winery was sold to Andrew Peller Ltd.

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