8th Generation Vineyard
Stefanie and Bernd Schales
10th generation winegrower and
8th generation winemaker at 8th Generation Vineyard
Photography - HIRO
"8th generation will scale down in production from what we have been. It will be more boutique. With all the changes the Okanagan frequently see with ownerships, we will remain the same people. We will have the same DNA in our products.”
The German power couple has 239 years of family history in wine and 20 years of history in Summerland. When VOICE visited one of the sought-after wineries in Okanagan, they were busy bottling Integrity 2021, a white frizzante, to replace with already sold-out Integrity 2020.
VOICE loves to go back to 8th Generation every year because the story of Stefanie and Bernd always resonates with us. Born into generations of winemaking and grape growing in Europe, they continue the family tradition here in Okanagan in search of a new adventure and a new chapter.
There are plums, apricots, and apples growing beside the vineyard as it was normal for Stefanie, who grew up on a family farm. She always welcomes us with big smiles and open arms no matter how busy her day is in the winery, and we are overwhelmed with the hospitality and amazing quality of wines on every visit.
If you ever want to get hold of their signature wines, especially Rieslings, you better make your trip well before the height of the summer because they are selling out very quickly. It would be even harder to get as 8th Generation shifts its focus to more boutique wines and family-oriented operations with the quality they are proud of since 1783.
VOICE (V): How was summer 2022?
Stefanie(S): "It started with a few changes in spring at our end. We sold our vineyard in Okanagan Falls last year, so we have a smaller quantity of wine now. We also restructured our backend team, and ended up with a whole new crew! Staff shortage is still a challenge, and this year everyone started fresh with no experience in wine sales. It was such an intense year. Officially our tasting room is open until Thanksgiving 7 days a week, and after that we will scale it down to weekends only. We are open for pickup until the end of the year."
V: How is the harvest looking this year?
S: "So far so good! The end of September has been beautiful ripening weather for grapes. For me, harvest can be a time of relief that nothing can happen to the fruit now. It is also an exciting time to see how the vintage is evolving year after year.”
V: How do you know how this year's vintage is coming?
Bernd: "My grandfather used to say, 'when the wine is in the bottle, I will let you know!'. Because so much can happen in between. Monitoring is always a key in farming and winemaking. Especially in the fermentation process, as soon as it gets to the juice stage, I taste it and monitor it every single day.”
V: This year, Summerland has been approved with 3 Sub-Geographical Indications. What does it mean to your business?
S: "It is exciting to have 3 sub-GI's in Summerland; Summerland Valleys, Summerland Lakefront, and Summerland Bench. It would have been more true to have 5 sub-GI's in Summerland considering the diversity of terroir here. The approval of these new sub-GIs represents official recognition of areas that stand out as having consistently unique terroir, and we are still thrilled to have 3 in our region. Business-wise, it is already too late in the year to put it out on the label, but once we do, people will be more curious and recognize the unique place of where we are. When people purchase a bottle of wine, it is an indication that they are guaranteed assurance of quality and that it is 100% BC. For 8th Generation, it will say on the label 'Summerland Lakefront’."
V: What do you find to be the most challenging things in the wine business today?
S: "As a family-owned small winery, we are constantly challenged and it can be stressful at times. We are always on the lookout to find and train people to work with us, yet we cannot always sustain them. Some staff wants to grow with the company, but we cannot offer a position higher than a tasting room manager. There is pressure to operate the winery as a husband and wife team, and we are juggling with time. I started this morning as a gardener, putting water hoses on the plants in the wine shop garden then moved to a labeling position and shipping position, and was quickly working in the winery, then interviewing with you as a social media marketing. At 3 pm, I will become a mother picking up my kids at school and doing all the household stuff.
After the busy season, we start to evaluate things and plan for the next season. People generally think winter is a downtime for the winery, but all the planning for the next season is happening in the wintertime. Our work is never-ending."
V: What is the most joyful thing about being a small family business?
S: " You can make your own decisions daily and go with your gut feelings!”
V: With 238 years of family history in winemaking, do you keep some of the oldest traditions?
S: "We will always have Pinot varieties in a Burgundy bottle. They will never go into another bottle shape just for the sake of modern design. Small things like that, we are pretty traditional in that sense. We have certain styles we like to follow when it comes to wine. That is why the shop is important because people come into our tasting room, and we can tell them, while they taste our wine, why it is different from last year if it is any different. We are not producing our wine like Coca-Cola, introducing the same thing year after year.”
V: Do you see your children becoming a future generation of the winemaker?
S: "Our youngest daughter is 15 years old and still in high school, the oldest daughter is studying earth science and biology, and our son just started year one as automotive technician. I explored the whole architecture design side of things and did a formal apprenticeship as an architectural draftswoman in Germany, worked for 10+ years for one of the best 10 Architects in Germany, before making the decision with Bernd of immigrating to Canada and starting 8th Generation. Our children should do whatever they like and if they want to return to winemaking that is great, too. I am not at all pushing my children into this business which may change drastically within the next 20 years with farming and climate change."