SouthEnd Farm Winery
Ben McGuffie, Owner
Photography - HIRO
SouthEnd Farm Winery was founded one night at university with a really bad bottle of wine. Ben and Jill decided that they could do better than that and they fast forwarded their retirement dream to open a winery.
It also presented them a prefect opportunity to get back to Quadra Island. Ben grew up on 12.5 acre farm on Quadra and that is now home to the winery and their small 3 acre vineyard. Jill grew up near Campbell River: they went to the same high school and they went on to UBC together. Ben has an engineering degree and Jill studied to be a landscape architect, but soon after university they chased their “retirement dream” and went back to the land that they call home.
Because SouthEnd Farm claims to be the most northerly winery on the west coast of North America, they try to make the best wines out of the grapes they can grow on the island instead of pushing to grow more popular or more recognizable named grapes.
For whites, they have Petit Milo and Siegrebbe and for red, they have Marechal Foch and Leon Millot. Now in their 12th year, this quaint and beautiful winery has not only become a great summer destination for visitors but also a cozy gathering place for neighbors on Sunday afternoons as well as a home to 3 generation family (Ben’s parents, Jill’s parents and their own family with 9 and 12 year olds.)
“We live in the vineyard and our houses are on the vineyard. Our families walk through the vineyard everyday so we want to make sure that we farm organically with no pesticides or hebicides. “ says Jill. “It is kind of a lifestyle too. We raise a family, various animals and a big vegetable and flower garden. Our kids are learning to being attuned to the season. They help us raise the chickens and goats. The youngest got a couple of special chickens for her birthday so she learns how to take care of them. We are planning to get sheep next year. It is interesting place to be and place to live.”
Their wines are strictly local. They are only sold at the winery and 2 grocery stores on the island. Expect the small batch, handcrafted wines to be all sold out by the end of the year. They are highly sought after by local people and by their visitors, friends and families alike.
“Our model is to keep it small and local. It is such a micro winery and there are only 2 of us here working in all aspects of the farm from vineyard to winemaking to the tasting room. It is nice to be able to offer something distinctively unique and exceptional wine that expresses true Quadra Island terroir.”
SouthEnd Farm may be small, but they always have many ideas spinning in their head! Lots of new fun projects are popping up like ClearCut Distilling (marriage of their wine and spirits) and a charming accommodation on their working vineyard.
Q1: How was your summer 2021?
Ben(B): “It was busy and it was the best summer weather in our living memory! Especially for growing.”
Q2: Climate change is one of the most pressing issues today. How have the recent wild fires affected your business or your approach to winemaking and farming?
B: “We were lucky that no smoke really affected us this year. As for winemaking, we will have to plan for the future what more varieties of grapes that grow in warmer climate…
Oh! The climate change DID affect us very directly this year – a grizzly bear! Historically they have not been on Quadra Island, but they have been forced out of their natural habitat. One bear happened to end up here this year and ate one of our goats. It made headline news!”
Q3: On top of the climate change, there is a pandemic. How do you see your winery evolving through the pandemic time and in a post pandemic world?
Jill(J): “A friend of ours who was managing our tasting room for 5 years, couldn’t come back from Mexico in summer 2020 because of the pandemic. So Ben and I found ourselves back to the tasting room again which we hadn’t been for quite a while. We didn’t reopen the winery until July 2020. We haven’t seen an uptick in online sales like the way some wineries have seen because we really don’t offer any online sales as a choice. We are a small winery and we are just trying to future proofing ourselves for the size that we are.”
Q4: What is the biggest joy working in a winery?
B: “Drinking wine!”
J: “Making the wine and seeing people enjoy it. It makes us feel good.”
(Ben follows to agree.)
Q5: If you were not in the wine industry, what would you be?
B: “A chemical engineer. That’s what I still am.”
J: “Probably a farmer. I like farming.”
Q6: What is your current favorite wine and how would you like to enjoy it?
B: “That is like asking someone who is your favorite child. But, if I were to walk in the cellar now and grab a bottle of wine, I would probably grab the Piquette. It is our experimental light bubbly wine.”
J: “I like our sparkling – Jimmy K.”
Q7: “Where is your go-to-spots when you are off work?”
B: “California! We try to go California every winter. That’s how far we have to go to not have to worry about the farm. Our favorite is Pismo Beach.”
J: “On Quadra, Rebecca Spit is a great place to go to. Lots of hiking and kayaking around the island. Also, we often take out food from Coveside Seafood Eatery for their fish and chips.”
Q8: How can people enjoy Quadra Island in the fall?
J: “Fall is always nice and cozy time here and you can enjoy your stay with us at the Shack at SouthEnd Winery, or anywhere on Quadra. Fires, walks in the woods, or the seaside. It’s a great time to visit. Our Shack is a charming little house, with a private entrance, fully equipped kitchen and wait for this – a separate toilet room with a Japanese high-tech toilet! You can find us and book it through airbnb.”
Q9: How is this year’s harvest looking like?
J: “You never know but it is looking really good. I have a feeling that this year is going to make a nice vintage. At harvest, we typically don’t hire anyone because we’re so small. All our neighbors, friends and our families come out and help us harvest.”
Present Update from J: “It has been a great vintage. A bit early but we were able to harvest everything before the rains started in late September. This is the first year in about 3 that we’ve been able to make a great Siegerrebe (because of less disease damage), so far it’s tasting great, we’ll have to see how it ages in the tank.”
Q10: In a few words, how would you best describe SouthEnd Farm Winery?
J: “Small farm, too many ideas! This is our tag line!”
Ben wasn’t present for this question but minutes later, we asked him the same question. His answer was exactly the same, word for word.
Shows true partnership!