BC Wine Maker
Karnail Singh Sidhu runs the family-owned Kalala Organic Estate Winery with his wife Narinder in the beautiful Okanagan Valley. He’s developed an impressive approach to grape growing based on sharing knowledge and caring for the environment and was awarded the inaugural BC Viticulturist of the Year award from the B.C. Grapegrowers’ Association in 2020.
Read on to learn all about Karnail and his commitment to growing the best grapes he can.
WHL: How did you get started in farming?
KSS: I was born in a farming family, so I didn’t get started in farming — I actually came back to farming. I was the only person in my family to train in a profession and I trained as an electrical engineer in India. When I moved to Canada in 1993 I found out that they didn’t recognize foreign credentials, and I didn’t have any funds to go back to school. So, I started looking for jobs in the agricultural sector. Farmers will be farmers, it doesn’t matter which profession they go into — even when they retire, they go back to farming! (laughs). It’s in your blood.
Finally, I landed a job at a winery, working in the vineyard, and I slowly climbed the ladder to become the vineyard manager.
WHL: Can you tell us about Kalala Organic Winery?
We started Kalala as a family-owned business, and in 2006 we started making wine. We opened to the public in 2008. We produce between 5,000 and 6,000 cases of wine a year under our own label (that’s 60,000 to 72,000 bottles of wine!). I do also sell bulk wine, so we produce more than we bottle. We also sell grapes, mostly to other wineries. We currently farm about 70 organic acres. Our main operation is in West Kelowna and we also have a vineyard in Oliver.
WHL: Is your family involved in the business?
My family is fully involved. My wife mostly takes care of the business and administration side. Myself, I take care of the operations side – I do a lot of work in our vineyard. I come up with new ideas and new business, and my wife helps me to pursue those ideas. My brother helps me in the vineyard, and my daughters, nieces, and nephews all work when we need help in the vineyard and they also help when needed for bottling.
WHL: How do you support your workers and build community?
KSS: I believe you have to share your knowledge with other people, and you get your knowledge from other people too. My nature is, I have no secrets, and anyone can ask me a question. To me withholding knowledge is just a way of blocking your learning. The more you talk about things, the more you learn. Most of my employees are like my own family members. I think we can learn a lot from sharing our views, our knowledge, and everyone has a different way of thinking. If you can incorporate the knowledge from all of those heads, then you will be ahead of just thinking by yourself.