“Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”  –Hans Christian Anderson

When Gitta Pederson moved to Naramata in 1993, she helped establish the Poplar Grove winery hands on, from taking down the existing apple orchard with a chainsaw, to planting and tending the vines. Today, she’s still hands on with six acres of her own vineyard where two acres of Pinot Gris, two of Merlot and two of Cabernet Franc are sold to Lock & Worth and Laughing Stock Wineries.

In those early days it was difficult to make a living, but a passion for the land and looking after the vines sustained the commitment through harder financial times.

The vines grew and so did the winery and since the perfect accompaniment to wine is cheese, Gitta helped establish, and now owns, Poplar Grove Cheese.

Gitta knows every step of her business, from planting and pruning in the vineyard and fixing the tractor and irrigation, to knowing how to make all varieties of cheese. “Cheese making has it’s challenges, and like raising children, each one has it’s own unique characteristics and each one is loved for their unique qualities,” she explains, from the subtle zing of the creamy Naramata Blue to the feistier bite of Tiger Blue. C Cheese, like teenagers, can be difficult to predict.

The success of Poplar Grove Cheese is testimony to Gitta’s acumen as a businesswoman and cheese maker, but she has no plans to expand her business ventures. To grow a business often means loss of control over quality, and Gitta’s commitment to providing her clients with the best possible product, in both the vineyard and the cheesery, ensures the focus is on quality, not quantity.

During the busy spring and summer months, life can be hectic, but in the vineyard she finds peace and contentment.

Gitta’s life has taken many turns, as a nurse, traveler, businesswoman and mother, but all paths have led to this point. Amongst the vines and weather you can find her tending the grapes on the southern slopes of the Naramata Bench. The landscape has changed over the years. When she arrived there were just 17 wineries in British Columbia; today there are over 200. While many mourn the loss of orchards, Gitta is glad to see the prosperity wine tourism has brought to the wineries and farmers.  She sees a bright future for an Okanagan wine industry that holds a vision of quality production while maintaining a focus on local community and sustainable growth.

Originally from Denmark, Gitta has made her home in Naramata, where her connection to the land here has grown with the vines she planted. She is one of the many women in BC, from Cawston to the Kooteneys, who are the backbone of their homes, communities, and the boutique businesses that keep the economy strong.

~ Henrietta Poirier

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