If you've been to a local wine festival, chances are you've seen this happen: the magical sound of a cork popping seems to draw the entire room towards the Summerhill table. A great convergence of wine enthusiasts, industry-types, winery owners and oenologists are greeted with some of the world's best bubbly, and the welcoming smile by the beautiful and talented Brenda Jaegli-Johnson.
A fitness instructor with a service-industry background, Brenda J. started her career with Summerhill eight years ago after moving back to her hometown of Kelowna. She recognized a chance to re-define her career in the flourishing local wine industry, saying “there were opportunities for learning on so many levels.”
The Summerhill “family, the level of organics and the passion of the people,” is what really peaked her interest.
Nonetheless it was her first foray into the wine world. She remembers her interview with Proprietor Stephen Cipes well.
She told him how she really loved people, “but needed to learn more about wines,” Cipes immediately recognized her potential. His propensity for hiring those with a great attitude and personality is an integral part of Summerhill's success these past 20 years. Now as Brand Manager, Brenda J. is the embodiment of Summerhill's joie de vivre.
Eight years ago, her department didn't even exist.
“I was given the creativity (to head that department). My favourite part of this job is going out into the community and promoting the brand. Making those connections, building rapport, and sharing that. Pulling together as community, especially within our industry. When we all work together, everybody wins.”
Inspired and motivated by her colleagues, Brenda J. says her attraction to the industry is primarily based on “the amazing wines originating from our Okanagan terroir and the passion offering sincere hospitality and service".
Brenda J. says her loyalty to Summerhill is due to “the passion of all of the guests that visit…it's more fun than work!”
Summerhill's dedication to sustainability and the organics impresses her, saying that 'the vertical-thinking that goes into the structure, like spreading that 'good-word,' and how it relates to people in general and looking after Mother Nature. On a broader perspective, looking at what we can do that makes a difference: whether that's our own neighbourhood, our Valley, BC and the world.”
Brenda J.'s personal mandate is to encourage greater “camaraderie between all the wineries, and working together to promote the Okanagan wine industry to all the visitors who come to our Valley.”
2011 Alive White $60.00/box (3 L)
It's hard to find a quality BC wine at $15.00/bottle, let alone a Certified Organic one. But the volume in these handy boxes works out to four bottles of the tasty Pinot Gris blend. The design virtually eliminates air contact after opening, preventing oxidation. Just see if you can keep it the six weeks it's good for once opened! I know it doesn't last that long in my house.
2009 Alive Red $60.00 box (3 L)
A fun, tasty wine perfect for summer BBQ get-togethers at an unbeatable price. Lots of blackberry/plum notes on this chewy, medium-bodied blend of Foch, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Very subtle vanilla bean/caramel with just a hint of cranberry on the finish.
2009 OM $50.00
After much anticipation, Summerhill's inaugural Organic Meritage is finally out! Winemaker Eric Von Krosigk says “I knew where it was going and it's nice to see all that cocoa/berry/mocha unfold…It's a wine that you can sit with and muse over, as it dances little pirouettes on your tongue.”
Cipes Rose N/V $29.95
Summerhill's Pinot Noir Gold Medal bubbly (2011 San Francisco Pinot Noir Summit) is one of Brenda J.'s favourites, especially when paired on lazy summer afternoons out on the Lake, saying “there's 750ml of memories in that bottle, and when you share it with good friends, those memories last forever.”
~ Sarah Willard