Taking the Plunge

Comically, it was all sparked by a joke on an evening when Laurent and I were hosting a wine-tasting dinner for a group of family and friends back in November, 2010. We had all just eaten our way through six courses and tasted our way through 12 wines.  Our wine-tasting dinners have become quite the annual event. Prior to serving each dinner course, Laurent provides a fun lesson on the style of wine we will be drinking, followed by a blind tasting of two wines.  The wines are then revealed, the food is served, and we taste, enjoy, and compare the pairings while finishing the opened bottles. As you can imagine, we have a lot of fun and by the end of the evening, spirits are high. By the end of this particular evening, the conversation shifted towards encouraging Laurent and I to host more dinners, suggesting “why not start your own business?”

Laughing, we began to share that our ‘dream’ was actually to run our own vineyard one day, where we could of course host such events on a more regular basis.  We laughed because we knew that everyone dreams of owning their own vineyard one day, and not being millionaires, we were VERY aware of how farfetched our dream was.  Especially for a couple who were still renting a one bedroom apartment in Vancouver and had almost no vineyard management experience (expect Laurent’s WOOFING experience in Montalcino). Then, someone jokingly suggested: “What about J-Bar Vineyards?” Well, we all burst into laughter because J-Bar is my grandfather’s horse ranch,  which is located in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia; a place more closely resembling a rainforest than any sunny, dry landscape you picture of typical wine regions.

J-Bar Ranch

J-Bar Ranch

However, J-Bar was also suggested because my grandfather (John Giesbrecht), now at 86 years old, has reached an age where his body can no longer keep up with his physical ambitions. Admirably, he still cares for his two horses and rides ritualistically every Saturday, but is simply unable to maintain the vast 16 acre property and 60 x 200 foot indoor arena he constructed back in 1964. Sadly, after 40 years of passion, dedication, and hard work, my grandfather has had to face the difficult question of: “What will happen to the ranch?” To our family, J-Bar ranch has become synonymous with my grandfather and over the years this special place has become powerfully infused with meaning and memories.  So, the wrenching question of what to do with his ranch had also been hovering over our family these past few years.

Grandpa at J-Bar

John (Grandpa) at the Ranch

But, the idea had been sparked!  Laurent and I were aware that wineries had become established just south of us in Washington State, which has a similar climate and landscape as the Fraser Valley.  But researching further we found that a few wineries existed right here in Langely (e.g., Domaine de Chaberton; Vista D’Oro) and even in Abbotsford (Mt Lehman Winery), which is less than 30-45km from J-Bar ranch. After visiting these wineries, and tasting their wines, we began to realize that a vineyard in the Fraser Valley may actually be a possibility.

Over the Christmas holidays of 2010, Laurent and I considered the potential of transforming J-Bar ranch into a vineyard and discussed this possibility with my parents. We were well aware that, to make this dream a reality, we would need them to embark on this adventure with us – as a team.  Rather than responding with laughter and eye rolling – which was our expected reaction – they were intrigued.  As it turns out, my father (Barry Giesbrecht) had already contemplated buying the ranch to keep a piece of my grandfather’s heritage in the family. But, he didn’t know what to do with the 16 acres of land and maintaining the property alone was more responsibility, work,  and energy than he was willing give at this point in life.

Amazingly, this just seemed to be the right idea, at the right place, at the right time.

With incredible faith, encouragement, and support from my parents and the result of further research and numerous discussions regarding the the pros and cons, costs and benefits, roles and expectations, requirements and legalities, my parents, Laurent and I took the plunge!  Fed by our common enthusiasm and love for wine, my parents extraordinary faith and support,  Laurent’s passion for turning dreams into reality, and my Father’s practical hands-on knowledge, we decided as a team to buy J-Bar ranch and transform it into a family run boutique winery.

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