8th Generation Vineyard in Summerland is a family owned and operated winery and the name speaks for itself of their long history in winemaking. The winery honours 238 years of family history in winemaking that started in Germany, where the owners Bernd and Stefanie Schales are originally from. Bernd is an 8th generation winemaker and Stephanie is 10th generation winegrower. They embarked on a new generation wine journey to the Okanagan Valley in 2003.
Their renovated historic farmhouse tasting room is welcoming and bright, and the wall is nicely decorated with the family pictures. It feels like you are invited to someone’s home. There is so much friendliness and smiles in the air, but when it comes to the wine, they are very serious and focused. Not only their long history of knowledge and experience as a winery, but their hard and meticulous work shine through in all their wine.
Particularly hands down to their Rieslings, of course! It is always worth coming down to taste the labour of love at 8th Generation. Their engaging team and their top-notch wine always make a visit a memorable one.
This summer, we had a pleasure talking with Stephanie Schales and Beth Knox, the Operations Manager at the winery, through VOICE’s 10 QUESTIONS.
Q1: How was your summer 2021?
Beth (B): “It has been challenging but also it has been rewarding to see how our team has really come together. We have a small but mighty team!
We are really lucky to have the same team members returned to us for the second or the third season as well as some new members on board. Everybody has been adaptable to every single change we are continuously encountering. If one person in the team needs a little bit of support, everyone steps up to help. We are a very close-knit and caring team.”
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?
S: “As we farm 22 acres vineyard land in 3 different locations, I agree that climate change is happening. Not just the wild fires but it is a series of unpredictable weather year around. That makes farming very very challenging. Whatever the weather we have, be it extreme downpours, heavy wind gusts or the above (or below) temperatures, as a farmer you are always thinking about the field and the crops. When we had the recent extreme heat here in Okanagan, it was not affecting us with our grapes but it affected our 10 acres of apples we also grow, with sunburn damage – all the fruit growers experience this. When there was a downpour in the beginning of July, I instantly thought of cherry farmers. I don’t grow cherries, yet I know cherries will split with heavy rains. The climate change is not affecting on just one industry but all of us.”
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?
S: “Our online booking system is working amazingly, so we will keep the good things that come out of Covid.”
B: “Our focus has shifted towards online dramatically. We try to make every facet of the winery business user friendly for our customers. How we do a tasting now is one change that stands out so much. One-on-one tasting is something we have never done before Covid, and feedback is nothing but positive since we made the change. There is a shift in our Wine Club, too. People want to join not just for our wines but also they want to connect with us and get to know our team personally.”
Q4: What is the biggest joy working in a winery?
S: “I like fast changing environment. The winery days are never the same. We are always evolving as a winery. Also, seeing people enjoy our product – that is a big joy.”
Q5: If you were not in the wine industry, what would you be?
S: “I would probably stick with what I used to do before; I was a trained draftswoman that makes engineer drawings for building sites.”
B: “Maybe return to baking. I was previously a baker. I would do something creative and something with my hands no matter what.”
Q6: What is your current favorite wine and how would you like to enjoy it?
S: “Going back to where I grew up, my parents had 80% of the vineyard with Rieslings. So my heart is always with Rieslings. My personal favorite is Riesling Classic.”
B: “Out of our current tasting portfolio, Integrity would be my pick for its diversity. For a lot of people, bubbly is considered only for a special occasion, or it can only pair with certain types of food. Integrity is something that can be served with fun versatile food whether it is deep fried chicken or tempura. When I have friends over, I would like to entertain and surprise them by pairing wine and food that they wouldn’t normally think. In that way, Integrity is super fun and diverse.”
Q7: Where is your go-to-spots when you are off work?
S: “My favorite place, when out of the winery season, is absolutely the ski hill. Apex Mountain in Penticton.”
B: “When I am not here, I am always at outdoors with my husband and dogs. Lots of kayaking and lots of hiking!”
Q8: How can people enjoy Okanagan in the fall?
B: “I personally think the fall is the best time. I would prefer coming to the tasting rooms in the fall because it is quieter pace, the winery team has a little bit more time to spend with you and there are new releases of wines. Overall feel is just more relaxing to everyone. Hiking is gorgeous out here in the fall as well. I feel like the fall is the best kept secret of Okanagan that is not a secret!”
S: “Even after the summer is over, our tasting room is still open, fruit stands are open, and restaurants are open. When you drive into the winery in the fall, maybe you can get a glimpse of the action on the crush pad. You can also do a really nice hike up on Giant’s Head in cooler weather.”
Q9: How is this year’s harvest looking like?
S: “You never know! We still have at least 6 weeks to go, but so far it looks great. Right now, the vineyard team is making all the effort to be ready for whatever (weather) situation might come. Plucking the leaves, letting the air flow and hope the weather stays dry and warm so the fruit can ripen to perfection.”
Q10: In a few words, how would you best describe 8th Generation?
B: “We are authentic and innovative.”
S: “Focused – we’re very focused on what we do. There is always a goal of improving and getting better from what we did last year to the next.”