July 15, 2019
Meet Jason James
Winemaker, Sumac Ridge and Black Sage Vineyard
“It’s still a thrill, every year; the promise of a vintage even better than the last: to improve from last year’s triumphs.”
17403 Highway 97N
Summerland, BC V0H 1Z0
Sumac Ridge is an iconic BC winery. How long have you been with Sumac Ridge?
Yes – Sumac was one of the first Estate wineries in the Okanagan Valley, opening in the late 1970s. I joined Sumac Ridge in 2005 as Assistant Winemaker and became winemaker in 2010. I'm excited to now also oversee the Steller's Jay sparkling program and the vineyard specific Black Sage program based in Oliver.
Tell us about your background and your passion for BC wines.
I graduated from Biology from the University of Guelph and completed my Certificate in Oenology and Viticulture from Brock University, both in Ontario. Following graduation, I joined the cellar team at Thomas & Vaughan Estate Winery in the Niagara wine region. I worked a crush at Villa Maria in New Zealand.
I’m just really proud that the products we make are enjoyed by so many people. British Columbians are fierce supporters of our industry and it makes my job easier. Working here, I am excited about all the exceptional Okanagan micro climates that I get to work with and to showcase with our great wines.
What drives you to source and support local?
For me it’s about loyalty. I know how much local people support our BC wine industry, and I want to return the favour. It’s certainly not hard to do with the quality and range of BC products available to me.
Do you have certain growers that you love working with because they help you to be better in your craft?
The viticulture team that I work with do an amazing job on supplying me with high quality grapes. I’m excited to transform those grapes into great wines for our consumers.
What is your favourite thing about being a winemaker in BC?
I think it’s about story telling. I love hearing from my customers the stories that tie the wines I make to specific moments in their lives – our wines aren’t just a beverage they enjoy, it’s more important to them – it’s part of their story. Their passion drives me to never stop learning.
Where do you see the future of local wine heading?
I think the quality of BC wines is just going to keep improving. A lot of young winemakers are starting to come to our region, and they are helping to expand our wines.
What is the best advice you’ve every been offered around winemaking in BC?
No two vintages are alike. There will always be challenges and surprises. It means that there is always more to learn!