Meet 4 Trailblazing Women in the Okanagan Wine Industry

As we approach March 8, International Women’s Day, we are taking time to reflect on the role of women in the wine industry.

This is an industry that has traditionally been dominated by men.  As of today, there are no formal statistics on women working in the wine industry in Canada but, for reference, we can look at stats from Australia and the United States. As of 2020, women occupy only 15% of head winemaker and production roles. Viticulture, winemaking and ownership are still male dominated segments, partially because of the misconception that women are not suited for hard labour jobs and have traditionally been more present in hospitality roles. However, we are happy to say that  women are showing up in larger numbers in segments like marketing, human resources and public relations. The tide is rising, albeit slowly. Among women currently in the industry, the consensus is that getting a seat at the table is becoming easier. We believe that, with the right support and mentorship, the tide will rise quicker over the next decade or two. In the Okanagan we can feel a buzz; progress towards parity is underway.

As two women immersed in the BC wine industry, we are proud to say that here women are represented in higher numbers than what statistics show for Australia and the United States. To mark this International Women’s Day, we would like to celebrate the achievements of four intrepid women working in the Okanagan wine industry. They are trailblazers, mentors and our local heroes. 

Kimberly Hundertmark
General Manager, Okanagan Wine Festivals 

Kimberly took over as the General Manager in late fall and she is already making bold moves to refresh and revitalize the Okanagan Wine Festivals. She came to the Okanagan from Ontario’s wine industry, where she was the executive director of the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival for 8 years. Prior to that, she was the first female winery GM in Ontario at Stoney Ridge Estate Winery. Kimberly is the breath of fresh air the Okanagan Wine Festivals needed, coming out of two years of restrictions and rules. “It was time for a strategic plan, a re-vision and to move forward with a healthy rebound,” explains Kimberly Hundertmark. “We know people have missed the festival, and if we build it, they will come.”  Her inaugural Winter Wine Festival in January was a hit, leaving us all excited to see what’s in store for spring 2023. Along with the Festival’s signature events, the Lieutenant Govenor’s Wine Awards will be making a comeback, appointing a “Top Wine of the Year”, a coveted prize for any Okanagan winery. Follow Kim’s journey @okwinefests

Katie Truscott
Owner, 1 Mill Road 

photo by Jon Adrian.

We’ve had the pleasure of knowing Katie for a few years. She is a delight to be around and a woman-in-wine that we look up to. Katie’s wine career began while living in South Africa, where she built up her instagram by taking us along on her journey of wine discovery. After living in South Africa for ten years, she came back to Kelowna in 2018 and quickly inserted herself into the Okanagan wine scene, working at Kitsch Winery. Today, armed with her Diploma in Wine, and her winemaker partner in life, she is a proud owner of a boutique winery in Naramata, 1 Mill Road. We’re not sure when this multi-tasking wino sleeps, as she juggles the demands of all roles at her winery, continues to work at Kitsch, and has a family. What we can say though, is that we highly admire her and everything she’s accomplishing. Keep up on Katie’s wine journey and @1millroad

Nikki Callaway
Winemaker, O’Rourke Family Estate

We recently had the opportunity to taste through Nikki’s portfolio at O’Rourke Family Estate, a winery focused on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, set to open to the public in Spring 2024. Wow! These 2020 vintages were made from young vines (8 years old), yet they are layered in flavour and complexity. We can’t wait to see what she creates as the vines age and the winery establishes itself. Candidly speaking, if there was a female winemaker we could have a professional crush on, it would be Nikki. She is incredibly smart, down to earth, and dare we say, kick-ass. Her serious winemaking pedigree speaks for itself. She completed a Masters in Enology from the prestigious Université de Bordeaux and gained viticulture and winemaking experience in various regions of France, including Beaujolais, the Loire, and multiple appellations in Bordeaux (Margaux, Pessac-Leognan, Blaye and Cotes de Bourg). Nikki returned to Canada 10 years ago to work in the Okanagan Valley, a region that was brand new to her at the time. Since then, she has specialized in northern valley fruit, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and aromatic whites. We’re not the only ones that think she’s an amazing winemaker. In 2011, a Pinot Noir she produced was awarded “World’s Best Pinot Noir” at the Decanter World Wine Awards. Follow Nikki’s wine journey with O’Rourke Family Estate @orourkefamilyestate

Keira LaFranc
Winemaker, Stag’s Hollow Winery

We haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Kiera yet, but we’ve definitely tasted her wines and love them! She was recently nominated for the Emerging Talent in Wine Award through the International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC). This award is given to an individual who thinks outside of the box and goes above and beyond their day to day role, while demonstrating professionalism alongside their dedication and passion for wine. To be nominated for this award is an incredible honour and, in our opinion, means that she must not only be an outstanding winemaker but also a pretty awesome person. We look forward to meeting her soon, but in the meantime we’ll keep sipping on her outstanding wines. Follow @stags_hollow_winery to keep an eye on Keira and her wines. 

Keen to learn about more women working in the Okanagan wine industry? Follow along on @gonewestclub for a month-long focus on fearless women trailblazing their path in the Okanagan Valley.