OWNER, HEAD WEED-PICKER
Rick first became attached to winemaking at the age of 6, when his maternal grandfather, who was from Romania, grew grapes in his Burnaby backyard and used them to make wine in his basement. Rick would help his parents pick the grapes and then watch the winemaking process with rapt attention. Touring the Sumac Ridge and Uniacke wineries as a teenager in the early 80s (Uniacke was later renamed CedarCreek Estate Winery), Rick dreamed of having his own vineyard one day. This dream now lives as Sage Hills Organic Estate Vineyard and Winery.
The vineyard is not owned by a corporation that bought an existing vineyard. It’s not a wealthy whim, supported by a large staff. It is about a man, his family, his friends, and a stunning piece of land on the slopes of Okanagan Lake in beautiful Summerland, BC. Rick and his partner, Toby, along with their network of friends and family, are committed to the practice of organic farming at Sage Hills, at a level that surpasses the requirements of a certified organic vineyard. They live amongst the vines and tend to them each and every day. They are out pruning in the biting cold of February, leaf-thinning during the scorching days of July, netting the rows from the birds in August, and picking the delicious organic grapes as harvest begins. This support system of friends and family breathes life into Sage Hills Vineyard each and every day and makes it a very special vineyard that now yields extraordinary, premium, small-lot wines.
Toby Lodge, born in Edmonton, AB, spent her formative years growing up in the tiny community of Fort St. James in northern BC. She moved to Summerland with her four children in 2000 and settled there, always with a fondness for this particular piece of property. “I would always find myself sitting at the top of the property admiring the view and just fell in love with this area of Summerland,” she says. She is now part of the team that oversees the vines, and she loves to spend time in the wine shop, greeting visitors and clients.
When Toby isn’t tending the vines, she works as a heavy-equipment operator for Copper Mountain in Princeton, BC. “I drive a truck that carries 260 tonnes of material, and Rick still gets nervous when I ask to drive his little tractor!”
WINEMAKER AND VINEYARD MANAGER
Keenan grew up with the evolving vineyard of Sage Hills as his backyard. From the age of 12, he has been involved in caring for and shaping the vineyard.
Keenan now tends to the vines, along with his dad, as the Assistant Vineyard Manager and Cellar Hand. He has worked alongside four different wine makers, learning to be meticulous in preparing tanks and hoses, as well as the importance of cleaning and sanitizing. His commitment to the organic farming practices that are a cornerstone of our vineyard is strong and unwavering. He travels to France and Germany regularly, visiting many of the top wineries in Burgundy, Bordeaux, Medoc, Cognac and Alsace, as well as the Mosel region in Germany. Staying true to the Grand Cru producers in France is his focus and an asset to us, as it ensures the integrity and premium quality of our wines is maintained, establishing our unique place in the BC wine industry.
Keenan has also worked as an Assistant Winemaker for Two Hands Winery in the Barossa during the 2016 harvest. He has worked side by side with 4 of the Okanagan’s top winemakers and has now taken over the head winemaking duties at Sage Hills. He will be responsible for guiding the future of our winemaking responsibilities as well as the launch of his own label appropriately called “Keenan”, a natural wine.
Sales & Marketing manager and Assistant Vineyard Manager
Tyler Thrussell is the second of three sons to join the Sage Hills team. Like his 2 brothers, he spent his summers at the winery between 2006 to 2011, working in the vineyard and focusing on growing healthy organic vines. Tyler has worked as a wine rep for an Australian and New Zealand winery, and has spent time abroad studying their grape growing practices.
Tyler brings with him knowledge and hands on viticulture experience and is now involved in the daily work of caring for our organic vineyard and the sales and marketing of our wines.