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Jack Manser – Larch Hills Winery

Jack Manser worked as a district forestry manager in his native Switzerland before immigrating to Canada in 1992. Facing a scarcity of jobs in his chosen profession, he opted to buy a dairy and grain farm in Alberta. “It is the logical choice for someone like me who grew up on a mixed farm in Switzerland,” he says. When his marriage foundered, necessitating sale of the farm, he bought Larch Hills Winery with his new wife, Hazel. Launched in 1997, the Shuswap’s first winery also ranks as BC’s highest, at 700 metres, with south-facing vineyards overlooking the North Okanagan Valley. The decision to buy the small Salmon Arm winery is entirely within character for Jack since the property included a three-hectare vineyard along with a rugged forested area. “I loved the land,” he says. With no experience in winemaking (“we made cider and Schnapps as a boy at home on the farm”) he arranged for previous owner Hans Nevrkla to coach him for the first 18 months. Since taking over the winery, Jack has made use of his forestry background. Adding to the vineyard, he propagated vines using his own cuttings, learning in the process that vines are not as winter hardy as trees. Logging the trees himself, without clear-cutting, he used untreated wood, made posts, patio railings and benches, as well as supplying logs for an outdoor wood furnace for heating four buildings. Working with him at the winery is Hazel, his 19-year-old son, Wayne, who is learning the ropes, and his daughter, Karin, a business student who is helping out for the summer.

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