For 10 years, Graydon and Maureen Ratzlaff have been working to grow the Shuswap’s reputation as a wine region, one award-winning varietal after another.
The Ratzlaffs own and operate Recline Ridge Vineyards and Winery in Tappen. Purchased from original owner/founder Mike Smith as a “lifestyle improvement project,” Graydon and Maureen have endeavoured to improve upon the winery’s reputation and leave their own mark, not just at Recline Ridge, but in B.C.’s competitive wine market. Their efforts have paid off with numerous gold, double gold, silver and bronze medal wins for their distinctly Shuswap products.
”One of our biggest challenges is the fact that we are a much lesser known wine region than the Okanagan Valley,” said Graydon. “When people think of B.C. wine, they automatically think of Oliver and Osoyoos and the grapes that are grown there…
“It’s been our challenge and almost the prime directive to educate folks on the varietals that we can grow here, because they are clearly different from what is grown in the South Okanagan.”
Graydon and Maureen expect that one day someone new will take over their dream and continue the Recline Ridge legacy. Their 10-acre property, including business, equipment, residences, retail space and more, is currently on the market.
Though there’s plenty of work involved in running the vineyard/winery, Graydon decribed the variety of tasks each day brings as part of the lifestyle.
“We live onsite, so it’s sort of like a version of semi-retirement in a sense because of all these benefits of being here…,” said Graydon. “We have a full-time wine maker and vineyard manager, she’s responsible for all that activity, start to finish, growing the grapes, making the wine…
“Having somebody here in that role allows me to do all this other stuff, whether it’s marketing or sales promotion or deliveries… my days are varied. All my activities are centred around the business and the site, but it allows me a lot of variety in a day and that’s wonderful, that’s the best part of it, because it’s not just sitting behind a desk eight hours a day and pushing paper.”
Having grown up in the Okanagan Valley, wine making has long been a part of Graydon’s life. As a kid, he learned from his mother how to make wine with fruits from their backyard. Later in life, he would gain employment with a large winery.
“I liked the wine business, didn’t necessarily enjoy the corporate world which is where I came from,” said Graydon.
Graydon and Maureen were living in the Lower Mainland when they set out to find a new opportunity, discovered Recline Ridge and made their move to the Shuswap.
When asked what they plan to do when they sell, Graydon tells them them he and Maureen will be staying in the Shuswap.
“We love the area, so we’re not going far,” he said.
Graydon added he would make himself available to whomever buys the winery, to help with their transition, just as Smith did for the Ratzlaffs.
“He was great at that and I would do the same thing. To me it’s the right thing to do.”
Asked what his favourite Recline Ridge wine is, Graydon laughs, noting its not the first time that question has been put to him.
“People always ask us whether we have favourites and I say it’s like our kids, you can’t have a favourite, you love them all,” said Graydon. “Different wine for different purposes.”