In hockey, a top shelf goal is scored when a rising shot goes into the net just below the crossbar. It seems an appropriate goal for running a winery when your family has been deeply involved in hockey.
Leonard and Myra Kwiatkowski, who operate this winery, have two sons who once played hockey. Joel played 17 years of professional hockey, including 282 games in the National Hockey League, while his older brother, Jason, played seven years in the minor leagues before becoming a pilot. Leonard and Myra dipped into hockey lore for both the winery name and the names of the wines. Even the labels mimic goalie masks. “We chose the Top Shelf name because our boys are really involved in hockey,” Myra says. “Most hockey players and sports people love beer. We thought they would like a good bottle of wine.”
Myra and Leonard, who was born in 1948, grew up in Saskatchewan. In Fort Qu’Appelle, where they lived for nine years, they flooded their backyard for a community hockey rink. They moved about the Prairies during Leonard’s long career with the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. Myra was involved with the food services at various hospitals, experience that served her well when she began making wine and pairing food and wine.
When Leonard retired for the first time in 2000, the couple bought a fishing lodge on a secluded inlet near Sechelt, BC. They enjoy boating and fishing but, in time, they found the lodge too remote. They sold it in 2008, buying a property in Kaleden where a previous owner had once pastured horses. Leonard considered the agricultural potential of the sandy loam soil. After deciding against cherries – he preferred not to climb ladders to harvest fruit – he planted vines in 2010.
The winery opened in 2011, with wines made from purchased grapes. The red varieties were purchased from an Okanagan Falls grower while the white varieties were from a Kaleden grower. The objective was to make wines from a terroir similar to that of the TopShelf vineyard.
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