Arctic Hands Develop Canada’s Most Northern Winery

April 10th, 2022 | News and Events
Arctic Hands Develop Canada’s Most Northern Winery,



Imagine if you were about to retire from a hectic work and lifestyle schedule in Canada's Arctic and someone told you that soon you would be developing your own winery and vineyard in the Shuswap Lake region of British Columbia here is the story of one such couple. Jake and Marg Ootes lived in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Jake is a former newspaper and magazine owner and politician and Marg as a former social worker and art gallery owner. In 1995, they bought a 160 acre farm property on the North Shore of the Shuswap Lake intending to retire to a more leisurely lifestyle several years down the road. 

At the time of purchase the farm had no roads, hydro, water, buildings, not even one fence post. All had to be constructed. On their infrequent visits over the next ten years they built an access road to the center of the property where they built their home, brought in hydro, and drilled a water well. In 2002 they planted an experimental vineyard of two acres.

In 2005 they moved permanently to the property. Immediately their emotions took over and a decision was made to continue to plant more acres. After several years, the balance sheet of the business of selling grapes continued to move deeper into the red, the decision was made to start a winery. Of course their friends thought they were crazy. A friend from their former home of Yellowknife called their retirement project, “INSPIRED MADNESS.” That is now the name of one of their premier red wines.

With no real background in farming, vineyard management, or winemaking, they relied on hired help and courses to guide them. 

It is a different lifestyle from that which they were used to. Jake even had to learn to drive the tractor. He oversees the vineyard, winemaking and takes care of the administration. Marg oversees the tasting room and handles the landscaping and

general esthetics of their gorgeous property. Celista Estate Winery has come a long way. Through hard work, perseverance and determination they have built a successful winery business. “This was a ‘bootstrap’ operation in the beginning,” says Jake. “But we are finally becoming a viable business.” The evidence is in the many visitors to the winery in the summer months, and, of course, in the wonderful wine produced. The winery has won twenty medals in four years in national and international competitions.

You can feel the energy and personal touch when you drive up the curving quarter-mile driveway past the vineyard, when you park on the grassy knoll and when you walk the curving path through the trees to the tasting room. You can enjoy a glass of wine on the outdoor patio along with a selection of gourmet cheeses, fresh baked bread, bickies, and Belgian chocolate. The sunshine seems eternal here. It’s a delightful experience.

“If you were to ask if we would do this again, having moved from Yellowknife, a life we loved, our response would be, ‘You bet.’ This is a lot of work but we are active, mentally and physically. At our ages — in our 70’s and 80’s — we are determined to be productive for the rest of our lives.”

Spectacular autumn colours light up the vineyard with Shuswap Lake and mountains in the background.

Celista Estate Winery is now in its fifth year of operation — the vines are from four to 12 years old — and wine production and sales continue to increase. Celista Estate Wines are available in stores on the North Shore of Shuswap Lake, in Sorrento, Chase, Salmon Arm and Kamloops.

Contact us at 250-955-8600 or jake@celistawine.com. Visit www.celistawine.com or check us out on Facebook and Twitter. Celista Estate Winery is located at 2319 Beguelin Road, Celista, British Columbia, V0E 1M6.

Shuswap Wine Journal - A collection of published local and regional newspaper articles written by Jake Ootes in Fall 2014