Their enthusiasm bubbles over as they describe the intricacies of the art, science and passion that has enveloped their lives.
Amanda Eastwood and Jamie Smith are talking about winemaking.
As Eastwood holds up a glass of Marionette Merlot, Smith describes the significance of its ruby colour. Eastwood allows its aroma to fill her nostrils. She identifies a hint of coffee, of chocolate, of cherries.
Among the rolling hills of North Broadview, Eastwood and Smith are creating their dream – the Marionette Winery. The name Marionette was chosen because, years ago, a family of puppeteers lived on the 40th Street NE property, travelling in beautifully painted, horse-drawn caravans.
“It just seemed really magical and perfect for us – something so creative and interesting,” smiles Eastwood, noting she has a history in fine arts, while Smith is a musician.
For them, winemaking has become a shared passion that is both a creative outlet and a business. Eastwood grew up in Brighton, England, her grandfather a winemaker in France. Smith grew up in Salmon Arm and, while living in Spain, he and Eastwood met.
“We both got interested in wine when we were in Spain. It’s very much a part of the culture there,” explains Smith, noting many places in Europe are the same. “It’s very regional; you can’t separate the culture from the local wine.”
The couple formalized their passion for wine by attending the University of Brighton, where they attained Bachelor of Science Honours degrees, majoring in viticulture, the science of grape growing, and oenology, the science of winemaking.
The couple also took WSET courses, the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, where they learned more about wines of the world.
Adding to their university education has been a wealth of practical experience.
They have worked in the Loire Valley with famed winemaker and researcher Frédéric Brochet, well-known for his experiments with wine tasters that included using a colourless red dye to turn a white wine into red – a change that was not detected.
His winery was an excellent place to work and learn, with his meticulous ways.
“We had studies, but we hadn’t connected a hose to a tank…,” says Smith. “While we were there we turned into winemakers.”
The couple has since worked at a variety of wineries, including in Portugal, England and, most recently, B.C.’s Gulf Islands. They’ve been able to find the yeasts that suit the styles of wine they want.
Now the parents of two young children, the couple has, with support from Jamie’s parents Charles and Judy Smith, been working for two years on their property, a natural gem with unique micro-climates and abundant wildlife. Already their vines are growing in North Broadview, but the wine they have bottled so far comes from grapes grown for them in Keremeos, Peachland, Summerland and Armstrong.
Theirs will be a winery with a focus on sustainability; they will add varieties of vegetation that complement the vineyard ecosystem and they will maintain natural features such as existing trees and wild flowers.
The couple would eventually like to participate in arts and cultural events, perhaps collaborating with area chefs to put on ‘Feasts of the Fields’ or offering wine-tasting seminars.
They hope to open in early July and to have their website up soon.
Says Smith: “A lot of exciting things are happening in Salmon Arm. It would be good to be part of that.”