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British Columbia: Karnail Ka Kalala in Kelowna of Kanaada

Posted: Saturday, 28 September 2013 13:22

British Columbia: Karnail Ka Kalala in Kelowna of Kanaada

Sep 28: Karnail Singh, owner of the Kalala Organic Estate Winery Kalala situated in West Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia was a member of the delegation of 20 food and wine producers who had come to India to participate in Annapoorna in Mumbai, followed by a Round Table Conference in the morning at the Canadian High Commission and a reception hosted by the Dy. High Commissioner Jim Nickel at the Canada House in the evening when Subhash Arora had an exclusive chat with him

Click For Large ViewKalala Organic Estate Winery, as the name emphasizes, is an organic winery, established in 2008 by Karnail Singh with roots in a small village called Kalala, near Barnala in Punjab. He produces a variety of blends as well as single varietal wine but his signature wine is icewine of 5 variants - Merlot and Chardonnay that he had brought for the dinner held at the Canada House in the evening and also Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer and Riesling. He claims he has the largest portfolio of organic icewine in the province.

An electrical engineer from the Punjab University in Ludhiana of 1988 vintage, Karnail Singh belongs to a dot sized village called Kalala - a Punjabi word for ‘miracle’. With a population of 1500 and a school only till 5th grade, he finished his schooling in nearby Barnala and went on to do his Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering in 1988 from Punjab Engineering College, Ludhiana. Giving gory details of corruption in the Rural Punjab Electricity Board even back then, he chucked his 2-year old job in 1993 even though he was not given his full due as he refused to be a part of the corrupt clique and went to British Columbia.

He took viticulture and enology courses but his heart is in viticulture-and India. Though he has been in the wine industry for 20 years now, he started thinking of India and the wine industry since 1997. He has tasted the experimental wines produced by the agriculture university at Ludhiana and even liked a wine from a hybrid variety. ‘It was clean and tasted of plums,’ he says. But he was disappointed in the Bhatinda-produced wines and when shown the vineyards, he found out that they lacked acidity because they were using very poor viticulture. ‘Can you believe that there were bushes all around the vines-too much vegetation? They do not prune at all!’

It is not surprising that when Kanaka Sabapathy, another migrant from Bangalore, who is a Barrister by profession but a wine appassionato, went to meet him a few years ago to represent his wines for the Indian market since he also wanted to keep his contacts with the roots alive, Karnail simply told him to do his home work and then come back. He did and eventually they started to work together and his company Pyramid Wine Exports Ltd. introduced a total of 6 wine labels from his winery as well as Summerhill Pyramid Winery-the largest organic winery in Canada in India in 2010.

Click For Large ViewIn fact, Sabapathy opened a sales office last January in Bangalore where two variants of icewine are available at around Rs.5,000 and Rs.7,000 respectively under the name of Spectrum Organic Wines. He confided in me at the F & B Round Table held earlier in the morning at the High Commission that he had great respect for and was overawed by Karnail. ‘He is a very important and well-respected viticulturist in British Columbia and is invited by producers all over Canada for consultancy, especially in organic farming.’ Not only was his winery organically certified in 2010, he is a certified inspector himself and claims that he produces about 40% of the organic wines produced in British Columbia.

British Columbia is known for making better icewine than anywhere else in Canada-or as he claims, anywhere in the world. He had started his wine career 20 years ago by working for Summerhill Pyramid Winery as a Manager, in charge of making icewine. With the experience he had and later at his own winery, he claims to be the most experienced icewine producer in Canada in terms of number of bottles handled.

When I tell him that the Indian market is tough and the icewines are too expensive, he says, ‘I am here for the long term. I have been studying the market actively for 16 years. I know the time is right but I am willing to nurture the market for the long term. When I tell him that icewine making is tough but is it profitable, he smiles and says, ‘when our team of around 50 people goes out to pluck the grapes during the day or sometimes at night at -10°C temperature with mittens, ear-muffs and all the warm clothing, you cannot recognise us! Profitability - yes, we will start making profits when we stop expanding.’ Starting with a 10 acre holding, he has been continuously expanding and with 60 acres holding when he decided to stop, he was offered a beautiful tract of land near the Okanagan Lake that he bought before coming to India. ‘Now the seller tells me he has another vineyard nearby if I want to buy, I would perhaps end up buying that too,’ says Karnail in a confident tone.

Click For Large ViewBritish Columbia has 864 vineyards and 242 registered wineries. Over 60 grape varieties are produced in the province which claims to have won over 1000 medals in 2011. Kalala Chardonnay Icewine won a Gold Medal at Chardonnay du Monde in France in 2010 and as Singh says proudly, no other icewine has won a Gold medal since then.

The simple-hearted, hard working engineer-farmer has his heart in India. ‘I want to do something for the wine industry in my own country.’ We wish him well and hope many in India will be inspired by him.

The delegation was assisted by the India Canadian Trade Office headed by Kathleen Donohue, Counsellor (Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada) who is very enthusiastic about the visit and promises to extend all possible help to the wine and food producers of British Columbia.

For details of the two wine delegates, visit and

Subhash Arora

Tags: Karnail Singh, Kalala Organic Estate Winery, British Columbia, Jim Nickel, Pyramid Wine Exports Ltd, Summerhill Pyramid Winery, icewine, Spectrum Organic Wines, Canada, Kalala Chardonnay Icewine


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