People

Sarwan Gidda and Sudarshana Gidda

Owners & Orchard/Vineyard Managers

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Sarwan Gidda left his hometown of Lambra, Punjab, in India at a very young age to come to Canada with his parents. Knowing no English, he attended school in West Kelowna, BC and helped his father on their farm. He followed his father’s footsteps into the family business of farming fruits and successfully grew the business, all the while acquiring more land for planting.

Sarwan went to India in 1977 to marry Sudarshana Kumari. She arrived in Canada in 1978. Together, they pursued a new venture of growing grapes. Planting vineyards on multiple sites in West Kelowna, they worked long hours while their children played among the vines. They sold their grapes to other wineries for many years, but dreamed of one day having their own winery. So Sarwan spent time exploring vineyards and wineries in Canada and California to gain the experience and knowledge needed to do just that.

Together with his now-adult children, he fulfilled his dream by opening Volcanic Hills Estate Winery. He continues to spend his time working in his vineyards and orchards with his son-in-law, Happy, and peeks into the winery every now and then to offer advice and direction.

Bobby Gidda

President

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Bobby has lived all of his life in West Kelowna, learning all of the different aspects of orchard and vineyard operations from Sarwan, his father. At 15, he was managing the family’s cherry production.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration at Okanagan College with a specialty in Management, selecting courses that would help him learn to manage a winery. He received his Wine Sales and Winery Assistant certificates. He also took various accounting and equipment-operator courses to help him in the day-to-day operations. One course project was to design a functional winery, including the building with wine shop, tanks, press and pumps, as well as to outline a plan to plant the vineyards.

After receiving his BBA, Bobby, Sarwan and sister Christina created the design for Volcanic Hills, selecting the site of one of their apple orchards on Boucherie Road for their building, which has one of the largest wine shops in BC.

In 2009, Bobby went to India to marry Harpreet Gidda and returned with her to BC open the winery in 2010. A year later, they traveled to the Napa Valley to tour the local wineries and further develop their wine knowledge.

Daniel Bontorin

Winery Consultant

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Growing up in BC, Daniel’s Italian heritage fostered a natural understanding of wine, nurtured by helping his father make wine as a hobby in his early years. He graduated in the top 5 of his class at Okanagan University College and immediately put his new-found knowledge into his passion for winemaking.

For four years, Daniel worked under the guidance of North America’s most awarded winemaker, Eric Von Krosigk, and at other BC wineries such as Tinhorn Creek, Hester Creek, Pentage, Domain Combret, Fairview Cellars and Hillside Estate.

In 2005, he established Wine Country Consulting. He also ventured back to Veneto in Northern Italy to further his studies at Cantina Montelliana in the town of Montebelluna. There, he learned the Biodynamic process and its effects on wine production.

Since returning to BC, he has been the founding winemaker and consultant for several notable wineries such as Quinta Ferriera, Le Vieux Pin and its sister winery, LaStella.

Daniel joined the Volcanic Hills team in 2010 as its hands-on consulting winemaker, producing flavourful, award-winning wines from their grapes grown in the unique volcanic soils of Mount Boucherie.

In his spare time he parents his own team of 7, reads many wine books and enjoys the outdoors.

John Zakala

Assistant Winemaker

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John has lived all across Canada, but is proud to call the Okanagan his home.  He has always enjoyed wine, with all its complexities and nuances. When John discovered Okanagan wines, decided to reinvent himself. After all, he says, “Why not make what I enjoy?”

John studied winemaking online from 2012-14 at Washington State University. He then applied his skills for four vintages at Summerhill Estate Winery before moving on to Volcanic Hills.

John is a former elite triathlete, representing Canada at four World Championships and raced for more than 10 years.  He also became a Level ll Ski Instructor at Big White Ski Resort and taught from 2003-08.

Now John is just a weekend warrior who competes against himself (and friends) so that he doesn’t feel guilty enjoying the fruits of his labour. He and his family live in the Okanagan.

Christina Tumber

Vice-President and Merchandise

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As a youngster, Christina spent much of her free time working alongside her parents in the Gidda family vineyards and orchards in West Kelowna. She went to Vancouver for two years, taking administrative assistant and accounting courses to prepare for the opening of the new winery. She works as the winery’s bookkeeper and oversees the gift-shop inventory.

She traveled to India to marry her husband, Pirthipal. They then returned to Canada to start their own family. They now have two happy, healthy sons that keep then very busy.

Christina oversees most aspects of the Volcanic Hills wine shop. She enjoys finding unique merchandise items to intrigue their customers and ensures there are always new and exciting products on display. She is also quickly learning the intricacies of wine appreciation and is always eager to broaden her knowledge.

Outside of the wine shop, if she can find time, she loves shopping or spending time with her husband and sons.

Harpreet Gidda

Wine Shop Manager

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Born and raised in Chandigarh, India, Harpreet Gidda is the newest member of the Gidda family to bring her talents to the forefront of the winery. Her education encompasses a Bachelor in Fine Arts and a Master’s Degree in Music. While in India, she organized and managed college events. He also performed onstage, playing the classical Indian instrument, the Sitar, and the Punjab folk instrument, the Chimta.

After marrying Bobby Gidda in India, Harpreet came to Canada and together they began their exciting adventure of opening their new winery.  She immersed herself in learning many aspects of the wine industry after taking on responsibilities in the wine shop, the tasting bar and in administration.

Her hobbies include painting, dance, music, traveling, watching comedies, chatting with family and friends and shopping.

Amit Gidda

Customer Service Manager

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Amit Gidda, the youngest of the Gidda siblings, can be found spending most of his days in the wine shop. He most often works in customer service and marketing. He also has evolved into being the winery’s go-to guy for any shipping and inventory questions the rest of the staff may have.

Amit brings youthful enthusiasm to the winery. He’s always quick with a smile for each and every customer and will even carry your case of wine to your vehicle for you.

Amit has gone to the University of British Columbia – Okanagan in the pre-Pharmacy program, and has dabbled in Wine Sales at Okanagan College, but hopes to study business to aid his brother, Bobby, in the office.

He enjoys hiking, computer games and has a great sense of humor.

Debbie Firman

Sales and Marketing

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Born and raised in British Columbia, Debbie was always on the go, doing or learning something. After graduating, her first passion was singing and playing guitar on the bar circuit. Afterward she attended BCIT to obtain a Communications Diploma in Broadcasting and thoroughly enjoyed her work as an on-air personality.

While working in radio, she decided to expand her creative abilities by studying graphics, web design and photography. She soon started her own graphics business and while consulting with clients in the Okanagan wine industry, got the wine bug. Debbie quickly discovered wines from around the world by attending tasting events and wanted to learn more. So again, the wine bug hit and she obtained credentials for WSET Advanced, and VQA Wine Judge, while gaining experience from working at Inniskillin, Nk’Mip, and Gray Monk wineries, as well as the Discover Wines VQA store.

Marketing, sales and customer service at Volcanic Hills Winery are what Debbie loves. Sharing her smile and humour with customers at the tasting bar and during sales calls has earned her the nickname “The Stand-Up Wine Geek”.

Time off includes gardening, food and wine pairing, reading, hiking/camping and the occasional golf and tennis game.

Tara Combatti

Sales Representative

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Tara grew up in Nelson, BC, and, after graduating in 1990, moved to Kelowna. She began a career in the tourism industry in hotel sales/vacation ownership at the Grand Okanagan Resort and the Sandman Hotel Group. In 2003, she launched Charmed, a small company in which she coordinated events, weddings and concierge services for inbound professional athletes and performers.

In October 2014, Tara joined the Volcanic Hills Winery sales team and now works with customers from West Kelowna to the Kootaneys. She enjoys social occasions, wine, people, food and loves the Okanagan Valley lifestyle.

Her philosophy in life is “Spread love, not hate” and “Be kind to those who need it the most”. She adores fancy hats, orchard blossoms and everything about Audrey Hepburn. She has a daughter and son-in-law who live in Alberta, while her 11-year-old son Dylan and her main squeeze Jason share their home in West Kelowna. The guys keep her busy by taking her on scenic trail hikes, visits to waterfalls, and delicious outdoor picnics.

Her hobbies include shopping for antique furniture and clothing, garage sales, yoga and philosophy.

Julie Masi

Wine Shop Associate

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Julie was born and raised in southern Manitoba and worked as a licensed cosmetologist for several years in Winnipeg before moving to Toronto, where she started her singing career.

Twelve years later she moved to Temecula, Calif., with her husband and opened four full-service salons, which they operated for the next 13 years. They also operated a delicatessen. Being in the middle of Wine Country, she was able to visit many of the area’s wineries to further develop her wine knowledge.

Julie and her family then moved back to Canada and opened a fine-dining restaurant in Kelowna. At that time, she was introduced to many of the Okanagan Valley’s wines. Her appreciation and passion grew for the wine industry.

Julie came to Volcanic Hills Winery on the recommendation of a fellow employee, who thought she was a perfect fit with her ever bubbly personality and happy smile. She is thrilled to be working as a Wine Shop Associate, enjoys meeting people from around the world and loves to share wine passion with them.

She continues on with her singing career as well, so you might see her singing at one of your favourite local restaurants.