Wine Chain: Bill Eggert of Fairview Cellars


Bill Eggert at Fairview Cellars. Photo by Claire Sear

Bill Eggert at Fairview Cellars. Photo by Claire Sear

Winemaker Jay Martiniuk at Stoneboat Vineyards passes the glass to Bill Eggert at Fairview Cellars.

Quick Stats:

  • Born in Ottawa and raised on a family farm in Ontario.
  • Cellar rat: grew up growing grapes in Ontario. Diploma in Agriculture from the University of Guelph. Vineyard Manager at Covert Farms, Charal Winery, and Paradise Ranch. Owner of Fairview Cellars since 1989.
  • During his tenure teaching and developing the viticulture program at Okanagan University College, Bill mentored many up and coming Okanagan winemakers including those at Orofino Vineyards, Noble Ridge Vineyard, Le Vieux Pin and Van Western Vineyards.
  • Small lot producer, 3500 cases annually.
  • Varieties: Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
  • Still a one man show, if the winery is open, Bill is in the tasting room.
  • His personality can be found in the names of his wines: Two Hoots is named after the owls in his vineyard but also applied to wine critics (“I don’t give two hoots what you think”); Madcap Red  is for a nickname of his, Madcap; The Wrath is a nod to John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath; and Iconoclast, describing this grape-growing farmer and the name for his top Cabernet Sauvignon, starting with the 2008 vintage’s best barrel.

How did you become a Winemaker?

I grew up on a farm in Beamsville, Ontario where, along with other fruits, we grew grapes for Jordan Wines. I went to the University of Guelph and graduated with a diploma in agriculture. My first job after university was working with my uncle in Beamsville. In 1983, after a dispute with my uncle (who refused to plant vinifera grapes) and the realization that the farm would not be passed down to me, I decided to head west for the ski hills. I was hired at Covert Farms as the farm manager. I briefly returned to Ontario where I managed Charel Winery and Vineyard founded by Alan Eastman near Blenheim in Ontario. Charel Winery was where I met and worked with Ron Giesbrecht who today is the winemaker at Henry of Pelham. In 1989, I returned to British Columbia as the vineyard manager at Covert Farms and during this time bought the land for my own vineyard. I then worked at Paradise Ranch which is now See Ya Later Ranch for two years as the vineyard manager. In 1993, I planted my grapes and in 1997 my first commercial wines were produced. From 1998 to 2002, I taught the viticulture course at Okanagan University College to finance my own vineyard. In 2000, I opened the tasting room at my winery Fairview Cellars. In 2002, I was able to fulfill my dream of working full-time on my own vineyard.


Wine experience that influenced you as a winemaker?

I grew up growing grapes and attending grape growing conferences. As a young grape grower, I knew and was exposed to many of the progressive thinkers of the Canadian wine industry in Ontario who realized that good wine could be made in Canada. Gordon Schwenker, Helen Fisher, and the Wiley Brothers all influenced me as a young grape grower. It was a big turning point for me when I realized that the vines growing in my uncle’s vineyards couldn’t produce good wine.


Epiphany wine?

There have been several over the years. I remember when we were trying to get Riesling planted in the Niagara area and I tried a Riesling from Pfaffenheim located in the Alsace region of France which literally “blew the doors off”.  In the 1980’s I remember trying a Chateau des Charmes Chardonnay which showed me that a wine made in Canada could be phenomenal. After trying a 1982 Bordeaux wine from Chateau Branaire, I knew that this was the level that as a winemaker I wanted to achieve.


Favorite grape variety?

It is the vineyard that will determine what varietal. However, I have always loved Cabernet Sauvignon.  I love to grow it, I love the wines and it is best suited for my vineyard.


Favorite wine region outside of Canada?



Favorite wine tradition?

When Norm Cole, an assistant winemaker at Tinhorn Creek winery, started his own independent mobile wine bottling service in 2005, I was his first customer. I gave him a bottle of my 2003 The Bear as a thank you which he passed onto the next winery. It has now become a tradition with all of the wineries that use Artus Bottling to pass on a bottle to the next winery.


Favorite home-cooked meal and wine pairing other than your own wine?

I love lobster and Chardonnay. I usually pair it with a Chardonnay from Nk’mip Cellars or the now-sold Antelope Ridge.


Favorite home-cooked meal and Fairview Cellars wine pairing?

Prime Rib with Yorkshire puddings and a baked potato with The Bear. (Fairview Cellars The Bear is a blend of five of the classic Bordeaux cultivars: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot).


First restaurant to carry your wine?

Kaleden’s 1912 Restaurant and Naramata’s Country Squire Restaurant which was owned by Ron and Patt Dyck who now own Cannery Brewing.


Can you find your wines outside of BC?

My wine is carried in a few select locations in Alberta. I make only 3500 cases per year.


Favorite cocktail?

A Caesar.


Beer currently in your fridge?

A growler from Firehall Brewery.


What was the last restaurant you ate at?

When I was in Vancouver for the Vancouver International Wine Festival this year. I enjoyed a meal at La Regalade French Bistro in West Vancouver. 


Wild animal encounter?

That’s almost an everyday experience with deer and bears. However, one that really stands out was when I was working at Paradise Ranch. We had grapes still on the vine for icewine and I received a call from Guy Wilson that the bird bangers hadn’t been turned off for the evening. I drove up to the vineyard and turned of the bird bangers and as I was getting into my truck, I heard a loud rumbling. At first I thought it might be an earthquake. As I looked I saw a huge herd of elk heading straight for me. I got into the truck and literally the entire herd of over a hundred elk ran around the truck. I think that was the scariest experience I have had to this point.


Favorite vineyard shoes?

Merrell hiking boots or my Kodiak boots.


Best thing about living in the Okanagan?

Sailing, skiing, dry weather, long summers, short winters, plethora of local food and of course, wine.


Pitfalls that winemakers should watch out for?

Two biggest dangers are cellar palate and arrogance.


Last wines tasted?

Last night we tried a killer Cabernet Sauvignon Bordeaux Blend from Napa Valley’s Blackbird Vineyards.


Anything new?

Building a new cellar, which will open this spring.


BC winemaker that you are currently taking note of?

Honorable mentions go to Bill Dyer and Rusty Figgins. This winemaker is making some killer wines……….




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