British Columbians have grown accustomed to the daily presence of provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry as she charts the province’s course throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. But for the ownership group of a Similkameen winery, her calm demeanour is an old comfort.
That’s because the widely-beloved Henry is herself a co-owner of Clos du Soleil, a winery in Keremeos she helped found with a group of friends in 2006.
Also among the current ownership group is Michael Clark, who serves as Clos du Soleil’s winemaker and general manager. Like himself and the rest of the owners, Clark says Henry has a love for quality wine, food and travel.
“She’s told me a million times—and she could be speaking for any of us—that it’s a lot more than just a business, it’s a passion,” Clark said. “We’re all involved in it because of the passion for wine and the passion for the valley.”
While she hasn’t been directly involved with the winery since assuming her role as the province’s top doctor, Clark says Henry is very much a fan of all the wines Clos du Soleil has to offer.
Her personal favourites are Signature—the winery’s flagship reds blend—and Fumé Blanc, a wine that’s predominantly Sauvignon Blanc, Clark said.
The pandemic has thrust Henry into the spotlight, but having known her well before the crisis started, Clark says he’s not surprised to see the number of British Columbians who have received her positively in her critical role.
“I think the reason people have bonded to her so much when she’s on the TV or the news is because she’s being her real self in front of the cameras,” Clark said. “That’s what she’s like in person, too. She’s soft-spoken, very friendly, warm and genuine.”
Before the rest of B.C. knew her as the soft-spoken voice of calm amid times of upheaval, Clark knew Henry as a voice of reason no matter the circumstance.
“I knew that she had a very important role for our province, and so I already knew that if there was ever a health crisis in B.C., she would be in a central leadership position to deal with it,” Clark added.
“But I certainly didn’t expect what’s going on now.”
A long list of industries are up against severe financial strain as a result of the pandemic, and with its reliance on tourism and restaurants, the wine industry is no exception.
“The restaurant industry is going through a horrendous time and that’s closely tied with the provincial wine industry. So it’s a challenging time is the bottom line,” Clark said.
Fortunately, many British Columbians are steadfast in both their love of wine and their willingness to support those who produce it in their local areas.
“The B.C. public is extremely supportive of the B.C. wine industry, and so we’re really lucky to have that intense support from the people of British Columbia—and people across Canada for that matter,” Clark said.
The timeline towards a return to normalcy is uncertain, a reality Henry has affirmed every step of the way. Today, May 30, Henry took to the podium to remind residents to remain cautious and “proceed with care” as the province enters the third week of its reopening plan.
Uncertainty prevails in these times, but Clark says he’s glad to have a friend like Henry leading the charge.
“We’re really proud of the great work that she’s been doing for our province. These are definitely unique times that we’re in right now and we’re all really thankful for everything that she’s doing.”
Clos du Soleil, which translates to ‘enclosed vineyard in the sun,’ is located at 2568 Upper Bench Road in Keremeos.