Ingo Grady’s thirty-five years in the wine trade have been marked by his unswerving dedication to wine and to always making sure everyone drinks optimally. A spirited public face of the industry, Grady has worked in every sector of the international fine wine trade. His work for major wine companies has taken him around the globe resulting in a unique blend of knowledge and experience, which he happily shares in an enjoyable and engaging style.
Grady grew up in Germany near the Mosel River and moved to the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia as a teenager. After working for The Mark Anthony Group of Companies, the parent company of Mission Hill Family Estate, Grady spent several years travelling and exploring various aspects of the global wine industry. He returned to Canada in 1989 and formed Grady Wine Marketing, an importing firm with an international portfolio of fine estate wines. Grady joined the senior management team at Mission Hill Family Estate winery in 1999. Today he contributes in the areas of business development, public relations and hospitality, and manages the inbound media and trade visitor program for the winery.
A graduate of Simon Fraser University, Grady is also the proud father of Mikela, Spencer and Sean. He is married to Patti Ogden who has owned and operated Okanagan Wine Country Tours since 1998.
How do the workshops, tours and tastings that you offer at Mission Hill Family Estate give guests a unique perspective on the history, environment or culture of your region?
Whether it’s during a meal at our Terrace Restaurant or a tour through our barrel cellars, the highlight of the experience is always the wine. More specifically, we highlight how this valley imparts very different flavour characteristics on the wine, depending on its vineyard location. The Okanagan Valley has a rich and successful history in agriculture, primarily with fruits like apples, peaches, cherries, and apricots. We focus on how the very same factors that make this region so successful in growing tree fruits also make it incredible place to farm grapes. From volcanic activity to ice-age glaciers, the story of the Okanagan Valley can be found in the soil, and we love to retell this story through our wines.
How has the experience of visiting the estate evolved since its opening?
Each season, the estate grows bit by bit, but not necessarily in size. For example, our Terrace Restaurant initially started as a place for our guests to grab a Panini and relax as they overlook the vineyards and lake. We then realized the Terrace would be a fantastic setting to serve dishes specifically created to enhance our wines; true wine country cuisine: in-season, fresh, organic, and exquisite! After several years, we now serve not only lunch and dinner, but also a special multi-course chef’s menu that changes daily. Additionally, we’ve been updating our tours with new insightful experiences; this year we have a brand new Winemaker’s Tour where our winemakers guide guests through the cellars to shed light on what they’re currently working on. Each tour is unique because it focuses on a completely different aspect of the winemaking world every week.
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
One of the most important things to consider about any type of farming – whether it’s food or wine – is the impact you’re creating on the environment and your carbon footprint. In almost everything we do, we strive to be as sustainable as possible. In our vineyards, its things like using drip irrigation to carefully manage each plant’s water supply down to the drop. Or building bat houses on vineyard sites to create an ecosystem where bats prey on bugs and other pests harmful to the grapes, instead of us using chemical pesticides in the vineyards. In our kitchens, its things like growing our own herbs, fruits, and vegetables right here on the estate, and working closely with local farmers for anything else we can’t grow here. We also produce our own estate honey from our beekeeping program.
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider visiting Mission Hill?
I wish every guest knew that this winery is family owned. It’s not owned by some large corporation. It’s owned by a family that simply loves wine and the Okanagan Valley. We welcome each of our guests to be a part of this family and enjoy the region’s wines.
What is one challenge of operating a business that straddles the industries of wine-making, experiential travel, and gastronomy?
Our single-biggest challenge is the seasonality of our business which peaks in July and falls off in early October. This period accounts for 80% of our annual visitor count. Relatedly, staff recruitment and training to ensure everyone performs at a high level of core competence pose unique challenges. As does the sometimes overwhelming daily visitor count which could compromise our industry-leading standards of gracious wine-country hospitality. The greatest reward for the Visitor Experience team is to exceed the already high expectations with which our guests arrive at the estate.
What sets Mission Hill apart from other wineries in the region?
Our gracious, professional, and exceedingly well-trained Visitor Experience team exceeds guest expectations through a multitude of engaging and informative activities, such as those new insightful tours I mentioned. The winery’s unrivalled architecture frames an already picturesque mountaintop location. The consistently outstanding and highly acclaimed portfolio of Canada’s most sought-after estate wines awaits our guests.
What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
Plan ahead, reserve early, and enjoy in a relaxed and unforced atmosphere an experience that encourages complete immersion in and enjoyment of wine culture. Don’t get caught up in the details, but also don’t leave your planning to the last minute, especially during the busy summer season.
What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?
Consistently exceeding guests’ expectations and seamlessly connecting the different winery experiences available. Rather than our guests jumping from one experience to the next during their visit here at the winery, we strive to make the entire visit one unforgettable experience.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
Smile often, talk less.
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
There are too many touch-points at the estate that elicit emotional reactions from our guests to just limit this account to one. For instance, the pealing of our bells at noon and again at 5pm; dining in the Chagall Room in the presence of a one-of-a-kind 5×5 metre Marc Chagall tapestry; the sound of Chris Botti’s horn filling the courtyard; a full moon rising over Okanagan Lake during a Chris Isaac concert; the sublime experience of tasting a mature bottle of Oculus for the first time.