From construction to cuvees — husband-and-wife duo Pam and Mick Luckhurst worked in the lumber industry in Alberta, Canada, before deciding to follow their dreams (and escape the crappy Alberta winters) by starting a winery in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. (That's the short version of their bio; click here for more.)
That was in 2003. No strangers to hard work, they have since turned Road 13 into one of the Okanagan's best-known wineries. Located near Oliver, they grow a variety of grapes, including Chenin Blanc (on vines that date back to the 1960s), Roussanne, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah.
The winery's vineyards are located on land that has been cultivated since the 1920s, when it was owned by then-BC premier "Honest" John Oliver. (The Luckhursts make three wine named in his honour.)
Two years ago, Pam and Mick's son Joe Luckhurst took over as the winery's general manager; his wife Laura also works at the winery in charge of the executive lounge.
Handout, Road 13
Joseph and Laura Luckhurst
(Joe Luckhurst, left; Laura Luckhurst, right)
Here, Joe shares his thoughts on working in a family business, making the transition from theatre to wine, and where he hopes the winery will be in the next decade.
You're part of a family-owned business. What is that like? How do you deal with family disagreements?
"Both my wife, Laura, and I are very family-oriented people, so being able to see and work with family every day is a rare pleasure.
"The key to our success has been to have a shared and unified vision. As long as we always know who and where we want to be, everything else just sort of falls into place. My parents, Pam and Mick, have also been incredibly gracious since the transition of operations over to me. They are always there when I need advice and have had the trust and foresight to allow me to have my own victories and to make my own mistakes.
"Disagreements are surprisingly rare; when they do happen they are best managed by maintaining communication and having a strong chain of command. If Mick and I ever truly can't see eye to eye, then Pam is the tie-breaker. Mom's the boss."
You began your career in theatre, right? Have you thought about finding ways to combine the two worlds?
"Yes, I lived in Seattle and worked on the stage there for most of my twenties. While I remember it fondly, I can't say that I really miss it; the arts world never really suited my temperament. By far the most useful skill from that era is the ability to project and be heard in a crowded room for many hours without losing my voice. Eventually I would love to start a theatre company at the winery; we have the perfect patio for some of the classics.
What's your favourite part of your job? Least favourite?
"My favourite part of the job is a clichéd one — meeting the people that come into the winery. When someone is a big fan and raves about the wines, it really does give you goosebumps. It's exceptionally cool to know that we get the privilege to do something that makes people happy.
"Least favourite? I suppose the egos and pretentiousness that comes with this industry. I love the idea of geeking out about a wine but, at a certain point, you have to realie that it's just fermented grape juice and we're not saving the world with what we do. Wine is about fun, family and friends and I think some people really lose sight of that."
Where do you want to see Road 13 in the next five or 10 years?
"Over the next five years, we will be executing a new vineyard and cellar plan that focuses a little more on the identity of the winery. While I am extremely proud of our extensive portfolio of wines, I am excited to cut things back a little and focus on the wines that express the absolute best of what we do — the Rhones. So expect to see more Syrah and Roussanne coming out soon.
"In 10 years? I can't even begin to imagine. This valley is changing so fast that it is becoming a little difficult to predict the best course. Then, of course, there are our ever-changing liquor laws. So I'll keep us lean, flexible and capable of swift reaction to what ever may come. Until then, we'll keep doing what we do best: make awesome wine."
If you could offer one piece of advice for people considering starting a winery, what would it be?
"Be honest! Sometimes it may not seem like it, but people can smell the bullshit in this industry from a mile away. Be authentic, be you, and treat your customers with the respect they deserve."
Bonus trivia for you: Check out the Road 13 labels and maybe order a wine or 10. Behind the tractor, you'll see a tiny dog. It's a dachshund, a nod to Mick and Pam's two miniature dachshunds, aka the "wienery" dogs.
Handout, Road 13