It was a crisp fall morning at Whispering Horse Winery where we met Laurent, his lovely wife Melissa, sons Luka and Elio, and parents Barry & Shirley Giesbrecht.
We joined them and about 20 others from the community to pick grapes. As it turns out, picking grapes is quite therapeutic. We felt as if we were transported back in time to a different place, a place so beautiful you needed to know more; more about the history and more about the people that run this beautiful vineyard.
The winery’s name, Whispering Horse, was inspired by the history of the land. It was first established in the early 1960s as J-Bar Ranch, where John Giesbrecht (Barry’s father and Melissa’s grandfather) bred, raised, and trained hundreds of horses for over 50 years.
J-Bar Ranch began in 1965 where John constructed a large indoor riding arena, as well as various other smaller barns and stalls on the property. At that time, John chose to focus on breeding Registered Quarter Horses and often housed at least 25-30 horses at a time, and up to 50 at J-Bar’s peak.
John’s son Barry, and his siblings, all began working and riding at J-Bar Ranch at young ages. During his youth, Barry worked on the ranch helping his Dad with breaking colts every year up until the age of 21. Later in life, Barry eventually settled on the property directly adjacent to the ranch, and as a result, always remained connected to this piece of land. He and his wife Shirley and their three children, Melissa, Alanna, and Tyler, would also all learn to ride at J-Bar Ranch, and many years later, even Melissa’s husband Laurent learned to ride there.
J-Bar Ranch is a place that is powerfully infused with many deep memories. John had poured his heart and soul into the ranch and this property, with hopes that one day a family member would take over the reins.
In later years, Melissa (John’s granddaughter) and Laurent (Melissa’s husband) approached Barry and Shirley about the possibility to keep J-Bar Ranch and this special piece of land in the family, but with a new purpose.
After much research and discussion, Barry, Shirley, Laurent and Melissa took the plunge. Fed by a common enthusiasm and love for wine, Laurent’s creative passion for turning dreams into reality, and Barry’s practical hands-on knowledge, the decision was made to buy J-Bar Ranch and transform it into a family-run boutique winery.
Today, with the passing of this property to the next generations, pasture has changed to vineyard, and over 6,000 vines have now taken root. In wanting to preserve the memories and spirit of J-Bar Ranch, they chose to locate their winery within the existing walls of the old riding arena. This means their winery now sits atop the very place where they all spent so much time riding, keeping these memories close to their hearts as they move forward with this new endeavor.
Laurent Fadanni is the vineyards Viticulturist and Winemaker.
Laurent was born in Liège, Belgium (2 hours from Champagne, France) from Italian parents, where he grew up surrounded by amazing wines. With his ceaseless drive for creating, Laurent engaged in many arts throughout his youth, but his passion was in poetry. Since the age of 17, he has been writing poetry, publishing six books, with more still underway today. After high school, Laurent pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree in French Literature, specializing in African Literature, and also began working in theatre and dance.
He also fell in love with travelling, and after completing his degree and brief career teaching in Belgium, moved to Montreal, Canada, to pursue playwriting and theatre. It was in Montreal that he met Melissa, changing the course of his life’s path. Laurent decided to move west with Melissa, and turned his passion towards wine, eventually building a home on the property of Whispering Horse. Today, Laurent continues to write poetry and shares his enthusiasm for literature through his career as a high school teacher in the provincial Francophone school system.
Laurent’s love and knowledge of wine was the catalyst that sparked the development of Whispering Horse Winery. His wine training began with the WSET course, completing level II, until he realized he was more interested in actually ‘creating’ excellent wines. With that decision, he took a brief apprenticeship in Montalcino, Italy, where he lived and worked on an organic vineyard. Upon his return to Canada, he then learned the ‘science’ and ‘technicalities’ of wine through his enrollment in the Washington State University Viticulture and Oenology programs, both of which he successfully completed. As Whispering Horse’s vigneron, Laurent is able to apply his creative, philosophical, and technical wine knowledge towards making honest, minimalist, and exceptional wines.
To learn more about Whispering Horse Winery Visit their Website.
Where to find their wines…
By appointment at Whispering Horse Winery | Email: hello@whisperinghorsewinery
- Garrison Wine & Liquor Merchants | 45555 Market Way, Chilliwack, BC V2R 0M5
- Whatcom Wine & Spirits | 100-1900 N Parallel Rd, Abbotsford, BC V3G 2C6
- 1185 Mainland St, Vancouver, BC V6B 5P2
- Village VQA Wines (Kitsilano) 1811 W 1st Ave, Vancouver, BC V6J 5B8
- Legacy Liquor Store (Olympic Village) 1633 Manitoba St, Vancouver, BC V5Y 0B8
- Liberty Wine Merchants (Commercial Drive) 1622 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, BC V5L 3Y4
- Restaurant 62 (by the bottle) 2001 McCallum Rd, Abbotsford, BC V2S 3N5
- Field House (by the bottle) 2281 W Railway St, Abbotsford, BC V2S 2E3
- Bow & Stern (by the bottle and glass) 2551 Montrose Ave, Abbotsford, BC V2S 3T4