Gavin Miller came to Canada in 1997, was inspired by the burgeoning wine industry in the Okanagan, and decided to go back to school to learn about grapes and wine in order to begin a career in wine sales. A short way into the course, he decided his passion was not to sell wine, but to grow grapes and make wine.
He then embarked on a 12-year career journey starting in vineyards, then into the cellar, working for most of the established wineries in and around Penticton and the Naramata Bench, notably making award-winning wines for the likes of Poplar Grove and Painted Rock. Gavin’s passion for the vineyard and the terroir is expressed through his signature, hands-off, minimalist winemaking approach. He is known in the industry for his big Bordeaux-style reds and has a distinct way of showcasing a wine’s innate varietal character. This shines through in his wines as each varietal at Upper Bench literally expresses its roots.
Shana Miller arrived in British Columbia in the spring of 1995, having been born and raised in Nova Scotia. Shortly after she moved to BC she met her husband, Gavin, through the original gang at Poplar Grove (popular groove). It is from those early friendships that Shana, in 2002, began her love affair with cheese. Taught the art of cheesemaking by the original cheesemaker at Poplar Grove, Sandra Chalmers, Shana found her passion – the pure timeless art of cheesemaking.
With the purchase of Upper Bench in 2011 and the careful design and build of the state-of-the-art, CFIA Registered creamery, Shana has been able to create her own line of Upper Bench blue, brie and washed-rind cheeses. A self-professed ‘curd nerd’, Shana loves every aspect of cheesemaking. She confesses, “it is a lot of physical work, but the reward of seeing a fully ripe, ready to eat wheel of gorgeous cheese is worth it.” The creamery team is especially enjoying the fun of creating special one-of-a-kind cheeses and sharing them exclusively with Upper Bench Curd & Corks Club members.
Gavin and Shana had long dreamed of combining their passions and in early 2011 that dream became a reality when they found the perfect property and partners, the Nystroms.
The couple’s relationship with Wayne and Margareta Nystrom dates back to 2005. Having lived next door to Poplar Grove Winery, the Nystroms quickly fell in love with Gavin’s first class wines and Shana’s gorgeous cheeses. The Nystroms always had a deep admiration of the passion the Millers displayed in what they made, so, when Gavin ran into Wayne at the local Safeway and pitched his idea it was a fairly easy decision for the Nystroms to make.
Wayne Nystrom graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Degree in Chemical Engineering (BASc). His main business focus has been in the pulp and paper industry, however with his strong business acumen, has started many companies and works closely with several others. Wayne loves wine and cheese, but his real passion is Margareta (and fruit – the man has been known to eat up to 10 apples in a day!)
Margareta Nystrom was born in Sweden and previously worked in the Hotel industry there, prior to moving to Canada over 35 years ago. She continues to be very active in the family coffee business in Europe, fittingly named Wayne’s Coffee. Margareta loves cheese and for her the stinkier the better.