Meet the Team
The story of Serendipity is, in many ways, the story of Judy Kingston. Judy grew up in Toronto, completed her undergrad in Math and Computers at Western University in London, Ontario, and her law degree at the University of Ottawa. She was also in the first graduating class to receive a degree in computer science at Western University.
According to Judy’s daughter Katie O’Kell, Judy doesn’t seem ‘real on paper’. Before purchasing the winery, Judy was a pilot, a model, and a trained chef, all before building a distinguished career as a technology lawyer with leading national law firms. Judy loved her law practice and would still be a lawyer if it hadn’t been for a car accident in the early 90s that caused sustained memory loss. Judy couldn’t practice law any longer, and was a stay-at-home mother during her long recovery process. After her children Katie and Patrick graduated and moved out of the house, she realized that she wasn’t ready to retire, but wasn’t quite sure where her future path would take her.
She was considering opening a restaurant in Ontario, but after taking a few side roads in Naramata on a holiday in BC in 2005, she happened to drive past an apple and cherry orchard, and had the ‘aha moment’ that would launch the next phase of her career. She placed an offer on the property that day on her way to the airport to return home, and by the time she landed in Toronto, the offer was accepted.
That same year, Judy began studying viticulture and winemaking in BC (Okanagan College) and New Zealand as she designed the vineyard, and began building the aptly-named Serendipity Winery. Judy built everything, literally, from the ground up: overseeing the planting, irrigation, landscaping, barrel selection, winemaking and winery design. Her role as owner makers her a reluctant ‘face’ of the company, although truth told, she’d usually rather be riding the vineyard tractor, or blending in the winery. In recent time, she delights in watching her staff develop their skills and evolve their varied winery roles as her burgeoning company moves forward. Judy embraces the spirit of collaboration and support within the wineries of the Naramata Bench. When she first got involved in the industry in 2006, she had certain fantasy ideals about the ‘winery lifestyle’ but took on the challenges (and rewards) of each step in the process. After almost eight years, she is confident that the Serendipity team will be together for many years to come. She says, “While we all bring different things to the winery and vineyard, what we all have in common is we all work with our hearts, care for each other, and do our work with unending passion. None of us work by the textbook, and none of us work alone.”
Katie was born and raised in Toronto and received her BSc in Biology at Hamilton’s McMaster University. After ruling out medical school, Katie was accepted into law school but had time off between her undergrad and the start of the next session, so she traveled to Naramata to assist her mom in the interim. She had already spent a few summers helping at the winery, so knew what she was getting into… almost. Katie ended up loving the work at the winery so much that she deferred her law school acceptance and has stayed on at Serendipity full time. Katie has recently completed a three-month stage at New Zealand’s ultra-modern Delegat Wine Estate, where she worked harvest for the 2016 vintage. This new winemaking experience falls on the heels of Katie earning her winemaking certificate from UC Davis in California, where she received an impressive 100% on her final exam. She brings this newly-acquired knowledge to the Serendipity cellar.VIEW/HIDE MORE
Katie’s official title is ‘second in command’ but she wears many hats at the winery. She spends time in the cellar, the vineyard, the wine shop and the office as required (often all of them in the same day), when she’s not on the road making deliveries, conducting tastings, attending events, and managing the wine club. She suggests, “My main goal is to take as much off Judy’s shoulders as I can, to make her life easier. So when I come in to work each day, I never really know what I’m doing. I just see what needs to be done and I take care of it.”
She loves that every BC winery has a unique story and is excited to embrace the freedom of experimentation in the local wine industry to help move it forward. She feels lucky to be working closely with the entire Serendipity team – a group who truly loves that they do and is passionate about making the winery a success on all levels.
Katie believes it’s a testament to Judy’s personality and determination that keeps everyone moving forward. The winery atmosphere that Katie nurtures is down to earth, sometimes silly and fun, but always warm and welcoming.
Cooper is an award-winning winemaker and consultant with a background in journalism and restaurants. He currently lives in the Naramata Bench with his wife, Audralee Daum, where he created his own Black Cloud Pinot Noir brand six years ago. As Cooper's exclusive label, Black Cloud Pinot Noir will also find a new production home at Serendipity but remain a private label managed by himself and Daum.VIEW/HIDE MORE
Coming from Township 7 Vineyards and Winery after nine vintages, Cooper brings with him an exquisite palate and extensive winemaking expertise.
Serendipity owner, Judy Kingston, is thrilled to have Cooper as the newest addition to their winemaking team.