Cover Story - Passion at its Finest
Sandy Leier, the homegrown beauty who graces the front cover of the summer issue of Okanagan Woman, is the quintessential example of a woman who has it all… and takes nothing for granted.
Sandy has a son and a daughter in their teens, and balances her family life with her position as the head winemaker at Sandhill Wines. Passion rules, both on the job and off.
Sandy, her partner and the two kids love to travel internationally. Their favourite international destination is Spain, and her first choice for business travel is Chile. She has also visited Australia, France and several other countries, gaining knowledge in the art of winemaking.
“On our vacations, we love the beaches, the climate, the history, the architecture and the people of Spain,” she says, “My family and I take Spanish language lessons, too.”
When they’re home in Kelowna, she and her family take full advantage of the great outdoors. From their home near Knox Mountain, they love to explore the trails and hiking paths in that area. She is also an ardent snowboard enthusiast and in the winter her family can be found carving turns in Big White’s champagne powder.
“I like to find enjoyment in everything I do… job, family and the people around me. I believe you should soak up the moment and never take time for granted. That’s why we travel so much.”
Sandy grew up in Kelowna in an orchard filled with fruit trees and a large garden.
After she completed her degree in Chemistry from UBC Okanagan, she worked in research at the university for a couple of years.
She then entered the field of winemaking, her first love!
Her position as Sandhill Wines Winemaker is a big job. “I have six vineyards and I have to ensure that the grapes are managed and cropped according to our high-quality levels. I work closely with the Vineyard Managers. The grapes arrive at the winery, and we make sure they’re treated and fermented to guarantee we create the best wines possible.”
Sandy has been with Andrew Peller for thirteen years, taking over the Sandhill portfolio in 2017. Prior to that she was instrumental in the development of the Wayne Gretzky brand. Within the company, she also oversees the other brands and works closely with different winemakers in those areas.
“There are a lot of women getting into winemaking, we have three female winemakers currently working in the company” says Sandy, as we happily sip on Sandhill’s delightfully refreshing 2018 Rosé.
Sandy’s wines have received many accolades, including the Lieutenant Governor’s award, and awards for the Syrah du Monde and Best in Class at the All Canadian Wine Championships. And as her passion shines through in all of her winemaking efforts, it also focuses on charitable causes. She is a big supporter of Plan International Canada, a charity directed at helping children.
“I also donate specially to the Because I’m a Girl fund, which is intended to help girls overcome the barriers of gender inequality and helps them achieve their goals.”
She advises young women who are interested in the wine industry to find a mentor and learn what the job really entails before making a commitment. Education is important, but some wineries are looking for experience more than anything.
“The wine industry is not just glamorous. It’s a lot of hard work. But it is an industry where there is still the ability for a woman to work her way up.”