There are many interesting people behind the scenes of Godfrey Brownell Vineyards: here are a few snapshots.

Dave

The owner and operator is Dave Godfrey. Born in 1938 in Ste. Vital, the home of Louis Riel, and raised in Winnipeg, Scarborough and Cooksville, Dave has transformed a few hay fields and a private home into a fifteen acre vineyard, a busy winery and a wine-tasting patio open year-round.

His mother’s family, the Brownells, have always farmed. Descended from Italian Protestants living in France, the Brownells came to Rhode Island in the 1600s as indentured servants and worked as farmers. After the US revolution they settled in Nova Scotia and kept farming. Eventually their descendents moved all across North America: the Godfrey’s homesteaded in Saskatchewan at the turn of the century and Dave’s parents were the first to enter the professional class, Richmond as a lawyer and Marguerite as a teacher. Education was very important to them and they were thrilled when he started at Trinity College at the University of Toronto … and less thrilled when he was soon kicked out for challenging authority.

He transferred to Iowa and then Stanford, where he met and soon married Ellen Swartz, the daughter of a Chicago Industrialist. Ellen and Dave then spent several years teaching English and music at Adisadl school near Kumasi, Ghana. By the time he was twenty-four he was back at Trinity, this time as a Professor. Dave spent nine years in and around Toronto.

He bought a 100 acre farm and learned how to farm grains and raise cattle. He also played trumpet with Oketeke, a psycho-afro and highlife quartet with friends from Ghana. In his spare time Dave along with Ellen and others – like Dennis Lee - founded a series of book publishing companies such as the House of Anansi, New Press, Press Procepic, and first published authors like Michael Ondaatje and the Vietnam War classic Draft Dodgers’ Guide to Immigrating to Canada. Dave also wrote a number of books himself such as the 1971 Governor-General award winning The New Ancestors.

In 1978, Dave and Ellen – and now their children – moved to Victoria where Dave taught at the University. He and Ellen also worked on the first free local internet offering, FreeNet and later founded, Softwords Inc., a computer software company that developed Coastnet, a ground-breaking internet service provider.

As he approached his sixties, Dave was driven to drink: he had always loved wine and decided to start growing grapes and making wine seriously. He spent five years experimenting, visiting other vineyards, and looking for farmland. In 1998, he bought a hay farm that turned out to have, around the 1880s, been homesteaded by a Brownell, one of his grandmother’s cousins. This seemed propitious in some way. Dave’s goal is to have a well-managed farm that can produce five to six thousand cases of wines a year, without stressing the land, but instead enhancing the land. He is experimenting with other crops such as olives, as well as incorporating livestock into production. The farm is envisioned as a place with five acres of ponds and wetlands, an exemplary feeder for the Glenora Creek. Lately he has become interested in the notion of carbon neutrality, and is working to make his wine carbon positive.

You can read more about Dave in a December 2007 feature article in the BC Business magazine, here.

Dave

Dave

Warren

Born in St John New Brunswick, Warren, before his fifteenth birthday, was working on the wharfs in the fish factories cleaning salmon. A year later he convinced his mother to rewrite his birth certificate to make him appear seventeen and he joined the army. Soon after, in 1963, he saw action in Cyprus. One of his strongest memories of this time is moving into the crossfire of Turks and Greeks and ‘shooting a few hats off’ to get everyone’s attention so his Brigadier could try to mediate the latest conflict.

After leaving the army, Warren worked in the saw mills in BC, ran his own renovation business, and worked for Canada Post for twenty-eight years, retiring as manager of letter-carrier Depot #3. He has a formidable reputation at the poker table and is one of the best billiards players on the island.

Warren has lived at the vineyard since its inception and keeps a close eye on its developments. He has an extraordinary memory and can recite an endless vineyard litany upon demand. For example, he recalls the 26 075 trellis polls, 18 725 staples, 54 000 feet of drip tubing and 74 miles of trellis line used when the vineyard was first planted in 1998.

Willow

Wilow worked for many years as a lab technician with Sun-Rype but nurtured a love for cooking and was beloved by her colleagues for the delicious desserts she would bring to work.

Her reputation grew and she followed her passion and began a catering business and took a job at the Krishnamurti Foundation in Metchosin where she not only cooked all the food, but grew most of the ingredients and even milked the cows every morning and made fresh yogurt.

Willow fell in love with the Cowichan Valley many years ago and now cooks at a health care centre in Chemanus as well as at GBV during the summer. One of her specialities here is a mouth-watering cheesecake, filled with her own hand-made cheese.

Willow loves to garden and often features fresh and seasonal ingredients from GBV and other local farms.

Simon

Born in the Cowichan Valley in 1985, Simon comes from a family of painters and nature lovers. He is an artist and is in his third year of studies at the Emily Carr Art Institute in Vancouver. In the summers he paints and moonlights as a host at GBV. He has sketched and painted since he was two years old: his preferred medium is egg-tempera, oil is too muddy and garish. 

Simon is known for mastery of Kant, and encyclopaedic knowledge of Ralph Waldo Emerson. But he also plays a mean bass guitar and can lay down the funk.

Simon revels in nature and has an intimate knowledge of the wilds of the island. He has explored the wilderness - ‘tasted the sublime’ as he would say - more than anyone else we know, from Cape Scott (at the very tip of Vancouver Island) all the way down to the humpback of Sooke. He will share his stories of innumerable run-ins with cougars, bears and the supernatural, as well as generously let you know about some of the best unspoiled hiking destinations in the area.

Simon

Samuel

Samuel

Some say Samuel was meant to farm since his earliest memory is wandering among bales of hay in the family’s large barn and then suddenly falling two metres through a trap-door and landing on cow-dung beneath browsing cows.

He grew up mostly in Victoria playing with computers and ran a pre-internet 300 baud bulletin board system off a souped-up commodore 64. After studying English and African Studies at UofT, labouring in rural Ghana, walking for peace with Nipponzan Myohoji in India, and studying Law at Osgoode Hall, Samuel articled with Parkdale Community Legal Services and worked at the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. In 2000, he moved to Victoria with his partner Pamela, a Naturopathic Physician, and for many years ran a successful organic market garden business, selling produce to grocery stores and restaurants.

When not taking care of his son, Zev, he works as the Coordinator of positivelyAFRICA (a non-profit that acts in solidarity with community leaders in eastern and southern Africa to fight the scourge of HIV/AIDS and to help those afflicted live with hope and dignity) and the Director of the Islands Organic Producers Association (a non-profit organic certifying body). The rest of the time you will find him in the fields at the vineyard or working to combine his passion for social justice, sustainable agriculture and international development on the Board of Farmers Without Borders

Godfrey-Brownell Vineyards
4911 Marshall Rd. Duncan BC V9L 6T3 | T 250 715-0504 |

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