As subsistence farmers in Punjab, Sukhi Dhaliwal’s parents were so poor, they sent him to live with an uncle in another town. Now, along with his brother Balwinder, he owns Kismet Estate Winery and is one of the largest wine grape growers in British Columbia’s Okanagan region.
This tale of rags to rosé is a common one among the dozen-plus Okanagan wineries owned by Punjabi immigrants and their descendants. Punjab was becoming increasingly dangerous in the 1980s because of anti-Sikh laws and violence. Punjabi immigration to B.C. was already common, and in the Okanagan, new arrivals found familiar aspects to the region: The Okanagan stretches north from the U.S. border into British Columbia’s interior, along a fertile river valley about 160 miles east of Vancouver; Punjab, which means “land of five rivers,” stretches south from the Pakistani border and grows much of India’s food.
Dhaliwal, who arrived in Canada at the age of 21 in 1991 with no English skills and no education beyond 10 years old, only knew how to grow.