Howard Soon with out a doubt is one of Canada's best winemakers. His career, his contributions to the wine industry and his dedication were honoured by presenting him with the Order of Canada.
"The Order of Canada is the highest honour that Canada can give to a citizen. No one is more deserving of such an honour than Howard Soon. He will do his 40th vintage this year at Vanessa Vineyard, which he joined in 2017 on retiring from Sandhill Wines. Throughout his illustrious career, his wines have won more than 100 major awards. He has mentored numerous other winemakers. He was a pioneer in championing single vineyard wines and in elucidating the concept of terroir. Becoming the first BC winemaker to receive the Order of Canada crowns a remarkable, and continuing, career.”- John Schreiner
He was born in 1952 in Vancouver, the grandson of a shopkeeper who emigrated from southern China in the 1880s. Howard graduated in biochemistry from the University of British Columbia in 1974. After five years in the brewing industry, he joined Calona Vineyards in 1980 as a quality control supervisor, became assistant winemaker in 1981 and subsequently was promoted to chief winemaker.
He was the first B.C. winemaker to fashion a vintage that won a gold medal at the Chardonnay du Monde competition in France. In fact a double gold and best in category with a 2011 Small Lots Chardonnay at the Chardonnay du Monde Competition in France.
Being a biochemist he believes in science as well as craftsmanship in making wines. In 2009, at Sandhill, the winery a clean sweep at the Canadian Wine Awards by picking up trophies for best winery, best red wine and best white wine.
“Seeking to show terroir in your wines makes you a better winemaker,” says Soon. “The best place for a winemaker to be is in his vineyard first, and I train all my winemakers to do that. I don’t give a s–t if you’ve got great science, and technical stuff. That’s cold. Anybody can do that.” Science must work in the service of translating this “horticultural, nature-driven” gift into something beautifu".
Soon has won the Okanagan Wine Festivals’ Founder’s Award, the B.C. Wine Institute’s Award of Distinction and the Vancouver International Wine Festival’s Spirited Industry Professional Award.
To his credit he has been awarded nine Lieutenant Governor’s Award of Excellence.
He also has sat on the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra’s board and the UBC faculty advisory board.
On Howard’s retirement from Sandhill, Craig McDonald, the senior winemaker at Peller, paid this complement to him: “As a fellow winemaker, I will remain in awe at his depth of knowledge, dedication to the craft and unwavering passion toward never compromising wine quality. Indeed, Howard has served the wine consumer well and has touched so many industry professionals along the way it’s too numerous to count. Howard’s legacy continues on with Sandhill and with the many winemakers he has mentored over the years, all respecting his experience, wisdom and dedication to their learning.”
Howard also believes much of th credit belongs to the grape grower.
Howard is the current winemaker at Vanessa Vineyards, the Similkameen winery he joined in 2017 shortly after retiring from Sandhill Wines. His 2020 will be his 41 vintage.