Northern Lights Estate Winery (NLEW), a division of Family Fast Foods Ltd. started construction in 2013 with the intention of being BC’s most northern winery. NLEW determined that it would produce a variety of fruit wines and blends using fruits primarily produced on site including blueberry, strawberry, haskap, gooseberry, apple, cherry, raspberry, black currant, and rhubarb in order to capitalize on local materials and climate. The orchard was built to include over 2 acres of land at the bottom of the Nechako cutbanks and leading up to the banks of the Nechako River. The production facility and wine tasting room were built on the bank the Nechako River and overlook the orchard and the downtown of Prince George, BC. Services that will be added to the property after the initial opening include tours, wedding services, and a restaurant.
Family Fast Foods Ltd. was incorporated in 1988 and quickly became involved in a number of business across a variety of industries including trucking, farms, food service and more. The group which was founded by Pat and Brenda Bell and includes other partners in the area currently owns and operates the Wendy’s franchises in Prince George, BC. Operating partner Doug Bell has upheld a philosophy of the “3 legged stool” since taking on his role in 2007. This philosophy upholds the belief that the (3) important partners in a business, shareholders, staff, and customers, must be appreciated otherwise the stool becomes unstable. In the spirit of this philosopy, Family Fast Foods Ltd. has donated over $500,000 to local charities, and organizations since its inception.
Pat was born in Vancouver and Brenda in Prince George. They met at UBC and spent much of their working careers in the Hospitality industry. The Bells and their family moved to Prince George in 1988 to become Franchisees for Wendy’s where they opened 2 restaurants which they still own today. In addition they co-owned a logging company and owned a trucking company.
In 2000 Pat ran for the nomination of the BC Liberal Party and in 2001 he was elected as an MLA to the BC Legislature. His 12 years in Politics included roles as Minister of State for Mining, Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Minister of Forests and finally the Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training. During this Time Brenda continued to run the family enterprises. Pat and Brenda became interested in wine making and the wine industry during Pat’s time as Minister of Agriculture and Lands.
In 2013 Pat, Brenda and their son Doug announced their intention to build British Columbia’s northern most winery. Northern Lights Estate Winery on the banks of the Nechako River is a family dream come true. Pat and Brenda are supporting the management team to produce BC’s finest fruit wines in world class surroundings.
Doug Bell is the operating Partner and developer for Northern Lights Estate Winery. Long-term resident of Prince George, Doug has lived in the community since 1988. He is the owner/operator of Family Fast Foods group of companies and has been since 2007. This group includes two local Wendy’s franchises, a land holding company, and Northern Lights Estate Winery Ltd. He is committed to excellence in Prince George and has volunteered his time for a variety of committees at UNBC, has coached local high school sports teams. He has previously served on several committees for the city of Prince George and is currently on the Board of Directors for Initiatives Prince George. Doug is also currently the president of the national marketing association of Wendy’s Restaurants of Canada.
From 1985-1989, Christine attended the University of Québec in Montréal and achieved a Bachelors degree in Biology/Toxicology. From 1990-1993, she attended the University of Bordeaux in France to achieve her DNO (National Diploma of Oenology). Some of her practicums included cellars like Château Margaux and Petrus but also wine laboratories and consulting in the region of Bordeaux. WE are happy to welcome her and her wealth of experience to the North.
The Director of Operations
Noemies’ passion for agriculture started in Pemberton in 1999 while working on organic vegetable farms. Noemie graduated from Laval University in Quebec City with a degree in Agriculture Science. She has been a member of the British Columbia Institute of Agrologists since 2007. Noemie’s creativity is inspired by various professional developments in the wine sector and her motto is to produce excellent quality fruits to create refined fruit wines.
The Farm Manager
Lucas grew up on Vancouver Island and briefly came to Prince George during high school. He studied biology and microbiology at UVIC where he obtained summer work in agricultural research. Since then he has worked in the fields of pest management, consulting, and biological control. In 2016 Lucas moved back to Prince George and joined the winery team a year later. Lucas is passionate about the environment and loves the outdoors.
The Outside Sales Manager
Working in the sales and service industry for over 15 years Mahala has brought her experience to grow the business with strategic foresight. She has a clear vision for company growth with her sights set on larger markets and an ever-growing client list. She has been integral to the advancement of the Aurora Wine club, with its number now above provincial averages. Mahala’s passion for great service and fine wines make her a fundamental member of the team.
The Events Coordinator
Jenese comes to us from the Okanagan where she gained 15 years of Event Industry experience in fast-paced, high demand properties. She has been able to develop a strong foundation in Wedding and Corporate planning while working in both Winery and Resort settings. Her career has been based around cultivating one of a kind event experiences and continues to do so at Northern Lights Estate. Whether it be a corporate meeting or a wedding, Jenese will ensure that you don’t have to worry about any detail.
The Bistro Manager
The Bistro’s Executive Chef
Rene was born and raised in Prince George B.C, he is a third Generation Chef who graduated from the culinary arts program at the College of New Caledonia. Rene is always trying to marry international flavours and techniques with the bounty of local producers, and always trying to expand his knowledge of the local terroir. Whether it be developing a new, seasonal gourmet menu for the Bistro or working to inspiring student’s in culinary school, Rene is proud to bring a new dining experience to the community.
Sustainability in the North
NLEW promotes the sustainable health and productivity of the ecosystem – soil, water, plants and people. We focus on developing an enterprise that is sustainable and harmonious with the environment. Soil regeneration, biodiversity and water conservation are important for us.
The berries are produced in a conventional way, which means synthetic fertilizers are used. However, we made the decision to favor only pesticides approved for organic farming in case of pest and disease control. The use of chemical pesticides will be very limited for the sake of the workers, consumers and pollinators health.
We maintain long-term soil fertility by optimizing conditions for biological activity within the soil. To accomplish this, we use compost, mulch and cover crops between the rows to maintain a rich soil. Plants grown in healthy soil are better able to feed and protect themselves from pests and disease, which means they won’t require heavy applications of fertilizers and pesticides. Farm manager’s Noemie likes to say the common refrain: “Feed the soil, not the plant”.
We maintain biological diversity within the system by growing a variety of crops. We preserve and enrich natural areas for nesting habitat and native pollinator food.
We limit our water consumption by irrigating our crop with drip tape irrigation controlled by an electronic panel. This system reduces runoff and evaporation encountered with sprinkler system. Been located along the beautiful Nechako River, it is our mandate to help prevent stream bank erosion. An exhaustive riparian restoration plan has been designed with the help of local professional biologist.
We hope our love and respect for the land will be tasted in our wine.
Northern Lights Estate Winery has entered into a long term agreement with Matt and Cynthia Ziemer of Heritage Acres in Quesnel, BC.
Matt and Cynthia take great pride in their 3 acre orchard, carefully tending their haskap, black and red currant, saskatoon, cherry and raspberry. The Ziemers follow the principles of organic agriculture and the quality shows.