It is a delight to feature Leeann Froese in my James the Wine Guy Interview series. I met Leeann at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton, Okanagan Valley in British Columbia in 2013. Leeann is co-owner of Town Hall Brands with her husband Andrew Von Rosen. Town Hall Brands focus areas are PR, business strategy, graphic design, and event management in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.
Leeann is passionate about food and wine–she lives her professional life as a vocation and she wears it perfectly well. Leeann is also a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, an invite only organization for women leaders in the food and beverage industry.
Leeann is outstandingly knowledgeable and her business instincts intersects with excellence in brand building. She is an outstanding person to know and if you haven’t had the opportunity to meet her put her on your ‘to meet’ list. And if you know Leeann–I hope you learn something new.
Thank you Leeann for taking the time out to be part of James the Wine Guy Interview series!
JTWG Q1: You and your husband are owners and founders of Town Hall Brands–a marketing, PR and strategy house based in Vancouver, B.C., Canada – you have been doing this for sometime–what keeps you driving to success?
LF: It’s a bit of a long story; Town Hall Brands is only six years old, but I have been in the business for 22 years.
I was a partner in a marketing agency called Coletta & Associates, and my husband Andrew had his design company Andrew von Rosen Creative. Our agencies were two creative, productive, and highly respected groups that worked together to define, decorate, and promote world class brands for 15+ years.
Coletta & Associates was owned by Christine Coletta (Sr. partner), Julian Scholefield and me, and Andrew was our out-of-house graphic designer.
In 2013 we closed Coletta & Associates as Christine had opened her own winery Okanagan Crush Pad a few years before and it needed her full time. Julian joined her to work there.
So… since we shared so many clients already, our two teams (me and Andrew) merged to be a new, united, collaborative team; Town Hall Brands. And now instead of a partner, Christine is a client. We are proud to do graphic design and PR for her winery.
What drives us always is the belief in the beautiful people that make up the industry, and that we know we offer skills that can really help them shine. When our clients succeed, we do.
JTWG Q2: You always are top of mind when I think of BC wines. I try to keep up with wine trends and distribution everywhere (it’s a bit daunting to keep track of many things) — has interprovincial wine distribution become more open in Canada?
LF: First of all, thank you for saying if you think of BC you think of me. That’s so flattering. Regarding the interprovincial wine distribution: do NOT get me started on this. The short answer is that it is SLOWLY improving but we are far from having open provincial borders. We are one country!
JTWG Q3: Canadian wines sans ice wines are as ‘rare as rubies’ in the US. Will there ever be a time when BC wines will be more available in the US?
LF: I have no crystal ball for the future but what I can tell you is that right now there are a small number of BC wineries that sell in the United States. British Columbia is such a tiny region though that we mainly consume all the wines made here ourselves, so you’ll have to come here to enjoy.
JTWG Q4: I recall when I first visited Okanagan Valley there was comments that Okanagan Valley produce only enough wines for BC and a bit beyond that–is that true? Or is there an increase in production over time?
LF: There is only so much cultivatable land and we are reaching our limit in the Okanagan. However, there are a few other areas of BC where grapes are grown and wines are made, and this helps the overall production in the province and proves out that there is more to BC wine than just the Okanagan. Vancouver Island and the Fraser Valley are two areas that are amassing wineries. Look for VQA for help in navigating quality.
JTWG Q5: What is Okanagan Valley doing today that the world needs to taste and know about?
LF: We have many diverse microclimates in the Okanagan. We have this amazing climate that allows us hot days and cool evenings. The Okanagan has a lot of fantastic sparkling wine, made in all methods from traditional to Pet Nat to Charmat. Our climate affords us high acid with a lot of fruit ripeness at the same time, and the bubbly wines show this off well.
There are myriad grape varieties used in still wines, from aromatic Siegerrebe to Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, and full-bodied Cabernet and Merlot. It depends on the area the grapes are grown in. As a region we are working out how to plant for site.
JTWG Q6: What is your favourite food and wine pairing?
LF: Wow that is a VERY tough question. Sparkling wine with something fried, or a crisp white wine with slightly salty Charcuterie. I guess the answer is something a bit fatty with the acid to cut it?
JTWG Q7: l have been fortunate to put ‘foot on ground’ twice in Okanagan Valley – a truly magical land – I think it is is North America’s undiscovered wine country; super easy and friendly wineries to visit–fantastic food and restaurants at wineries…. At least from a California perspective that is quite nice. What might be a suggested itinerary you might recommend someone do when they visit Okanagan Valley.
LF: Okanagan Valley… there are a LOT of wineries in the 100-mile-long Okanagan.
The BC Wine Institute has a terrific trip planner https://explore.winebc.com/
You will need several days but here are surface-scratching suggestions grouped by area from North – South. I tried to give you a range of sizes and styles.
- Gray Monk Estate Winery
- Arrowleaf Cellars
- 50th Parallel
- Ex Nihilo
- Summerhill Pyramid Winery (can eat here)
- Martin’s Lane
- CedarCreek (can eat here)
- Quails’ Gate
- Mission Hill
- Little Straw
- Indigenous World
- Sage Hills
- Okanagan Crush Pad: maker of Haywire Narrative and Free Form wines – owned by my former business partner
- TH Wines
- TIME Winery (and do the barrel tasting)
- Painted Rock
- Poplar Grove
- Upper Bench
- Howling Bluff
- Red Rooster
- Bench 1775
- La Frenz
- Stag’s Hollow
- Noble Ridge
- Blue Mountain
- See Ya Later Ranch – amazing view
- Wild Goose
- Black Hills Estate Winery
- Covert Farms
- Bartier Bros.
- Le Vieux Pin
Golden Mile Bench
- Tinhorn Creek
- Hester Creek
- CC Jentsch
- Nk’Mip Cellars
- Moon Curser
JTWG Q8: Vancouver’s food scene is quite nice–what is blossoming now? Micro distilleries, microbreweries?
LF: We have it ALL here in Vancouver. Name it and you can get it. All nationalities have representation here. Our sushi is excellent here; Vancouver is where the California Roll was invented! Bubble tea is as popular as coffee and there is a trend toward more casual eats like fried chicken places. Also, vegetarian and vegan restaurants are increasingly popular. There is an excellent craft brewery scene here. Come and visit and I will take you around! (And come hungry!)
JTWG Q9: When you are not drinking BC wines what are some of your wine passions?
LF: I am a wine LOVER (officially, as Canada’s first ambassador for #winelover) and so I love wines from all over the world. A couple I am passionate about are Prosecco DOCG and Valpolicella from Italy, and am a fan of Vinho Verde wines too.
When not drinking wine I love to try different gins.
JTWG Q10: What is a place you have visited often and cannot wait to go back?
LF: Northern Italy for sure, and I love Paso Robles.
JTWG Q10: What are you reading now? What is your favourite book or books?
LF: I have very little time to read but I like to read books on birds – mainly how to identify. Right now I am reading a business book Marketing 3.0 by Philip Kotler.
JTWG Q11: What is your favourite restaurant town and current favourite restaurant there?
LF: Vancouver and if I can only choose one: Sal Y Limon – a casual Mexican restaurant – the food is authentic and affordable and delicious.
JTWG Q12: What is a talent that you have that few people know about?
LF: I can sing and act. I went to theatre school when I was 18.
JTWG Q13: I know you are a gin fan–what is your current favourite gin?
LF: Totally loving this gin called Ampersand from Vancouver Island here in BC
JTWG Q14: Where will travel take you the remainder of the year?
LF: Back to Italy for sure to Conegliano/Valdobbiadene. Maybe to Southern California if I can squeeze in one more trip before the end of 2019. There are only a few months left!
JTWG Q15: Any parting thoughts for my readers?
LF: The wine world is both vast and small at the same time. I am grateful to social media for keeping wine lovers connected. I also think that the beauty of the world of wine is that there are people all over the world who make and enjoy it, so it is one of the many things that unites us all globally, and we need that now more than ever before it seems.
Leeann–thank you very much for participating in my written interview series!
James the Wine Guy
Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.
Photo courtesy of Leeann Froese.
© 2019 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy. James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.
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