Chris Turyk, Marketing Director, stands outside the tasting room at Unsworth Vineyards. Don Denton photo

Secrets and Lives Interview with Chris Turyk

Marketing Director and Sommelier at Unsworth Vineyards talks wine and food

  • Apr. 7, 2021 7:30 a.m.

– Story by Angela Cowan Photography by Don Denton

Currently holding the titles of marketing director and sommelier at Unsworth Vineyards in the Cowichan Valley, Chris Turyk has been involved with the family-run business since its inception. Tim and Colleen Turyk (Chris’s parents) bought the land and a sweet old farmhouse in 2009 with the idea of trying their hand at winemaking. It quickly grew into a much larger enterprise than they’d anticipated.

“We had no idea or thoughts to creating this size of business,” says Chris. “It wasn’t the grand plan, but it took on a life of its own, and there was no going back.”

A food lover from an early age, Chris always envisioned working in the industry, and initially thought he’d end up in the kitchen of his own restaurant.

He studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, but made the shift to wine after a short time.

“I wanted to become a chef, and then I realized my ability to taste things exceeded my ability to create them,” he says, laughing. “I think the wine aspect came from the food. I realized they were complementary.”

It was in 2014 that wine as a career really took off after Chris decided to enter into the inaugural Best Sommelier in BC competition, organized by the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers. After an impressive showing—in which he placed third for the province—he was promptly offered a sommelier job at Hawksworth, four-time winner of Best Upscale Restaurant in Vancouver.

It was an opportunity that was supposed to last a year, and ended up being two and a half.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” says Chris, who formally left the restaurant in 2017, but continued to help out occasionally when hands were needed for another year.

Shortly thereafter, he found himself in a practicum at the UBC farm.

“I remember thinking, ‘who else gets to do this?’”

Going between a “small-scale, very socially aware, very liberal” environment like the farm, and a top-end eatery like Hawksworth, “gives you a wide perspective,” says Chris.

Being exposed to the incredible variety of extremely high-end wines while also learning about grape agriculture and growing practices gave him an invaluable education that’s served him well.

“You get a bit of everything, and you can speak to what’s important to different people,” he says. Whether that’s explaining the sustainable farming practices Unsworth employs to younger generations of environmentally aware wine drinkers, or being able to talk about the specific notes in each wine with people who have been enjoying a glass of vino for decades, Chris is able to connect with everyone across the board.

And now that he’s stepped into the marketing role, he’s added another piece to the puzzle.

“Even 18 months ago, I wasn’t expecting to be in a marketing role,” says Chris. “But I like chatting to people. I’ve wanted to teach wine classes for a while, and marketing is basically education on what we do, and why it’s important.”

I’ve wanted to teach wine classes for a while, and marketing is basically education on what we do, and why it’s important.”

The 7 Sins

Envy:

Whose shoes would you like to walk in?

Since I already walk in John Fluevog’s shoes, that question really forces me to think. Purely for the experience of such a high-consequence environment, being in the work boots of a cellar hand at a hyper premium winery has always interested me. Moving or dealing with wine that retails at $5,000 per bottle means every ounce is roughly $200, so, no mistakes.

Gluttony:

What is the food you could eat over and over again?

Pork. The humble and noble pig has a very special place in my diet. To sum it all up in one word: bacon.

Greed:

You’re given $1 million that you have to spend selfishly. What would you spend it on?

I would get one million $1 USD bills, then fill a kids’ pool and swim around Scrooge McDuck style.

Wrath:

Pet peeves?

Socks with sandals. I thought, as a civilization, we were better than that.

Sloth:

Where would you spend a long time doing nothing?

Does work count?

Pride:

What is the one thing you’re secretly proud of?

I can recite all the chemical elements of the periodic table to the tune of a recognizable song from The Pirates of Penzance.

Lust:

What makes your heart beat faster?

What is adrenaline? As a relatively excitable person, often I focus on the opposite. Taking little moments throughout the day to observe and enjoy where I am and who I’m with pays dividends not only for me, but mostly for those around me.

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

BC WineFoodFood and Drinkwine

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dawson Road Maintenance crews have been working on road base failures on Highway 20. (Dawson Road Maintenance Facebook photo)
ROAD REPORT: Dawson Road Maintenance provides update on Cariboo Chilcotin road conditions

Road bases still soft, saturated at multiple locations in Cariboo Chilcotin due to spring freshet

The Central Coast snowpack is now sitting at 146 percent (Felicia Harris photo)
Central Coast snowpack now 46 per cent above normal

The risk of spring flooding is elevated due to the above normal snowpack across the entire province

Residents line up socially distanced at the Seedy Saturday event, held at the Lobelco Hall parking lot from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 3 with strict COVID-19 restrictions and precautions in place. (Nicole Kaechele photo)
Seedlings, plants and seeds offered at Seedy Saturday

“It was a fairly good turnout,” noted Elizabeth Howard

The Bella Coola Valley Arts Council (BCVAC) has recently received two awards totaling $40,000 from the province-wide British Columbia Arts Council, part of the StrongerBC: BC’s Economic Recovery Plan. The grants are to be used to stimulate local arts communities and to help them cope with impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo submitted)
Bella Coola Valley Arts Council receives $40,000 for local projects

The grants will be used to stimulte local arts communities and help them cope with the pandemic

Nuxalk Sputc Crew technician Scmlh (Jason Moody) walks in Bella Coola River towards sputc holding tank with cinematographer Louvens Remy (photo submitted)
Documentary to highlight importance of sputc for Nuxalk Nation

Sputc: We Shall Eat When the River is Full is a cinematic tale of wealth, loss and recovery

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

FILE – RCMP officers wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 stand by as protesters opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion block rail lines, in Burnaby, B.C., on Friday, November 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Very scary’: B.C. travel rules too vague, shouldn’t involve police, civil liberties group says

BCCLA said that speaking with communities could have avoided top-down approach

Ocean Legacy Foundation members conduct a shoreline pollution cleanup in Vancouver. (OLP)
It’s time to end ‘suffocating’ plastic pollution along B.C. shorelines, advocates urge

This Earth Day, Ocean Legacy Foundation is launching a free educational platform to educate the public about plastic pollution

A teacher-librarian in Nanaimo was fired in 2019 for checking out an age-inappropriate graphic novel to a student. The discipline agreement was published Wednesday, April 21. (News Bulletin file photo)
B.C. teacher-librarian fired for checking out too-graphic graphic novel to student

Teacher had been previously disciplined and suspended on two occasions

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. university rowing coach ‘deeply sorry’ after complaints

Barney Williams says he’s been committed to ensuring no other member of the roster had a similar experience

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
B.C. girl’s wish granted as her cat came back, two years later

Courtenay family reunited with cat that went missing in Ucluelet in 2019

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Most Read