Our winery’s name, Whispering Horse, was inspired by the history of the land, which was first established in the early 1960s as J-Bar ranch, where John Giesbrecht (Barry’s father and Melissa’s grandfather) bred, raised, and trained hundreds of horses for over 50 years.
J-Bar ranch began in 1965, where John constructed a large indoor riding arena, as well as various other smaller barns and stalls on the property. At that time, John chose to focus on breeding Registered Quarter Horses and often housed at least 25-30 horses at a time, and up to 50 at J-Bar’s peak. There was a full-time horse trainer and ranch-hand to help with the work, but John’s children also did their fair share. Barry and his siblings all began working and riding at J-Bar at young ages. Barry, from the ages of 12-15, began showing horses competitively across BC and Washington State, USA, bringing home many first place trophies. Eventually, as the children grew older and became less interested in showing, John shifted to Quarter Horse racing in the late 1970s. Again, John raised many winners and champions, who raced in events across Washington, Oregon, and as far south as California, USA.
During his youth, Barry worked on the ranch helping his Dad with breaking colts every year up until the age of 21. Later in life, Barry eventually settled on the property directly adjacent to the ranch, and as a result, always remained connected to this piece of land. His wife Shirley and their three children, Melissa, Alanna, and Tyler, would also all learn to ride at J-Bar, and many years later, even Melissa’s husband Laurent learned to ride there. Undoubtedly, to our family, J-Bar ranch had become a place powerfully infused with many deep memories.
Since the early 2000s, with John’s increasing age and limited physical capacity, the ranch began slowing down. Even though John admirably continued to ride into his late 80s, by 2010, it was simply time for him to let go. John had poured his heart and soul into the ranch and this property, with hopes that one day a family member would take over the reins.
It was then that Melissa (John’s granddaughter) and Laurent (Melissa’s husband) approached Barry and Shirley about the possibility to keep J-Bar ranch and this special piece of land in the family, but with a new purpose. After much research and discussion, Barry, Shirley, Laurent and Melissa took the plunge. Fed by a common enthusiasm and love for wine, Laurent’s creative passion for turning dreams into reality, and Barry’s practical hands-on knowledge, the decision was made to buy J-Bar ranch and transform it into a family-run boutique winery.
Today, with the passing of this property to the next generations, pasture has changed to vineyard, and over 6000 vines have now taken root. In wanting to preserve the memories and spirit of J-Bar ranch, we chose to locate our winery within the existing walls of the old riding arena. This means our winery now sits atop the very place where we all spent so much time riding, keeping these memories close to our hearts as we move forward in this new endeavour.