The food and drink industry is nothing new to the Riga’s. Matt grew up in his Aunt and Uncle’s Italian restaurant in Trenton, Ontario. He began washing dishes at the age of 13 and continuing with every job the restaurant had to offer including preparing drinks at the bar, serving tables and slinging pans on the cooking line. Natalie had an array of positions in the hospitality industry in London, Ontario where she grew up. The two met at the University of Guelph and they never looked back. After getting married in Port Albert at Natalie’s family cottage in 2009, Matt’s mother, Sue, informed them she had been given a shorter lease on life, a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. The couple, living on Vancouver Island moved home to Ontario to assist in Sue’s care up until her passing in March of 2010. The diagnosis, flipped their world upside down and brought forth a much different approach to life than before. They began to start chasing their dreams.
They opened The Port Bistro-Pub in Matt’s hometown of Trenton in the summer of 2011. The restaurant saw Matt as chef, Natalie running front of house and quickly became a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. Having always enjoyed a nice glass of wine the two made day trips to the Prince Edward County region regularly on their days off. The more they observed in the wineries and learned in the vineyards the more they began to dream of one day owning their own winery, tending to their own grapes and making their own wine. After three years of restaurant life the pair decided it was time to make a change. Longing to return to Vancouver Island and wanting to start a family, they sold their restaurant and purchased Chateau Wolff Estate in January 2014.
Officially moving to Nanaimo in August of 2014 after the birth of their daughter Siena, they hit the ground running for harvest that year. Luckily their time spent in Prince Edward County brought about a winemaking connection in Mackenzie Brisbois. Brisbois worked under Norman Hardie as well as numerous other wineries in South Africa and New Zealand. She saw the couple through their first year, teaching them the ins and outs of vineyard management and winemaking. 2015 saw the couple’s first harvest as a husband and wife team and they are excited for what is to come.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about our journey. We hope our wine becomes part of yours.
Matt, Natalie, Siena & William Riga