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It takes a village...

We believe that extraordinary wines are a product of the passion of those who make them. But even more, it takes dedication, authenticity and some sweat and tears. We have the ultimate team of professionals who believe in the product, deliver it like rockstars and create an experience unlike no other.

 
MIKE & JANET AZHADI 
Proprietors

Mike's experience spans over 40 years in business, engineering, and manufacturing. During this period Mike has worked with the largest global corporations in hospitality industries. Specifically, he worked in restaurants and manufacturing environments in worldwide executive leadership and ownership capacities. He strives to lead and work with a great team and take Ex Nihilo to an even higher level in enhancing and differentiating the brand. 
 
Janet has worked in the Health Care Industry as a registered nurse, leader and educator for over 30 years. She is passionate about improving people's lives and focuses her time on her family as well as local and international philanthropy causes.
 
As passionate wine lovers with a desire to bring people together, Mike and Janet became principal owners of Ex Nihilo in 2018 and in 2023 they became sole proprietors of Ex Nihilo.
 
With two other  wineries currently under development, Mike and Janet are excited about building exceptional wine experiences in the Okanagan.
 
JIM FAULKNER 
Winemaker
 
Jim Faulkner is an integral part of the Ex Nihilo team crafting distinct and exceptional wines. His tenure as Ex Nihilo Winemaker began in the 2009 and spanned until the spring of 2015, resuming in the spring of 2020. Jim oversees all winemaking operations of the Azhadi Group, ensuring the development and production of exceptional wines.
 
Jim brings a wealth of experience from several other BC wineries, including Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery, Church & State Winery, Summerhill Pyramid Winery, and CedarCreek Estate Winery. His expertise contributes significantly to Ex Nihilo's winemaking legacy.
 
For Jim, the charm of Ex Nihilo lies in the people, both staff and guests and the captivating vineyard space. He finds immense satisfaction in going to work, attributing it to the positive atmosphere.
Outside the winery, Jim's hobbies align with his passion for the Okanagan lifestyle, travel, and, naturally, wine. When asked about his favourite EXN vintages, Jim finds it challenging to choose, appreciating something unique from every vintage. 
 
 
JORY LUMLEY
Assistant Winemaker
 
Jory Lumley joined Ex Nihilo in 2018 and has worked in various roles including vineyard, cellar and guest operations.  Jory was promoted to Assistant Winemaker of Ex Nihilo in October 2021. Every day brings a variety of vineyard and cellar tasks, highlighting the dynamic nature of his responsibilities.
 
Jory's educational background includes a Bachelor of Environmental Science from the University of Waterloo in 2011, a Graduate Degree in Agri-Business Management from Fanshawe College in 2018, and a Winemaking Certificate from the University of California, Davis in 2020.
 
The draw of Ex Nihilo for Jory lies in the exceptional quality of both the wine and the grapes and the family atmosphere of the team.
 
Beyond the winemaking, Jory finds joy in many outdoor recreational activities and chasing his new Golden Retriever puppy.  His favourite EXN vintages include the 2021 and 2022 Chardonnay, 2020 and 2022 Pinot Noir, and 2019 and 2020 Merlot, showcasing his equal passions for both making and drinking Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Ex Nihilo Winemaker Jim Faulkner

ANWAR SARDER
Vineyard Manager
 
Anwar Sarder is our longest serving team member!  In 2023, as a valued contributor to the Ex Nihilo team, Anwar was awarded the first ever Ex Nihilo Vineyards 15 Year Service Award. 
 
As Vineyard Manager, Anwar has primary responsibilities for all vineyard operations and the vineyard team.   
 
Anwar takes great pride in the vineyards and lands of Ex Nihilo.  He loves to nurture and appreciate the vineyards and their harvest, and feel the connection with them and nature. 
Anwar also is key contributor in the cellar and production areas at Ex Nihilo.
 
When not in the splendour of the vineyard, Anwar is most passionate about his time spent with his family.  Anwar moved to Canada from Bangladesh in 2007 and he became a proud Canadian Citizen in 2022.

Ex Nihilo Wine Club Coordinator Breanna Stienstra

Sarah Lannin
Manager, Wine Experience Operations
 
Sarah Lannin rejoined the Ex Nihilo team in 2023 as of Manager, Wine Experience Operations, following her maternity leave. Sarah previously served as the Ex Nihilo Wine Club Manager in 2018 and 2019. Sarah's responsibilities include guiding the team to provide exceptional guest experiences at Ex Nihilo and off-site events, and overseeing operational aspects of Ex Nihilo's direct-to-consumer sales channels.  Sarah holds a WSET level 2 certification.
 
With a diverse professional and education background, prior to joining Ex Nihilo, Sarah spent seven years in management roles at Lakehead University Athletics.
 
Sarah's favorite part of working at Ex Nihilo is helping people discover their new favorite wine and collaborating with the team. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time in nature with her family, watching her daughters participate in various activities, and sharing good times with friends over a delicious bottle of wine.
 
Sarah is a perennial fan of the Reserve Privata, and the 2015 Naramata Night holds a special place among her all-time favourites.

Ex Nihilo Executive Chef Danny Tipper

DANNY TIPPER
Executive Chef

Danny Tipper joined Ex Nihilo in the summer of 2021, assuming the role of Executive Chef. His culinary journey began with formal training at VCC (Vancouver), setting the stage for a career dedicated to the craft. As Executive Chef of CHAOS Bistro at Ex Nihilo Vineyards, Danny manages a fast-paced seasonal bistro, emphasizing local ingredients to showcase the best of the Okanagan. His culinary expertise aligns seamlessly with the winery's commitment to excellence.
 
Prior to Ex Nihilo, Danny developed his culinary skills in many other establishments, most notably, Waterfront Wines in Kelowna, where Danny spent 6 years, which he considers a pivotal role in his professional development.
 
The highlight of Danny's experience at Ex Nihilo is the vibrant work culture, where everyone collaboratively works towards a shared objective. He values the unique contributions each team member brings to the table.
 
Outside the kitchen, Danny enjoys spending time with his family, golfing, tending to his garden, and making preserves from his harvest. Ex Nihilo’s 2015 Pinot Noir holds a special place in his heart, and he has a fondness for the 2021 Viognier and Privata.

 
BREANNA STIENSTRA 
Wine Club Manager
 
Breanna Stienstra joined the Ex Nihilo team in April 2018 and is currently Manager, Wine Club. In this role, Breanna connects with so many of our wonderful Wine Club members overseeing all aspects of fulfillment and club runs and member enquires and the fabulously fun pick up parties!
 
With a background in hospitality since 2009, Breanna's contributions to Ex Nihilo have also included roles in the Bistro and Tasting Room.  Breanna holds her WSET Level 2 Certification.
 
Born and raised in the Okanagan Valley, Breanna values the culture and community of people at Ex Nihilo who share a love for good wine and food. Beyond her professional pursuits, she finds joy in art, paddleboarding, yoga, camping, and of course, indulging in good wine.
 
Breanna's palate appreciates the 2021 Chardonnay, 2020 Cabernet Franc, and 2021 Reserve Privata among her favourite EXN vintages. 

 
LIZ COSBY
Hospitality Lead Coordinator
 
Liz Cosby joined Ex Nihilo as a Server in the Chaos Bistro in 2021.  In 2023, Liz became the Hospitality Lead Coordinator.   In this role, Liz is responsible for coordination of all Chaos Bistro front of house operations as well as event coordination. 
 
With a professional background in all aspects of hospitality, Liz's expertise shines through in her role at Ex Nihilo. Liz ensures guests have a memorable and enjoyable experience, tapping into her professional expertise and genuine passion, embodying the essence of hospitality that has defined her entire career. Her favorite part of the job is the incredible camaraderie with her coworkers, the warmth of the guests, and the unbeatable view from her workspace.
 
Beyond the winery, Liz's interests span various activities, including traveling, paddleboarding, swimming, yoga, and indulging in a good book. Quality time with friends is also a cherished pastime for Liz.
 
Liz holds a special appreciation for the 2019 Privata Red, the 2021 Privata Chardonnay, and the 2019 Petit Verdot among her favorite EXN vintages. 
 
JACKIE LEONE
Coordinator, Guest Experience
 
Bio coming soon...

 
HEATHER BAKAY
Director of Finance
 
Heather Bakay joined the Azhadi Group in the Spring of 2021, as Director of Finance. In this capacity, her key responsibilities are to oversee the Group finances as well as well as human resources. Heather brings a wealth of experience and holds the Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CA) and Chartered Business Valuator (CBV) designations.

Prior to her transition to private industry, Heather spent 25 years in public practice, focusing on Valuations and Deals Advisory Practice, most recently at KPMG LLP.  At Ex Nihilo, Heather's enthusiasm lies in learning all aspects of the winery industry and collaborating with the team. She particularly enjoys the vibrant atmosphere of pick-up parties.

Originating from snow country in Revelstoke, Heather embraces the Okanagan lifestyle, cherishing moments with her family and family travels. Heather lists the 2021 Chardonnay and the 2020 Petit Verdot among her favourite EXN vintages. 

 
SAM SANDHU
Finance and Accounting Manager
 
Sam Sandhu joined Azhadi Group in the late 2023 as Finance Manager.  Sam’s professional background included financial roles in Residential Construction, Civil Construction, and Banking, offering a diverse skill set that informs his role at Ex Nihilo.   Sam's favorite aspect of working at the winery is the people – a team that collectively cares for the establishment as if it were their own.
 
Beyond the world of finance, Sam enjoys ice hockey and camping balancing the fast-paced excitement of the hockey rink with the tranquility of the great outdoors.
 
Sam has an appreciation for the new 2021 Reserve Privata among his preferred EXN vintages. 
 
LYNN STEENWYK
Bookeeper
 
Lynn Steenwyk is one of Ex Nihilo’s longest serving team members!  Lynn joined Ex Nihilo in 2012 as the corporate bookkeeper and she was awarded an Ex Nihilo Vineyards 10 Year Service Award in 2023.  With a background in in various industries including farm equipment sales, real estate rentals, government, and professional accounting firms, as well as her own business, Lynn brings a broad knowledge base to her position.
 
At Ex Nihilo, Lynn appreciates the camaraderie with her colleagues and the quality wines produced by the vineyard, selecting Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and Pinot Noir, as favourite Ex Nihilo vintages. Her work revolves around numbers, but her favorite aspects of the job are the people and the wine.
 
 
Outside the office, Lynn enjoys camping, boating, and beach vacations and in spending time with her grandchildren. 
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