Alex Guertin is the newest proprietor of Beaufort Vineyard and Estate Winery. On a warm evening in July, he tours me around his property on Pickering Road in North Courtenay, and I get to know this venture-capital-entrepreneur-turned-organic-winemaker.
Guertin first set foot in the Comox Valley the year he entered Grade 11. His uncle was living in Courtenay; Guertin took the opportunity to improve his English with a year of high school on the Island. He was planning to return to Montreal, but the pull of the Valley was too strong: with wide-eyed enthusiasm, he describes his feeling of connection to the mountains, the water, the food, and the people.
He came back for Grade 12, and he tells me when he got off the plane in Comox that year, his friends from Vanier didn’t waste any time. They drove their French-Canadian friend straight to Stotan Falls for a swim.
He did go home after graduation—the plan was to work in, and eventually inherit, the family business—but in hindsight, his return to the Comox Valley was all but inevitable.
But first he took a few detours. Since the 1990s, Guertin’s parents had owned a small organic/health-food supermarket in his home town. After high school, he spent a year learning “every aspect of the business, [from] cashier to clerk to stocking shelves.”
Over the past quarter century, Avril Supermarché Santé has expanded to 11 locations throughout Quebec. And while Guertin worked part-time for Avril during his post-secondary school career, after graduating from McGill University with a degree in finance and entrepreneurship, he wanted to make his own mark before returning to the patrimoine (family collective).
After a short stint working for a sub-prime lender, he began making a name for himself in the world of venture capital. With the values and spirit instilled by his parents, he mentored and invested in entrepreneurs and their ideas, with the hopes of creating viable and sustainable businesses.
In December of 2020, fittingly emboldened by a glass of wine, he and his parents decided they wanted to buy a winery. Only a few days later, during their annual seasonal best wishes, a high school friend mentioned there was a winery for sale in the Comox Valley. It was fate at work.
Putting his heart on his sleeve, Guertin appealed to the former owner with a letter underlining their shared values and his vision for the future of the winery. Before his parents had even tasted the wine, the sale was well underway.
In August 2021 he left the lucrative world of venture capital to immerse himself in a new way of life: harvesting, planting, and pressing. He began absorbing all he could from Beaufort’s well-established and experienced team, who had made the wine he first fell in love with. Guertin repeatedly acknowledges his own limitations and praises the strength and skill of his team, who he credits for the winery’s success.
His learning curve has been steep, but he brings passion to the process and genuine appreciation for the people and partnerships he has fostered thus far. It’s impossible not to get caught up in his excitement about the winery’s future: he plans for Beaufort to make ever-better, award-winning wines, including a “really good” pinot noir.
As golden hour settles over the vineyard, I’m struck by the fact that maybe there is no contradiction between who Alex Guertin was and who he is now. Successful viticulture is mitigating risk to maximize growth—not unlike the world of finance. And nature, like the markets, has a certain volatility that no one can control.
One thing that’s clear is his investment in, and commitment to, the place where he’s landed: not just the winery, but the community that welcomed the “French-Canadian kid” all those years ago.