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College toasts BC Wine Information Society and new sensory lab

Okanagan College Media Release

BCWineOkanagan College is on its way to establishing a new sensory lab in the heart of wine country, thanks to a $300,000 donation from the BC Wine Information Society, which operates the BC VQA Wine Information Centre in Penticton.

The new BC Wine Information Centre Sensory Lab will be located at the Penticton campus of Okanagan College and will be the first educational facility of its type in the valley. The classroom-style lab will create a tasting environment similar to those already in existence at Brock University and Niagara College in Ontario.

“We wanted to partner with Okanagan College because they have already been instrumental in educating so many of our exceptional winemakers in this region,” said Keith Bevington, President of the BC Wine Information Society, at the announcement made Wednesday in Penticton. “This sensory lab will attract new students to the industry right in the heart of B.C.’s wine country.”

“This is an important step in the evolution of our programming at Okanagan College, and demonstrates how important the relationship is between the College and the industry,” said Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton. “Partnerships such as this with the BC Wine Information Society are what makes Okanagan College unique, and what will bring more people to the College for exceptional training in the food, wine and tourism industries.”

Jonathan Rouse, Director of Wine, Food and Tourism at Okanagan College, said this new facility underlines the College’s commitment to diversified programming.

“We have the privilege of training and educating students in a region that is renowned for its quality wines and we understand just how valuable it is for our college to strengthen its ties to industry experts in order to create the best possible opportunities for students,” he said. “This generous donation will allow us to build a facility that will be extremely helpful for our students, as well as the B.C. wine industry. It will be a significant asset.”

Rouse said students interested in winemaking, those pursuing viticulture and those aiming to work in the hospitality industry with a focus on food and wine, will benefit from the creation of this lab, which is outfitted with a complete kitchen and multimedia facilities that can broadcast instructional material worldwide.

“The sensory lab classroom has been expressly designed to meet the needs of a research-oriented facility, and one that is interactive and engaging for students,” Rouse said. “Our aim is to create a flexible environment to meet a range of programming needs, from the amateur to the professional.”

labBevington said it’s vital to the future of the industry that students understand how an individual wine emerges through the particular mix of the varietal (the grape), the vintage (the year), the region where the grape is grown (also known as the terroir) and the producer itself (the winemaker).

“The instructors at Okanagan College come straight from industry – they’re producing award-winning wines now and passing their knowledge down to these students. This lab will help them create a controlled environment so students can learn more about what ends up in the glass.”

The Okanagan College Foundation received the $300,000 donation from the BC Wine Information Society, which will provide the bulk of the funding for this $480,000 project.

“The BC Wine Information Society operates the BC VQA Wine Information Centre in Penticton as a non-profit entity,” explained Bevington. “Thanks to the support of our local customers, we are able to leverage proceeds from the store to help us deliver on our goal of increasing awareness and growth of BC wines. This investment will help facilitate an ever-increasing group of knowledgeable BC wine ambassadors.”

The new BC Wine Information Centre Sensory Lab will provide 24 seats in a 120-square metre space. In keeping with the College’s commitment to sustainability, it will be designed to meet the Living Building Challenge standards. The lab is expected to be open and available for students in January 2014.

Renee Martin, past-president of the BC Grapegrowers Association, also sees the benefit to industry.

“As contributors to B.C.’s vital agricultural economy, I am excited that the classroom could be used for much more than just wine tasting – as it would lend itself to sensory evaluation of food as well, and could also be used for research purposes.”
The BC Wine Information Centre Sensory Lab at Okanagan College’s Penticton campus is being designed by CEI Architecture Planning Interiors, who also designed Okanagan College’s award-winning Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation.