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As Okanagan College celebrates the official opening of the B.C. Wine Information Society Sensory Centre at its Penticton campus, there’s already enough evidence to call the project a success.
The College and officials from the B.C. Wine Information Society and the Okanagan College Foundation were joined by wine and culinary industry VIPs on Wednesday as the cork was popped on the new $650,000 facility, which is housed in the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence.
It’s a 120-square-metre space dedicated to providing quality tasting and educational space for sensory evaluation of wine and food.
“This can already be declared a success,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “Even as the finishing touches were being put on the facility this summer, our instructors, industry and students couldn’t resist putting the Centre into action.
“More than 150 students have already used the facility for a variety of programs and workshops. That headcount doesn’t include the informal receptions and events that have been held here to date. We’ve even offered a beer course.”
The support of the B.C. Wine Information Society, for whom the facility is named, was crucial to moving ahead with the project, explains Hamilton. “The Society has been a significant supporter of the College and its goals for wine and viticulture programming. When we approached them with the concept of the Sensory Centre, they were quick to come aboard and several of the society’s members offered valuable advice about structure and function.”
The Society has donated $300,000 toward the cost of creating the Centre. The Society’s contribution also allowed the College to access funds pledged by The Jim Pattison Foundation, on a matching fund basis.
The facility has been designed and built to optimize wine and food sensory experiences, and includes equipment for proper wine storage, a demonstration kitchen with multi-media capacity and a fully-equipped caterer’s kitchen.
“This will be a tremendous asset for the wine industry and the region,” says B.C. Wine Information Society President Keith Bevington. “We are proud to have our name on this facility and to have it located in Penticton. Our customers at the Wine Information Centre should know that the purchases they make through our store have helped make this possible. Okanagan College is helping to educate and train the individuals the wine and tourism industries need.
“As was intended, this space is also proving, to be a popular venue for consumer-focused programming that highlights B.C. VQA wine, food and talent.”
One of the goals for the Sensory Centre was to build on the reputation of the College’s Penticton-based wine and grape-focused programs, and that goal is being achieved. Food, wine, and farm workshops this summer attracted students from other parts of the valley as well as from Calgary. Programs scheduled for this fall and winter include registrants from Edmonton, Surrey, Toronto, Charlottetown, Sherwood Park and Vancouver.
"This fabulous facility really enhances the wine and food education we can receive in the Okanagan,” says Carla Leinweber, among those students who have already experienced the facility. “I took the very first class offered and it was excellent in all respects. The knowledgeable instructor, hands-on experience and sensory learning environment made it one of the best classes I have ever taken."