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New development to include winery

Skaha Hills, a master planned community on Penticton Indian Band land,  will include a winery and vineyard on its southwest Penticton site overlooking Skaha Lake.

The announcement was made in recent days that Skaha Hills, being developed by Greyback Developments, has partnered with Stage West Hospitality to build the $5.2 million winery and vineyard.

The agreement was made possible following a referendum held by the PIB in October, where the band's members voted in favour of leasing a two acre site at the entrance to the community.

Terms include permission to build and operate a winery and associated facilities, including but not limited to a restaurant and accommodation.

"The winery and other facilities will provide many benefits to the Penticton Indian Band and adds a remarkable entrance feature to the Skaha Hills development," said Chief Jonathan Kruger. "Revenue in the form of taxation and utilities, training and employment of our people at the winery and in the retail and hospitality sector, are just a few of the residual benefits."

Curt Jansen, director of real estate for Skaha Hills, said a winery was not in the original proposal, but he and CEO Chris Scott thought the land with its views and gently sloping hills would lend nicely to a vineyard.

"We went back to the PIB and said we would like to put in a winery, and they wanted to see the economic viabity and benefits," said Jansen. "In October, they overwhelmingly voted in favour of it. We had their blessing, so we decided to go ahead with it."

Stage West Hospitality will build and operate the as yet unamed winery and Mohamed Awad has been selected to be general manager.

Awad is well known in the Okangan as he managed the Spirit Ridge Resort and Vineyards in Osoyoos and is a former manager of the Black Hills Estate Winery.

Work on the proposed vineyard has already begun, and construction of the winery will start in 2014. Wine varietals will be Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier.

The winery is one of many intended amenities to be built at Skaha Hills. The community is slated to develop in seven phases, with its sales centre set to open in the spring of 2014.

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