College uncorks some cool

Supporting B.C.’s beverage industry

If you have every thought that it would be cool to start a business that produces a beverage that is brewed, fermented, or distilled, your wine/beer/cider/spirit idea could make use of a new service at Okanagan College.

Announced last week, the B.C. Beverage Technology Access Centre, or BCBTAC, will be housed at the Penticton campus, with plans to officially open for business this fall.

Full disclosure, I was one member of the team that completed the application for $1.75 million in federal funding (over five years), to bring this to fruition.

BCBTAC, the second technology access centre in the province, will provide testing and business services and applied research assistance to the wine, beer, cider and spirits industries in the province.

It’s kind of a big deal to have in the Okanagan, with hundreds of beverage businesses nearby, and more opening at a rapid pace almost weekly, it seems.

The BCBTAC was chosen for federal funding after a thorough process (overseen by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada - NSERC) which drew applications from across the country.

TACs provide capabilities that serve applied research and innovation needs of regional firms, and may include advice on specific company challenges, specialized technical assistance, applied research and/or development projects for companies, and/or specialized training.

If you have asked yourself one of the following questions, you may be able to find your answer and expertise at the BCBTAC:

  • How do I start a winery?
  • Where do I get my new product tested?
  • Who does market research for spirits made in the Okanagan?
  • Can I export my craft beer to Asia?
  • What are the rules to sell hard cider?

Billed as a one-stop-shop for existing, emerging, and “just at the idea stage” businesses and products, the BCBTAC will be an excellent resource for anyone who needs to navigate the many steps to bring their beverage to market.


June 19, Penticton: Blasted Church is having a block party complete with food trucks, free wine tastings, and live music.

June 20, Penticton: Well-known Okanagan singer-songwriters Aidan and Mandy perform at Time Winery. 

June 20, Naramata: Limited tickets are available for the Spring Release Party at Upper Bench, featuring new wines and cheese. 

June 22, Okanagan Falls: Wild Goose Winery hosts blues artist Hector Anchondo as part of its Vineyard Stage Concert Series, complete with a barbecue buffet. 

June 22, province-wide: JAK’s Beer Wine and Spirits stores are donating 10% of sales from its 14 locations on Saturday to local food banks, including the Penticton store. 

June 27, Kelowna: House of Rose opens its summer music series with House of Funk.

June 27, Summerland: David Gogo takes his solo show to Okanagan Crush Pad. 

Fridays, Oliver: It’s happy hour every Friday at Tinhorn Creek until the end of August. 


Cheers to your dad

Have you made plans to give a toast to dad this weekend?

It’s not too late to book an event or pick up a treat or two for the father figure (or figures) in your life.

A few ideas for some inspiration.

“Bouquet” of Pepperoni: an idea borrowed from a post on the social network Pinterest, and a play on the flowers you may have given mom last month. Pick up a selection of locally made pepperoni sticks in a variety of flavours and spices, artistically tie together with butcher’s string, and attach a small card.

Join a club: if this wasn’t an option for mom, maybe for dad? Most wine clubs offer gift options, sign dad up for regular shipments, or for the best growler option his favourite, yet-to-be-discovered craft brewery.

Adopt a row: a few wineries offer this option. If dad is into anything to do with gardening, see if one of his go-to wineries offers the chance to put his name on a row of vines for a season. Usually paired with a wine club subscription. And no, dad doesn’t need to work the vines.

Books galore: there are many beautiful books about libations, grilling, culinary history, cooking in the Okanagan. Local wine and VQA shops have great selections, and there may even be a book or two from his favourite restaurant, as more chefs get into writing. Hint: even White Spot has a cookbook.

Glassware: if, as a kid, you broke more than your fair share of dishes and glasses, now may be the time for a nice replacement set. Tumblers, cocktail sets, beer mugs, champagne flutes (the latter to fill with B.C. bubbly to toast him with). Bonus, give the old sets to charity to make way for the new.

A kitchen gadget: Get the siblings together and invest in a sous vide cooker, soda maker, really good BBQ tools (especially if there’s a hazardous old wire brush hanging around), wine cabinet, or perhaps a nice salt and pepper set if the plastic ones from childhood are still in use.

Don’t forget the card, and if you have a favourite food memory with your dad, grandad, uncle, stepdad, adopted dad, father of your kids, maybe reminisce about it this year and say thanks.


June 15, Kelowna: Le Cirque De La Nuit promises to be a unique event of theatrical performances paired with food, wine, and more.

June 15, Penticton: Treat dad to a lobster luncheon at Township 7.

June 16, Summerland: Treat Dad to an afternoon of southern barbecue at Evolve Cellars. 

June 19, Penticton: Blasted Church is having a block party complete with food trucks, free wine tastings, and live music. 

Through till October, Keremeos: The Grist Mill hosts Sunday Night Suppers, each one with a different culinary theme.

Distilleries on the rise

Distilleries across the province have been receiving international awards and recognition lately, and deservedly so.

From gins to vodkas to whiskies, and grappas, brandies, and fortified spirits…we have some talented distillers in B.C.

While we can’t use some terms such as port, due to international regulations, we can say things like port-style. And we can enjoy some wonderful products and home-grown cocktails.

The world’s best contemporary gin comes from Sheringham Distillery on Vancouver Island, category winner at the World Gin Awards.

In fact, Canada swept that category.

If you’re used to classic dry gins, take a chance on a few different ones.

Aged gin, such as the Barrel Rested gin from Dubh Glas Distillery, is aged in oak barrels and has aromas of Christmas junipers and fruitcake. Perfect for sipping.

The Whole Truth “farm to flask” gin by RauDZ, in collaboration with Okanagan Spirits, can be found in creative cocktails at the RauDZ family of eateries. Its floral notes lead into a smooth, cucumber and mint melange. Refreshing for your summertime G&T.

As for vodka? Legend Distilling’s Blasted Brew Cold Brewed Spiked Coffee is exactly that. Vodka with a twist of organic coffee from Backyard Beans.

If you’re intrigued by vodka with colour, Black Goat Vodka, a silver medal winner at the Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition should be your next adventure.

Did you know we make vermouth here? The Woods Spirit Company in North Vancouver does. Your next martini can be made entirely from local spirits.

Diehard Scotch enthusiasts may scoff at single malts made in B.C., but it wasn’t that long ago when the world was surprised by Japanese whiskies taking top awards.

Urban Distillery and Winery has won Sip Awards, and bottled the first single malt made in the province. Pemberton Distillery went organic with its whisky.

More whiskies are coming from producers in the Okanagan; you simply need to watch for the release before they sell out.

When you’re done wine-ing in the South Okanagan, a last stop near Penticton should be Maple Leaf Spirits.

Your designated driver can enjoy the expansive view while you sample a variety of fruit liqueurs, grappas, and a V.S.O.P. brandy, The Lady of the Cask.

It was a gold medal winner at the aforementioned CASC awards, so grab a bottle and tuck it away for a rainy day.


May 30, Penticton: The BC VQA Wine Centre welcomes Gordon Fitzpatrick to lead a tasting of sparkling wines.

May 31 to June 9, Vancouver: The 10th Annual Vancouver Craft Beer Week takes place around the city, with breweries from around the province.

June 1, Oliver: Tinhorn Creek hosts its 25th Anniversary celebration with a five-course dinner.

June 1, Penticton: Ruby Blues has a vintage pop-up shop and fashion show. 

June 2, Kelowna: Concert in the Cellar at Tantalus Vineyards with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra.

Through till October, Keremeos: The Grist Mill hosts Sunday Night Suppers, each one with a different  


Tastings can be elevating

Have you noticed this trend? Seated tastings, vineyard tours, wine-paired long table lunches and dinners, cooking classes, and booking your tastings in advance.

Whether it’s at a winery, brewery, distillery, or cidery, the options for an “elevated” experience are expanding. While dropping by an establishment with a few friends is, and has been, the norm in B.C. (and other regions in Canada) for years, as the industry changes, so do the options.

A sign, in my opinion, of a few things:

  • Tasting rooms are busier than ever, and booking in advance or “by appointment” ensures that you won’t have to jostle your way through a crowd.
  • Wineries, as one example, are keen to educate visitors on where the grapes come from, and how the wine is made. Vice versa, consumers want to learn more.
  • Matching flavours on the plate to what’s in the glass, especially highlighting local ingredients, is an excellent way to promote the Okanagan (or B.C.) terroir.
  • Want to take a tour of a distillery, or visit behind the scenes at a brewery? See if they offer an option or two, or call ahead to book, especially if you have a group or guests who have never been here.

It’ll leave a lasting impression.

A few options to consider this season…

Nk’Mip Cellars in Osoyoos offers several tasting experiences, vineyard and cellar tours, and food and wine pairing tour.

In Oliver, Intersection Winery has The Vinstitute, a “wine school for everyone”. Most classes are two hours or less, with a variety of topics.

Township 7 in Penticton and Langley has just started its Elevated Wine Tasting Experience, with exclusive wines. https://www.township7.com/events/

Okanagan Spirits in Kelowna and Vernon doesn’t require advance bookings except for groups, but it does now have a whisky experience: 

Mission Hill in West Kelowna has a wide selection of tours, culinary classes, and an exquisite long table dinner series. 

And also in West Kelowna, Quails’ Gate has multiple options, and a new wine-paired five-course lunch: https://www.quailsgate.com/visit/tour-tastings/

Kamloops has Iron Road Brewing. Grab a beer, a bite, and watching the brewing process in action. I haven’t been, but I have heard more than a few “you gotta go” comments.


May 25, Okanagan Falls: Catch the Vineyard Stage Concert series performance with Susie Vinnick at Wild Goose Vineyards. 

Through till October, Keremeos: The Grist Mill hosts Sunday Night Suppers, each one with a different culinary theme.

Through May, Okanagan Falls: Visit Liquidity Winery and Bistro to see the work of artist Tim Okamura.

June 1, Oliver: Tinhorn Creek hosts its 25th Anniversary celebration with a five-course dinner.

June 1, Penticton: Ruby Blues has a vintage pop-up shop and fashion show. 

More Okanagan Taste articles

About the Author

A creative thinker with more than two decades of experience in communications, Allison is an early adopter of social and digital media, bringing years of work in traditional media to the new frontier of digital engagement marketing through her company, All She Wrote.

She is the winner of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association's 2011 and 2012 awards for Social Media Initiative, an International LERN award for marketing, and the 2014 Penticton Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award for Hospitality/Tourism.

Allison has amassed a following on multiple social networks of more than 30,000, frequently writes and about social media, food and libations as well as travel and events, and through her networks, she led a successful bid to bring the Wine Bloggers Conference to Penticton in June 2013, one of the largest social media wine events in the world, generating 31 million social media impressions, $1 million in earned media, and an estimated ongoing economic impact of $2 million.

In 2014, she held the first Canadian Wine Tourism Summit to spark conversation about the potential for wine tourism in Canada as a year-round economic driver.

Allison contributes epicurean content to several publications, has been a judge for several wine and food competitions, and has earned her advanced certificate from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.

In her spare time, she has deep, meaningful conversations with her cats.

She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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