Major wine player studying grape-growing potential at Tranquille

Tranquille vineyard potential

A major Canadian wine producer has signed an agreement with a development firm to study the potential for vineyards and a winery to be established at Tranquille on Kamloops Lake.

Andrew Peller Ltd. — the second largest wine company in Canada, behind brands like Tinhorn Creek, Red Rooster and Peller Estates — signed a memorandum of understanding with Ignition Tranquille Developments.

APL has committed to study the viticulture potential of the historic Tranquille property, a process which is underway and will take a few years. The agreement was announced on Monday.

Kirk Seggie, manager for grape supply and business development with APL, said the company is looking forward to working with Ignition on the viticultural opportunities.

He said the demand for B.C. wines is “outstripping the supply” of land in the Okanagan, Similkameen, and the Fraser Valley.

“We believe this is a potential opportunity to grow vinifera grapes on the Tranquille land, and we've already installed multifunction weather stations on the site,” Seggie said.

“Our excitement stems from the amount of arable land here, and the potential of Kamloops Lake to offer the moderating influence on those cold winter nights. We're so grateful that Ignition has given us this opportunity to share their vision.”

To understand which grapes will grow best on the land, APL will begin microclimate data collection and soil analysis to understand when the region has frost-free days, how many growing degree days it gets, and how cold it can be in the winter months.

The data will be collected for about two years before APL will make recommendations to Ignition and will move forward with planting.

Karen Gillis, vineyard operations manager for Peller, said they have made a few site visits and are excited about the future.

“We’ve started with just some preliminary walkthroughs and putting in some weather stations so that we can track data and really hone in what we want to find for the best suitable grapes for this property,” Gillis said.

If a winery is set up, it could be the fifth in Kamloops. Trish Morelli of the Kamloops Wineries Association said this is exciting news for the local wine industry.

“It's hard to control my excitement, because I think there's a huge potential here,” Morelli said.

“I understand that there's some investigative work, we've got to do some monitoring of microclimates. I'm not a winemaker. And I'm not a viticulturist. But I have been in wine for over 30 years, and I know this valley. …I know the potential is huge.”

She said Kamloops’ pioneer wineries have laid the groundwork and have data regarding temperatures and soils they can share with the team.

“Having more grapes coming out of the region, and ultimately having another winery in the region — and many more after that — I think is very positive for wine in the Thompson Valley.”

The proposed winery is just part of the redevelopment proposed for Tranquille.

Tim McLeod, project manager for Ignition, said the company aims to transform the historic Tranquille property into a community with over 1,500 homes, a working farm, a market, a hotel and waterfront parks.

He said they wanted to create a mixed-use commercial farm, with the history of the property informing the vision for the future.

McLeod said the area was used for farming started in 1868, and when the Tranquille Sanatorium was in operation, food grown on the property was used to feed its residents.

"That's our history. So for us, it's just kind of coming back to the history, as opposed to creating something new,” he said.

McLeod said there are several phases of the project, and the winery exploration agreement represents their first agricultural partnership.

“Now we'll be looking at new partners for the farm, as Peller starts to move forward with their work,” he said.

“In farming, everything comes down to climate and soil. And so for us now, it's equipping the farm with climate sensors, and Peller’s started that,” McLeod said.

“What we're seeing as a finished product is a farm that has the winery and the grapes, the orchards and berries, then the market garden for your fresh produce. Then we're looking at a goat herd and cheese. So basically, five components of the farm on 265 acres.”

He said the project is expected to contribute more than $680 million to the Kamloops economy and 440 new, permanent jobs.

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