Urban winery coming to downtown Penticton

Artist rendering of the proposed community arts centre. - Submitted
Artist rendering of the proposed community arts centre.
— image credit: Submitted

The former PenMar Theatre complex will be transforming into an urban winery, the first in the South Okanagan.

On Monday, ENCORE Vineyards announced the building, located on Martin Street, will be home to TIME Winery, McWatters Collection and Evolve Cellars.

The sale of the property effectively dashes the hopes of the Penmar Community Arts Society to turn the building into a community owned and operated performing arts theatre as well as an independent movie theatre.

However, keeping the society's desire to showcase local performing arts, ENCORE will maintain one of the theatres as a 75-seat movie, performance and event space for concerts, private functions and non-profit uses.

"We are excited to share the next chapter of ENCORE Vineyards with our Penticton neighbours. Our aim is to create a downtown destination that the South Okanagan can be proud of, while preserving the legacy of this vibrant cultural landmark," said Harry McWatters, president and CEO of ENCORE Vineyards, in a press release.

In December, the Penmar Community Arts Society president Kerri Milton said the building was being put up for lease or sale by the ownership group but there was still an opportunity to purchase the property through the co-op if the funds were raised.

The Penmar Community Arts Society started a online fundraiser with a goal of $200,000 to open the doors. They raised a total of $40,850 as of Monday and a donor came forward earlier this month giving $35,000 to the campaign.

ENCORE said in a press release they had contributed to the society's fundraising efforts, and with the purchase of the property they are pleased to be able to help preserve the historic building and contribute to the community.

The restored building will be used for a brand-new winery production facility, including a crush pad, barrel cellar, custom fermentation hall, lab, warehouse and administrative officers. When open to the public, the experience will include a tasting bar, a small plates lounge, a 40-seat outdoor patio as well as a retail wine shop. An onsite commercial kitchen will give the winery the ability to host public and private events, Banquet facilities and other offerings are being planned for the future.

For over 45 years McWatters has been involved in the wine industry. He was the founder of the province's first estate winery, Sumac Ridge Estate in 1980 and also the founder of See Ya Later Ranch Estate Winery in 1985. McWatters helped establish the Okanagan Wine Festival Society and was a chair and director on the B.C. Wine Institute for 17 years. During his time in the industry, he was also instrumental in founding VQA Canada, a trade association that spearheaded the development of national wine standards for Canadian vintners.

ENCORE will begin modifications of the building immediately that will see it ready for wine production of the 2016 vintage.

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