Toasting the announcement of the new Okanagan College sensory lab are (left to right) .Jonathan Rouse

Toasting the announcement of the new Okanagan College sensory lab are (left to right) .Jonathan Rouse

Wine industry invests in Penticton college campus

Okanagan College to play host to $480,000 sensory lab, one of just a handful in Canada

Okanagan College toasted the B.C. Wine Information Society on Wednesday for a $300,000 donation to build a new sensory lab in Penticton.

This will be the first educational facility of its type in the valley and one of only a handful in the country. Jonathan Rouse, director of wine, food and tourism at Okanagan College agreed the campus could become the leading facility for wine instruction in the country.

“This is a big part of leading us to that direction. It is a very significant asset that we can bring for not only the college, but the community and it will help us build that reputation,” said Rouse.

“We are working on a vision right now. Already we have pastry arts in Kelowna, now this sensory lab and a few other initiatives rolling out in the near future mainly in the Penticton and Kelowna campuses.”

The sensory lab provides an array of potential courses for students interested in winemaking, those pursuing viticulture and those aiming to work in the hospitality industry with a focus on food and wine.

“The tourism industry will benefit greatly, particularly on the culinary side.  The intent is to also open it up to the public and to industry as much as possible,” said Rouse.

The Okanagan College Foundation received the $300,000 donation from the B.C. Wine Information Society, to provide the bulk of the funding for this $480,000 project.

The society operates the B.C. VQA Wine Information Centre as a non-profit entity.

Proceeds from the store help deliver their goal of increasing awareness and growth of B.C. wines.

“We wanted to partner with Okanagan College because they have already been instrumental in educating so many of our exceptional winemakers in this region,” said Keith Bevington, president of the B.C. Wine Information Society.

“This sensory lab will attract new students to the industry right in the heart of B.C.’s wine country.”

Bevington said it’s vital to the future of the industry that students understand how an individual wine merges through the particular mix of the varietal, the vintage, the region it is grown and the producer itself.

He added by bringing educational opportunities to Penticton it could eliminate the need for talented winemakers to leave for other countries to study, or to bring in someone from another country to the vineyard.

“The instructors at Okanagan College come straight from industry, they’re producing award-winning wines now and passing their knowledge down to these students.

This lab will help them create a controlled environment so students can learn more about what ends up in the glass,” said Bevington.

The B.C. Wine Information Centre Sensory Lab concept was brought forward by consultant Rhys Pender. Local industry leaders confirmed it would be of benefit to the area.

“I am excited that the classroom could be used for much more than just wine tasting as it would led itself to sensory evaluation of food as well, and could also be used for research purposes,” said Renee Martin, past-president of the B.C. Grapegrowers Association.

It will have 24 seats in a 120 square metre space, and keeping with the college’s commitment to sustainability it will be designed to meet the Living Building Challenge standards.

The lab, which is outfitted with a complete kitchen and multimedia facilities that can broadcast instructional materials worldwide, is expected to be open and available for students in January 2014.