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The Sandhill renovation in process.
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This venerable winery run by Kelowna legend Howard Soon celebrates its single vineyard approach to winemaking with a sleek, 8,000 square foot wine shop that opened to the public in May this year. Clean lines and towering ceilings create a temple space for the winemaker’s art, while ‘interactive wine tours’ transport visitors to the various vineyards where Sandhills grapes are grown. The central tasting and purchasing area creates a circular aspect to the winery; you come in via the entrance, and circle around that central pillar. While the winery's style is new and modern, the wooden water tower on the roof hearkens back to the early days of the wine industry in the Okanagan.
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A temple to the God of Wine, the Sandhill designers went for a sleek, urban design, softened by wood roof beams and a towering ceiling.
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Sandill Tasting Room
The central area is dominated by tasting bars, and guests can circumnavigate the space creating a natural flow.
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The Brunner family - Paul, Christina,and their daughter Paula - are making a major investment to create a sense of place for the Vancouver Island winery.They are rebranding the wine, created a new website, and are building a modern winery that opens its doors this fall. The architects took inspiration for the building’s shape in their namesake, the Blue Grouse. The lovely curve of the grouse’s head and neck inspired the roofline. Inside the tasting room, a curved ceiling reminds visitors of a grouse’s belly, and the new entrance will highlight a beautiful shade of blue from the grouse’s tail feathers. The winery is constructed using locally quarried stone and Island lumber, and uses geothermal energy for heating.
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This daring enterprise by Dutch immigrants Rolf de Bruin and Heleen Pannekoek was launched in 2005, and was the first serious winery in the Fraser Canyon. With the expertise of legendary wine consultant Harry McWatters and major investment from their partners, Fort Berens has embarked on construction of a sleek, 9,500 square foot winery building, with an 1,100 square foot tasting room. The Fort Beren’s team realized they had to turn their winery into a unique destination, and have poured $7.5 million into realizing the dream. When complete the new winery will allow guests to view the winemaking process, and offer a gravity fed fermentation room, barrel chambers, a crush pad, wine bar and bistro. concrete lower floor of the building will be sunk into the ground to help mitigate swings in temperature and humidity in the barrel rooms. The use of materials, the orientation of the building, and an overhanging roof will help make the building as efficient as possible and help manage ongoing energy costs.”
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The ambitious owners of this fabulous Lake Country winery are creating a temple to the demanding Pinot Noir grape. Curtis and Sheri-Lee Turner-Krouzel hired one of the foremost practitioners of this noble wine, Grant Stanley, and put together an ambitious two-year construction timetable to create a 20,000 square foot destination winery. Phase 1 of this elegant, chic winery will be completed this summer, while Phase 2 will open next year.
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Vibrant Vine always had sensational designs for their bottles, and turned out some very impressive wines, but until now the tasting room itself was small and closed in. Problem solved this year, as the Kelowna winery renovated by opening up the existing structure, more than doubling in size. The result is a light and airy space, punctuated by heavy wood beams and two separate tasting bars. Vibrant Vine’s psychedelic, 3D art lines the walls, making this space as much art gallery as tasting room.
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As if the Grand Dame of Canadian wineries didn’t have enough on offer, the team here has dipped into the well of their artistic inspiration and put on a whimsical display of androgynous, anonymous, but entirely charming statuary on the grounds.
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Dirty Laundry Patio
Bob Campbell and his team have always understood that the story and the experience are as important as the wine itself … and this year they have expanded on Dirty Laundry’s attractions with a massive new patio and improved wine tasting room. The patio is constructed over a massive retaining wall that suspends visitors over a lovely vista of vineyards, mountains and Okanagan Lake. Overhead, a sturdy trellis provides support for a decades old grape vine, shading the guests below. Cleverly, Dirty Laundry provides a wide variety of victuals for a picnic lunch (including the basket), and the patio has become incredibly popular for wine travellers dropping by for a cheese and charcuterie plate while enjoying a bottle from the wine shop.
In the Okanagan wine business, success depends just as much on the experience you offer guests, as on the quality of the wine.
Mission Hill, for example, does produce superb wines that stand with the best in the world, but there is another and blindingly obvious reason it is the largest winery in the Valley: It’s just incredibly cool.
When visitors come to the Okanagan Valley, they’re drawn to that 12-story bell tower like moths to a flame, and they end up fluttering around the wine shop checking out a bottle or 12 at the cash register.
There is, quite simply, no better investment in a winery than the appearance and quality of the winery itself.
That philosophy is catching on in a big way throughout the Okanagan Valley as several wineries are opening wine shops and tasting rooms that are noted for their architectural flair.
Vibrant Vine in Kelowna, part of the Fab Five wine train, more than doubled the size of its wine shop and added a second tasting bar. The new space is much more open, with better light, and lets guests wander about and admire the artworks on the wall.
Vibrant Vine owner Wyn Lewis and family have been very clever with their design and branding. The architecture is down-home country, fitting in with the farming region of East Kelowna, but they adopted a very cool and absolutely unique bottle design, featuring wild, psychedelic art by Wyn’s son Phil. More of Phil’s art is sprinkled around the walls, and each piece is actually in 3D. Staff hand out 3D glasses, and guests can be seen peering myopically at each painting.
Again, Vibrant Vine offers an experience along with their very good wine, and this is what brings people back time and again.
Kelowna’s most venerable wine establishment downtown - the headquarters of the Calona and Sandhill brands also got a major facelift in May this year. Sandhill makes some fantastic wines, and is branding itself heavily as a single vineyard type of wine that gives oenophiles the ability to really dig into the Okanagan terroir, but their tasting room didn’t fit the bill. Old and faux-Mediterranean dowdy, it badly needed a facelift.
Instead, Sandhill gave it an entirely new face. The new wine shop rose on Richter Street as a sleek and chic tribute to urbane architecture. It fits with the demographic Sandhill wants to attract; the successful professionals who are more likely to go on a wine tour, and more likely to buy and appreciate a higher end wine. Appearance now matches product, and Sandhill is now an attraction as well as a wine producer.
Up in Lake Country the owners of 50th Parallel have travelled a similar route. Curtis and Sheri-Lee Turner-Krouzel hired Grant Stanley from Quail’s Gate, because they want to focus on high-end Pinot Noir. But, to attract the kind of people who really appreciate and are likely to buy a top-end Pinot by the case, they needed to upgrade the brand. So, they’re pouring some big money into a new winery designed by Zeidler Partnership and Hribar Design Group, with landscape design by Scatcliff + Miller + Murray Inc. It’s a two-year project, with the winery opening this year, and the tasting room-slash-bistro next year.
“We wanted to be a destination and an experience, and we wanted to be sure that when people are drinking 50th Parallel they remember where they drank that wine, and go back home and tell that story,” says Turner-Kreuzel. “Architecture and design is critical to the overall success of this vision.”
Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean a winery has to rebuild from the ground up. The big thing is to offer an interesting experience and a theme or brand that sets you apart.
The earthy crew at Dirty Laundry Vineyard in Summerland turned away from haute cuisine sophistication, and went straight for some bawdy, ill behaved fun. Dirty Laundry bases its aesthetic on the historical tale of a Chinese labourer who opened a laundry in 19th Century Summerland, but found business improved substantially when he added a brothel and gambling den upstairs.
Dirty Laundry is like a brothel theme park, with lady’s underthings hanging from an oversized clothing pin.
This year, however, the owners also figured out that the overall experience and architecture had to improve, so they renovated the wine shop and extended a massive patio under a heavy trellis, laden with vines.
The result is one of the most pleasant places in the Okanagan to enjoy a glass of wine, and at the same time, gives one a story to take home.
Not to be outdone, Mission Hill has again upped their game, adding a new art installation to the grounds; dozens of androgynous statues that catch the eye and make the winery experience just that much more interesting.The Navajo people had a saying that applies to wine marketing: “Live in Beauty.” As marketing experts are now moving more heavily into BC’s burgeoning wine industry, we can expect to see in future that the winners will be the ones who incorporate a story and architectural excitement into the wine touring experience.