|Skaha Hills began pre construction activity on OkanaganÕs newest vineyard. The partners stop for a quick photograph onsite. At top, from left, Curt Jansen, Skaha Hills, sales and marketing; Greg Gabriel, Penticton Indian Band administrator and Mohamed Awad, Stage West Hospitality. Bottom row, Lesley Gabriel, Penticton Band Development corporation officer; Chris Scott, Skaha HillsÊCEO and Larry Kenyon, president of Greyback Development.|
Calgary-based company, Stage West Hospitality, finalized a 99-year lease of the Penticton Indian Band's land with the Crown. Greyback Developments Ltd. has already begun construction of the vineyard.
The yet-to-be-named winery will be located at the southwest end of Penticton near the airport and Okanagan Amusements as part of the new Skaha Hills development.
"The location is mostly what attracted us to this project," said Mohamed Awad, managing partner of the winery. "The view is unbelievable."
Stage West Hospitality is the sole owner of the winery and vineyard, said Awad. It is on native land, but the Indian Band has no partnership in it, he said.
Penticton Indian Band Chief Jonathon Kruger said he is in favour of the new winery.
"We have seen this kind of enterprise succeed locally and are encouraged by the potential," he said in a press release.
"We can only see this as good for Skaha Hills, good for the Penticton Indian Band, good for Penticton."
The new winery will offer opportunities for Penticton Indian Band members as well as other people in the community, said Awad.
"Our commitment is to offer great service and hospitality to people."
The initial estimated cost of the winery and vineyard was $5.2 million.
"That's going up pretty fast," said Awad, estimating that it will be closer to $5.5 million.
"All the money comes from Stage West Hospitality," said Awad, adding that there will be no effect on taxpayers.
He said it is costing more than expected because of how steep the land is in some areas. The terrain needs to be adjusted to create the proper slope for the vineyard.
The plans for the winery have been underway since June, but were only recently made public.
"We wanted to make sure the leases were done and negotiations were finalized," said Awad.
Stage West Hospitality leased 14 acres for the vineyard, and two acres of commercial space for the winery.
While they have yet to finalize branding or even a name for the winery, Awad said it will be unique because of how customized they are able to make it.
"We are building it the way we like it from scratch," said Awad. "A lot of wineries don't have that opportunity."
According to Awad, a good name for the winery would be Stage West, based on the name of the company.
"It is staged on the west-side of the hill," said Awad.
However, he said a decision will not be made too quickly.
"It's a name we'll have to live with forever."
The vineyard is expected to be planted in April 2014, and construction of the winery is planned to begin toward the end of 2014. Awad said the winery is scheduled to open in 2015.
Once the vineyard is able to be used in about three years, Awad said they plan to make a lot of their own wine. He said they will be producing 5,000 cases of wine in the first year, and hope to quickly work up to 10,000 cases of wine per year.
Awad said he is excited to be the general manager of the new winery because he has worked with Stage West Hospitality before and is familiar with the company. He is also experienced in the wine industry, having previously managed the Spirit Ridge Resort and Vineyards on Osoyoos and Black Hills Estate Winery in Oliver.