BC Wine Information Society Sensory Centre
On Wednesday this week I was among more than one hundred guests from the culinary and wine industry here in the Okanagan invited to celebrated the official opening of the BC Wine Information Society Sensory Centre at the Okanagan College Penticton campus. The $650K centre was built thanks to a grant of $300K by the Wine Information Society that was matched by the Jim Pattison Foundation and was built at no cost to the college. The vision for the centre was to create a facility in which to conduct and enhance sensory evaluation of wine and food. The 120 square foot space includes a fully equipped kitchen with induction cookware, temperature controlled wine storage area, a demonstration kitchen with multi media capacity and a bright classroom for about 40 people.
“I love coming to Penticton, aside from the wind and rain” says College President Jim Hamilton, “here at the college we are committed to transforming lives and communities and we do that through programming that responds to, anticipates and meets the needs of students and communities. We are part of a mission hand in hand with the food, wine and tourism industries and all the communities that relate to that. Together we embarked on a mission that has us supporting all these industries so together we all take food, wine and tourism to new heights. Our goal is to make sure that people around the world get to know the Okanagan as being a stellar performer in each of these these areas.”
Left to right: Jim Hamilton, President, Okanagan college, Jonathan Rouse, Director food, Wine and Tourism, Okanagan College, Keith Bevington, President, BC Wine Information Society
A recent study conducted by the college shows the economic impact that wine and related industries have on the Okanagan. The study concluded that the these industries contribute $139 million a year to local economy as well as provide the Okanagan with 1100 jobs. “The industry is not only fun” says Hamilton, “it is also an important economic driver.”
In a surprise announcement Jonathan Rouse, Director of Food, wine and Tourism at the college says that they have worked out an agreement with Okanagan Wine Festival Society and next year the sensory centre will be home to professional judging for the 2015 Wine Festival Awards. The 9 judges that are part of the panel this year will consider 540 wines, and more will likely be judged next year.
The reception took place on the ground floor at the Jim Pattison centre and food and wine were part of the experience. Chef Bernard Casavant together with Culinary Arts students prepared a selection of appetizers that were served with suggested pairings. “Part of the visions we have at the college is to ensure that our students are spending time in the community experiencing the Okanagan, getting into the farms, getting into the vineyards” says Rouse. “That’s ultimately one of the fundamental differences that we can bring to our learning experiences in food, wine and tourism here at the college. We want to get them out of the classrooms and into the sensory centre and other environments throughout the Okanagan.”
Here is the menu:
Sauteed BC Ling Cod, Prosciutto, Arugula and Roasted Bell Pepper emulsio
Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, vivacious
Home Smoked Candied Salmon Focaccia with Lemon chive Aioli
Roasted Organic Squash Risotto Parmigianino, spiced Pumpkin Seed Oil
Pinot Noir, Merlot
Okanagan Wild Boar Prosciutto Crostini with Peach Cucumber Relish
Bordeaux style blends, Voluptuous, V, Meritage
The food was offered with wines from four of the college alumni wineries:
Riverstone Estate Winery showcased Bordeaux style wines as well as one pinot gris.
Seven Stones Winery showcased a meritage, a chardonnay and a pinot noir.
Upper Bench Estate Winery showcased 2012 merlot and 2013 chardonnay.
Van Westen Vineyards showcased V, Voluptuous, Viognier and 2013 Vivacious.
After the food and wine tastings we were organized in smaller groups to tour the Sensory Centre upstairs. B.C. Wine Guy Chef and winemaker Jay Drysdale greeted us and prepared a blind tasting of one wine poured into dark glasses that prevented us from detecting the colour of the wine. “You taste with your eyes first” says Drysdale, “you are going to wrestle with red and white for a while, hone in on it”. The wine was cool, was that a clue? “No” says Drysdale, “I could have chilled a red wine to fool you”. I was tempted to dip a napkin into the glass but my predisposition for fair play prevented me from doing so. A nice gift basket was the reward for the the person who guessed the wine’s colour, grape type, provenance and yes, the winery. Good luck. Since we were not the last group tasting the same wine they did not disclosed the identity of the mysterious wine and I hope they post it on their website because now I am curious.
After saying goodbye to new acquaintances we piled back in my green Hummer for the one hour drive back to Kelowna. It was an inspiring event and I plan to go back to the Centre for some of their classes soon.