Changing & Growing: The opening of the Okanagan’s first urban winery

The McWatters family proves that wine isn’t just a hobby – it’s flowing in their B.C. blood with big plans for the iconic PenMar theatre in Penticton

By Cella Lao Rousseau

It’s fair to say that there’s plenty of change and innovation happening with the McWatters family. In fact, Christa-Lee McWatters Bond, director of sales & marketing for ENCORE Vineyards Ltd., says that change and innovation have been the constant motion of her family for years.

Whether it be opening one of the first vineyards in the Okanagan to feature bordeaux varietals such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc, welcoming of their new director of winemaking, Lawrence Buhler, in 2015, or converting the PenMar theatre in Penticton into the Okanagan’s first urban winery, the McWatters are always moving forward.

“We’re pleased to be celebrating the one-year anniversary of Evolve Cellars in Summerland, which opened in May 2015. It’s the only winery in the Okanagan with vineyards that stretch right to the edge of Okanagan Lake,” says McWatters Bond. “Naturally, we’re excited to share some pretty spectacular vineyard views across the water and to the surrounding mountains with our visitors… Our on-site kitchen will also allow our guests to enjoy al fresco dining on our patio, with a glass of wine in hand, of course. It’s going to be a very busy summer!”

McWatters Bond knows a lot about wine and British Columbia – she grew up in the wine industry alongside her father, and watched as her family pioneered the planting of their iconic vineyard in Oliver in 1993. Before that, the majority of the wine produced in B.C. was from cool-climate hybrids and other vinifera.

“Growing up at a winery, there was never a dull or quiet moment. We did everything together as a family, from working in the tasting room, to helping on the bottling line, and of course working in the vineyard itself,” says McWatters Bond. “We all helped plant that vineyard, and in fact, it was one of the first things that formed the foundation of our working relationship, which happily continues to this day.”

While the McWatters family is proud of the strong legacy they have created with their Oliver vineyard, they are excited to move forward with their contact grape colleagues who produce superb fruit, and grow into their new roots at the historic PenMar theatre in Penticton.

The new facility, which will be called TIME Winery, will be fully renovated to include ENCORE Vineyard’s winemaking facility, a barrel room, a custom-designed fermentation hall, a tasting lounge, bistro, and a gift shop. Additionally, the space will include a 75-seat theatre that will be used for movies, performances, cultural events, and other public and private functions.

“Our new neighbours in Penticton are hungry for additional space for community events and we are happy to be able to maintain the history and spirit of the building,” says McWatters Bond.

“The public has been overwhelmingly supportive and can’t wait for us to open.”

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