The small quiet waterfront village of Naramata, known for its seat in the heart of BC wine country, a funky artsy vibe, and a few rather plucky peacocks is about to get a welcome addition. Near the foot of the main drag, by the water, you may remember dilapidated old industrial buildings marring the otherwise picturesque environs.
The BC Tree Fruits packing house, sitting on 4.6 acres, closed its doors in November 2008. When a water pipe burst in 2011, the fruit cooperative found the cost of restoring the buildings too great, so they cut bait and most of them were demolished. Left standing was the larger cold storage warehouse and acres of old cracked pavement that surrounds it. Shortly thereafter, the coop put the land up for sale and it has sat that way ever since.
It's worth noting that recently the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen finalized a deal to purchase some of the cooperative's land sitting closest to Wharf Park, and Naramata Elementary school beside it. RDOS chair Mark Pendergraft said in a news release, "the recent land purchases and facility use agreement will provide new opportunities to enjoy the outdoor spaces and planned recreation programming in the community." Wharf Park is about to get a whole lot bigger.
The Land Has a Buyer
It’s been quite the month for David Enns of Laughing Stock Vineyards. He recently sold his Naramata Bench winery to Arterra Wines Canada citing a lack of capacity and a general feeling that the winey had gone as far as it could production-wise. And less than a week later, Enns partnered with Mik Ball, Robert Gritten and Steven Jaeger and announced their purchase of the BC Tree Fruits land and plans to establish the Naramata Wine Vault there.
"The Naramata Wine Vault will provide storage and support for the 35 plus wineries, distilleries and cider operations located on the Naramata Bench. … Redevelopment plans for the cold storage building include: new electrical, new climate control, energy efficient lighting, and site and building security. A facelift of the business end of the building will tastefully update the facility and bring it into the modern age.
"As planning progresses, the balance of the lands will be developed to ensure the charm and unique nature of the Village of Naramata is maintained."
They are hoping to have the business up and running as early as spring next year. Tim Pawsey at hiredbelly.com talked to Enns: "We’re going to put the warehouse back in business. It will be for winery storage, for Laughing Stock wines, or for whomever. It’s an iconic symbol in the village that’s been a white elephant for ten years. And we’re going to change that," said Enns.
RDOS park expansion plans fit in with the new warehouse vault nicely, and we can see this area becoming quite the tourist destination, particularly if they use the soon-to-be expanded park for various wine festivities, and if the Naramata Wine Vault considers building a regional tasting room that markets the fantastic wines from all over the Bench.
This marks a great step in the development and maturation of the BC wine industry. Providing services that benefit all winemakers (especially smaller ones in Naramata), much like the Crush Pad already does, go a long way in ramping up the infrastructure for our winemakers to prosper – and that's just talking about the production side. Promotion-wise this could become a great asset with festivals and tasting events, pooling and saving marketing budgets, and drawing in new wine tourists to this one-of-a-kind place. Hooray for the Naramata Wine Vault!