The earliest record of wine production in the Okanagan Valley dates back to Father Pandosy’s Okanagan Mission in 1859. Today, the wine industry represents an important part of the British Columbia economy. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)

The earliest record of wine production in the Okanagan Valley dates back to Father Pandosy’s Okanagan Mission in 1859. Today, the wine industry represents an important part of the British Columbia economy. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)

British Columbia wine industry began in 1850s

Father Pandosy’s Okanagan Mission produced wine in 1859

For many years, wine production has been part of the Okanagan Valley.

The earliest record of wine production in the region was from Father Pandosy’s Okanagan Mission in 1859. There is no evidence of wine production at Father Nobili’s St. Joseph Mission (1845) at Garnet Lake (Priest Camp Historic Park.)

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According to Nobili’s letters, he did write about a crop of beets. He was described as being “excessively fond of beets.”

In Summerland, Harry McWatters founded Sumac Ridge Estate Winery with partner Lloyd Schmidt in 1980. He was also the founding chair of the British Columbia Wine Institute and of Vintner Quality Alliance Canada, the standards for wine quality levels.

McWatters, who died peacefully in July, 2019, was known as the grandfather of the province’s wine industry. He received many awards an honours for his work.

Today, the province’s wine industry contributes an estimated $2.8 billion annual to the provincial economy. There are a total of 370 licensed wineries in the province, with 284 licensed grape wineries. More than 80 grape varieties are produced at 929 vineyards, with more than 4,100 hectares of planted land.

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BC Winehistory