In the mid 1990s, the Kelowna Museum was working toward the opening of the B.C. Wine Museum as another venue to help interpret the unique agricultural landscapes and history of the Okanagan Valley. After all, the Museum had been collecting the region’s wine industry artefacts since the mid 1930s, and as the industry grew it was obvious there was a keener interest in exploring its history.
As work progressed toward this goal, it was clear that funds would be needed and to that end we approached the B.C. Wine Institute for their support. While there were only limited and short-term funding options with the Institute, discussions with Harry McWatters, (Chair of the BCWI at the time), indicated that the new VQA licenses would be available and the granting of one of these might serve everyone well. With his help and with guidance from others such as Allison McNeill and Stephanie Watts, the Wine Museum made its application.
The rest, as they say, is history because on March 19, 1997, the BC Wine Museum and VQA Wine Shop opened as the second VQA license in British Columbia. These first two licenses (Penticton’s Wine Information Centre and The B.C. Wine Museum) are non-profit organizations whose mandate is to move the industry forward through wine sales and so much more.
The B.C. Wine Museum has successfully undertaken a wide range of programs for the industry as a whole and for individual wineries – from exhibit material for the Royal BC Museum and others, to the BC Wine Label Awards and Okanagan Wine Festival events. Beyond this, the Museum holds the wine industry’s archives, maintain a reference and research library, and hold industry collections that date back to the first wines produced in the Okanagan in the 1930s!
In November 2010, The B.C. Wine Museum and VQA Wine Shop opened in new and wonderfully renovated space in the historic Laurel Packinghouse at 1304 Ellis Street in Kelowna. Since re-opening, the Laurel Packinghouse has received three awards for the sensitive heritage restoration of the building.
After 15 years of service to British Columbia’s wine industry, the B.C. Wine Museum and VQA Wine Shop looks forward to a strengthening role in telling the province’s unique and exciting wine and grape growing story. Come in and visit us! Taste some wonderful BC VQA wines and take in the new exhibits on our rich history.
~ Wayne Wilson