Naramata winemaker has the craft in her blood

Winemaking in the blood

“Behind the Wine” is a new summer series taking you behind the scenes of the South Okanagan’s iconic wine industry. Watch for it every Sunday.

Black Widow Winery is a 100% family owned and run winery located along the Naramata Bench that uses 100 per cent Naramata Bench grown grapes.

“My parents started winemaking at Black Widow in 2005, but had purchased the property in 2000, 21 years ago. We’ve had grapes being grown for 26 years on our property,” says Shannon Lancaster, assistant winemaker for Black Widow Winery.

“During that time, I was still in high school in Langley. My parents would run back and forth in between. After I graduated high school, I attended business school, and in 2011 I joined the business full time as an assistant winemaker,” Lancaster adds.

Winemaking is something that has been in Lancaster’s blood from an early age.

“My dad, Dick Lancaster, has made wine every single year of my life. From around the ages of two or three my brother James and I would begin to help. I was always involved in the winemaking process. He would order in grapes from California, because the BC industry was just beginning, and we would do it all. Winemaking has always been a part of our lives,” explains Lancaster.

Her favourite aspect of winemaking is hard to choose.

“I love everything about it. I love that it’s super hands-on. It’s a mix between science and art and cleaning. I love the flexibility in it, and how different it can be while still reapplying the same principals. I love working with a natural product, and making something people can enjoy with their families. Like I said, I love it,” Lancaster says with a laugh.

The wine varies, but every wine Black Widow creates has a quality focus.

“We do a maximum of 3,000 cases a year, and everything comes from about 5km from the winery. We have seven acres on site and three acres in Naramata we’ve begun working with. We work with other growers but have a long relationship with them. We’ve worked with them for about 16 years now, and they know what we want and are very consistent, so we get that high level of consistency. We have no plans to expand because we know if we expand, the wine will change. We like to produce wines that remain familiar to people. That if they have drank it before they will recognize it each new vintage,” says Lancaster.

Another unique element to Black Widow Winery is its consistency of leadership.

“We have been working with the same grapes and growers for 16 years, but also with the same winemakers, my dad Dick, my brother James and myself, and the same ownership,” explains Lancaster, something that is quite rare in the wine industry.

The best part is that those people are her family, something Lancaster loves about her job.

“Working with my family is awesome, I know a lot of people would be scared of that, but it works so well for me. We all have input in every aspect of the business. We all have opinions and we just give and take,” Lancaster adds.

Lancaster is proud of all of the wines her and her family produce.

“I can’t choose a favourite. It’s like picking a favourite child. Our rosé is stellar every year and it still blows my mind. But the sparkling is just so fun to drink and enjoy. But if I had to pick one style that I could drink forever it would be Merlot. See? I can’t choose,” Lancaster laughs.

“My favourite to make is the rosé. It's a different process and you never 100% know what you’re going to get in the end. You can have an idea but it can totally change in fermentation. You have

to make quick decisions and you kind of get what you get, but you work at taking educated guesses. It’s a really fun process,” explains Lancaster.

They have limited tastings available but it is definitely worth calling in to book one.

“We have bottled our white, rosé, and sparkling from our 2020 vintage. Our reds get extended barrel aging for 17-24 months after harvest, but whites are really fantastic this year. We had really good quality but limited quantity. We were down about 30% from former years but the grapes we did get were really exceptional,” says Lancaster.

At Black Widow, all tastings are uniquely done in the cellar of the winery, and the majority of the tastings is done by one of the winemakers themselves.

“Either my dad, my brother or myself do most of the tastings, so it's a unique experience because we have been involved in every step of the process. It’s a great place to ask questions and learn more. I love that we are part of the wine making experience from the grapes being grown to the actual tasting of it. During Covid, we did a renovation on our tasting room which I think really heightens the tasting experience and was a big upgrade in service.”

After 20 years, Black Widow is still a unique, fun and friendly family owned business that is working on producing some of the Okanagan’s best wines.


Summerland's non-profit animal sanctuary Critteraid is in need of donations to help look after sick cats and kitties

Support for sick kitties

Casey Richardson

The Critteraid Animal Sanctuary in Summerland is looking for support for the many cats and kittens they help nurse back to help and continue to look after.

“Part of life saving care the Critteraid provides is to young kittens, and new kittens that are born to moms that unfortunately are not given the best start,” Critteraid Animal Director Jess Byer explained.

“These are moms who spend their first bit of life and pregnancy outside on the streets eating garbage, and basically just trying to keep themselves alive.”

Multiple litters of kittens come into Critteraid's care, where they nurse them back to health before they can be adopted into loving, warm homes. But some of those cats never fully heal and are in need of the full time support from the medical care team that the sanctuary provides.

“We're always in need of sponsors for some of the residents and of course donations from the public,” Byer added.

“Food is a big cost right now, and if you'd like to help you can always donate on our website or make a donation directly at our thrift shop in downtown Summerland, and we can't thank the public enough for the support for all our animals.”

For more information on Critteraid or to donate, visit their website here.

Osoyoos seeking grant to make improvements to Pioneer Walkway and a number of parks

Transforming public spaces

The deadline to get the application submitted is June 25.

The application includes work to install a scent garden at Pioneer Walkway, provide free wifi in a number of parks including Pioneer Walkway, West Bench Dog Park, Gyro Park, Lions Park and to upgrade the two water fountains at Pioneer Walkway.

Quotes for the projects and items are included in the application, totalling $55,000 for the work. If the grant is successful, it would cover 100 per cent of the project.

The Accessibility and Age Friendly committee has the scent garden on its list of projects and if grant funding is not successful, this project will still be included for the future.

Applicants will be notified in September to find out if they have been successful and all funding and work needs to be completed by June 30, 2022.


Penticton Herald managing editor 'overwhelmed and touched' by community support in his byelection council seat win

Miller 'touched' by win

The managing editor of the Penticton Herald has taken the Penticton City Council seat left open by retired Penticton city councillor Jake Kimberley, earning himself roughly 33 per cent of the votes cast in the byelection.

James Miller told Castanet that he’s "overwhelmed" by the support he’s received from the community, shortly after being announced the winner on Saturday evening.

“Well, just thank you to everyone for that overwhelming vote of confidence. It's humbling. And thank you to the people who work so hard to get me elected. Thank you to the people who did things in their own little way, whether it was talking me up among friends or liking a post on Facebook or putting up a lawn sign,” he said.

Miller added that the turnout was definitely an improvement to previous years of elections.

“I think when you have 10 candidates, obviously, I think that will create interest. I think maybe the opinion poll on the Marina, I think maybe that brought a few people out. I credit the city with doing a great job, lots of advance polls, lots of opportunities for advanced voting, and byelections traditionally are half to three quarters lower. I don't know, I think that's a pretty good number.”

The City of Penticton announced preliminary results before 9 p.m. on Saturday night, with votes totalling over 5,000.

Miller hopes to use his 15-month assignment to really listen to the citizens of this community.

“I just want to be the best possible prepared city councillor that I can be, that makes better decisions that listens to the public and that works collaboratively. And as I said, when necessary, might have to ask a tough or uncomfortable question.”

Miller outlined that he will have strict guidelines in place as he remains as the managing editor of the Penticton Herald. He spent time running much of his campaign by the motto that his years covering council as a journalist are transferable experience to the seat.

“I'm going back to work on Monday, I do miss it. These five weeks, it is a bit of an endurance test, because I work really hard and so did my team. But I'm gonna have obviously a lot of strict guidelines, I tried to test run before I even announced to see if I can do it. As I said, and thank you to the 1666 people who, who trust me when I said, I can wear two hats, but not at the same time,” he said, adding that he’s confident he can achieve this.

“I will not be mentioning City Council, I will not be writing on it. Every second Tuesday, when it's meeting day, I will not even be in the building and I absolutely will not mandate to my staff what they are to report or say.”

Miller plans for his writing to be focused more in feature writing on people in the community, kids or possibly even sports.

“Feature writing is something that I love to do, and I'm very good at it, so I'm glad to let others handle that. And I will be watched I'm sure.”

He also believes that his staff and reporters can "absolutely, unequivocally" cover him impartially and ethically.

“They're also a unionized staff. So if I'm ever, you know, someone had suggested if I was ever to use my influence, I'd immediately get a call from Unifor 123 which is the union which represents the reporters. Secondly, I would be dismissed for my position and I really don't want to lose my job in shame in front of the entire community,” he explained.

“At the same time, when I'm wearing my council hat, I absolutely will not leak something to the paper because that's considered municipal corruption, which is punishable by up to 14 years in jail.”

Overall, Miller said he was touched and ‘really, really pleased with the result.’

The votes in favour of the Skaha Marina being run by a private operator and entering into a long-term agreement of up to 25 years in order to fund the marina improvements and services passed by a narrow margin, with 2453 for yes, and 2416 for no.

The preliminary voting results for the other candidates are below:

  • Jame Blake: 95
  • Amelia Boultbee: 610
  • Steve Brown: 399
  • Karen Brownlee: 237
  • Jason Cox: 317
  • Isaac Gilbert : 766
  • Kate Hansen: 718
  • Keith MacIntyre: 67
  • Katie O’Kell: 134

James Miller announced as the new Penticton city councillor in the byelection

Miller takes council seat

It's municipal election day in Penticton.

City council needs to fill one spot, left vacant by now-retired Coun. Jake Kimberley this winter following his health issues.

Polls are open at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre and the Seniors' Drop-In Centre from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday.

Ten candidates are in the running, and you can find links to detailed Q&As with each of them here.

Summerland Farmers & Crafters Market opening up for the season on Sunday

Sunday market returns

The Summerland Farmers & Crafters Market will be opening on Sunday at 9 a.m., with a block of vendors to shop from.

The entrance to the market begins on Henry Avenue and exits out on Kelly Avenue.

“For now the space is limited to the one block and the vendors will adhere to a COVID-19 Pandemic Plan submitted to both the Municipality of Summerland and an Environmental Officer at Interior Health,” the market’s facebook post reads.

Everything from soap to produce, golf clothes, hats, handmade jewelry and eggs will be available from vendors.

Last year the market saw nearly 5,000 market-goers.

The market runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays through summer to the end of September.

Kars Under the K coming back to Keremeos for an antique car show

Car show ready to return

An event that combines family fun with an antique cars display in Keremeos is set to make its return on August 1.

Hundreds of antique and vintage cars, trucks and tractors, muscle cars and street rods, custom and classic cars will be on display in the town for the Keremeos’ Kars Under the K.

Attendees will start off your day with a pancake breakfast and be invited to check out Vendor's Alley, listen to great music, go for a Free Swim, watch your children in the Bouncy Castle or go to the Keremeos Legion (right next door), for a cold one.

The non-profit organization also the event raises awareness and money for local causes.

“The extraordinary beauty of our surrounding landscape will make you fall in love with Keremeos, a small town surrounded by stunning mountains. Make sure you don't miss the event this year,” their event website reads.

The event organizers also sent in a letter to the Village Council with a request for a $500 grant for the June 21 meeting.

“Volunteers are helping out from the Cawston Primary School, Keremeos Bell Ringers, Keremeos Senior Center and more. With the support and grants we receive we are able to help out a few of the local organizations with their programs,” their letter to council reads.

The 2021 ‘First Show after COVID’, will take place on Sunday, Aug. 1 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Main Street, registration forms are available on their website here.

The Bay ordered to pay Cherry Lane Mall its overdue rent to avoid eviction in Penticton

The Bay has to pay to stay

The ongoing fight between Penticton's Cherry Lane Mall and its tenant, the Hudson's Bay Company, is slowly drawing to a conclusion, as a BC Supreme Court judge ruled the mall cannot evict The Bay for not paying its rent. But The Bay has to pay.

The companies filed lawsuits against each other in November of 2020. Cherry Lane alleged in its suit that HBC had not paid its roughly $78,000 per month rent since April 2020, resulting in over $620,000 owed, plus more than $85,000 in taxes and lease costs reconciliation.

HBC filed a suit the same day in November, claiming Cherry Lane was a contributing factor for their loss of revenue during the pandemic that left them unable to pay their rent, upset over lack of upgrades for public safety.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Christopher Giaschi ruled in a judgment published June 17 that the mall cannot go through with eviction actions if The Bay pays all its outstanding rent.

“Cherry Lane was justified in terminating the lease due to non-payment of rent. However, this is an appropriate case in which relief from forfeiture should be granted, but on terms that HBC pay the full amount of the rent,” Giaschi wrote in his decision.

He added that HBC would suffer irreparable harm if it was forced out of the premises, with a lack of locations in the area where it can relocate its store, along with reputational damage.

On January 5, 2021 a consent order was entered into by the parties, outlining that HBC was to pay to Cherry Lane 50 per cent of the ongoing rental amounts for the year 2021, that amount being $38,489.

The balance of the rent amounts were to be deposited into the trust account of HBC’s counsel and were to be held subject to any further agreement of the parties or an order of the court.

“There is no irreparable harm to HBC in requiring that it pay full rent,” Giaschi wrote.

Giaschi ruled that along with HBC’s obligation to pay rent pursuant to the terms of the lease, they must pay all amounts held by them in trust or otherwise held by them on account of rent owing.

In regards to HBC's allegation that Cherry Lane failed to provide a high quality shopping centre, the decision will be determined at a future hearing. If HBC’s action against Cherry Lane is successful, their company will be entitled to damages, which will provide it with full compensation.

“Both parties have retained experts to provide their opinions on the issue of whether the shopping centre was a “high quality” shopping centre at the relevant times and the reports of these experts are in evidence before me. The experts have different opinions on the matter. However, I do not intend to review the evidence of the experts in any detail as, in my view, it does not matter whether Cherry Lane was in breach of this contractual obligation.”

Penticton cannabis shops excited to have extended hours, gaining a 'more competitive edge'

New hours thrill pot shops

Casey Richardson

Cannabis stores say Penticton city council’s decision to allow for later hours of operation was a good move for the city, allowing for a more competitive market in town.

It was a surprise move at Tuesday’s meeting, when Mayor John Vassilaki proposed allowing cannabis shops to stay open until 11 p.m. instead of 8 p.m., effective immediately.

“Well, it's fantastic. It's good to have that ability to have a little bit more competitive edge. There's a lot of competition in town and it's nice to see that we have more ability to compete with the other shops,” Paul Pyne, the store manager at Eggs Canna said.

“It's nice to just see progression, see the council kind of approving it and getting it a little bit more in line with other industries.”

“The initial reaction is awesome. You know, it's something that we had kind of been campaigning to city council for over a year and they had voted it down last year. So this news coming in just before the Canada Day long weekend is great and hopefully it helps us as things start to open up here,” Matt Bolton, the franchise owner for Spiritleaf Penticton said.

Both stores didn’t immediately change their hours when it was announced, but are rolling out changes over the weekend and into the next week.

Eggs Canna will be open until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, extending until 9 p.m. every other day.

Spiritleaf has extended their hours until 10 p.m. every day starting next Monday.

Bolton added that he didn’t change his store hours right away, out of respect for the staff and to take the time to let the community know of the changes, rather than adding on those two hours without any customers coming in.

Overall, both Bolton and Pyne think the extended hours will give customers more opportunities to shop and increase business.

“We have stores in Kelowna and stores in Vancouver and they operate under those full hours, and they've seen success in those late night hours for sure,” Pyne said.

While many stores are happy to see change, it also puts them in a difficult position to adjust staff hours and hire on enough people.

“It does create a little bit of a challenge with scheduling and staff. It's different now, the staff that we hired then, the hours were a different layout. So their lifestyles are going to be affected in this way. Some staff came on board with the notion that they can be out here by 8:30 at night, now their schedule has changed,” Pyne explained.

“Of course a little bit more notice for planning and, you know prep [would have been nice], however, when this good news comes I'm just happy for it to be here,” Bolton said.

And the good news keeps coming for the cannabis shops, as the provincial government approved licensed cannabis retailers to deliver cannabis to homes starting on July 15.

“There's got to be some people out there that aren't able to make it to our location, or just don't have modes of transportation and we'll tap into you know, a little bit of a newer market," Bolton said.

Keep an eye on cannabis shops throughout the city as hours change and delivery options are added.

Similkameen Sizzle hot pepper festival cancelled again

No Sizzle this summer

The Okanagan's only festival dedicated to hot peppers has cancelled its annual event for the second year running.

The Similkameen Sizzle usually takes place in Keremeos each September, celebrating all things to do with hot peppers.

Locals show off their harvests and their hot pepper jams, jellies, salsas, spreads and more, while enjoying live entertainment and even a raw pepper eating challenge.

But the COVID-19 pandemic put and end to the 2020 celebration, and now the 2021 celebration as well.

"We were not confident that we could meet the COVID safety requirements so we felt it was best to cancel the event to protect our community and guests," the festival wrote on social media Thursday.

"Hope to see you in 2022!"

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