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Wine column: Spectacular, multi-multi-million-dollar O'Rourke Family Estate partially open

Dennis O'Rourke is being coy.

"I want to be low-key and keep some things under wraps," said the owner of O'Rourke Family Estate with a laugh.

By the way, O'Rourke Family Estate is the massive new winery in Lake Country on Commonage Road that's well on its way to being an Okanagan vinous showpiece.

O'Rourke declines to disclose how much he's spending constructing the winery built into an outcropping of 140-million-year-old granite.

Although it's surely multi-multi-millions.

He is even secretive of how many square feet the winery, designed by renowned California architect John Taft of Backen & Backen, is.

However, it's estimated it's about 200,000 square feet.

To put that into perspective, that's about twice the size of the Rona home improvement superstore in Kelowna.

When complete, O'Rourke Family Estate will be bigger and just as showy, or more showy, as the Okanagan's two other wineries known for their style, scale and excellent vintages -- Mission Hill Family Estate in West Kelowna and Phantom Creek in Oliver.

</who>Owner Dennis O'Rourke Family Estate partially open.

Construction on O'Rourke Family Estate started four years ago and has progressed to the point where it's almost complete and ready to partially open to the public.

So far, the winery has hosted two swanky weddings and the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation's Heart of Gold fundraiser, which raised a record $1.6 million the night it was at the winery.

O'Rourke Family Estate has held some tastings in its private lounge for invited guests.

Currently, the website is just a landing page, so you'll have to call sister winery O'Rourke's Peak Cellars at 250-766-9922 to make an appointment or get more information.

The first public event at the winery will be May 12, 6 to 8 pm, when winemaker Nikki Callaway and Italian meat master Claudio Perazzo host a Wine & Charcuterie Masterclass, pairing seven O'Rourke Family Estates wines with cured meats.

Only 60 tickets are available for $115 each here.

More events during the Spring Okanagan Wine Festival in June will be announced soon.

</who>An under-construction aerial photo that gives a sense of how big the winery is.

The winery also has a dock and boathouse on Okanagan Lake that will eventually allow people to arrive by water.

In all, the winery has a huge reception hall, convention and conference space, an outdoor amphitheatre, indoor theatre, several tasting rooms, private tasting room, dining room and bar, various experience rooms, cooking school, bakery, four private-member overnight suites, 300 metres of underground tunnels you can drive a tractor through to access 12,000 square feet of wine-storage caves and 27,000-square-foot warehouse.

This is all surrounded by 340 acres of land, 110 of which is already in vineyard.

Of course, there's also a state-of-the-art crush pad and production facility with a piano for winemaker Nikki Callaway to play.

</who>Nikki Callaway is the award-winning winemaker at O'Rourke Family Estate.

Callaway was educated at the Universite de Bordeaux and trained in France before moving to the Okanagan, where she crafted the 2011 Martin's Lane Pinot Noir that won Mission Hill Family Estate the 'best Pinot Noir in the world' trophy at the Decanter World Wine Awards.

She'd gone on to work at Quails' Gate in West Kelowna and Laughing Stock on the Naramata Bench before being lured to O'Rourke Family Estate by the owner's vision and the site's perfection to grow the cool-climate Burgundy varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

</who>O'Rourke Family Estate 2020 Chardonnay ($65).

Callaway has utilized those grapes to make eight, elegant and high-end wines, so far -- a non-vintage Brut sparkling ($70), 2019 Chardonnay ($60), 2020 Chardonnay ($65), 2020 Clone 96 Chardonnay ($80), 2019 Pinot Noir ($75), 2020 Clone 943 Pinot Noir ($100), 2020 Twisted Pine Chardonnay ($80) and 2019 Waiting for You Pinot Noir ($95).

There's also an O'Rourke's Peak Cellars winery on Goldie Road in Lake Country that O'Rourke calls his beginner winery.

The new winery several kilometres away is a realization of O'Rourke's 'climbing higher, digging deeper and dreaming harder' mantra.

O'Rourke made his money with Edmonton-based construction company Sureway.

"I've been lucky in life, so I thought: Why don't I build something great and have a lot of fun doing it," he said.

</who>Tanja Martell, left, and Annika Betts are two Okanagan sommeliers who have created a national wine club.

Gone West Wine Club

Sommeliers Tanja Martell and Annika Betts have morphed their in-home wine tasting company to include a national wine club featuring Okanagan wines.

When the pandemic hit, they had to switch from in-home tastings to form Gone West Wine Club.

The club partners with boutique wineries in the Okanagan to curate wine packs that can be ordered from anywhere in Canada.

The club is free to join at and then you'll start receiving an email every other month outlining offers of varying-size packs of wine and customized options.

There's no commitment, so you can order as much or as little as you like.

The wines always arrive with tasting notes, food pairing suggestions, serving tios and fun wine facts.

Martell is also the director of communications and public relations at O'Rourke Family Estate, and Betts is a territory manager with Andrew Peller Ltd. (Sandhill, Wayne Gretzky, Red Rooster, Tinhorn Creek, Black Hills and Gray Monk wineries) .

With the pandemic over, they are now available again for in-home tastings in the Kelowna area.

Steve MacNaull is a NowMedia Group reporter, Okanagan wine lover and Canadian Wine Scholar. Reach him at His wine column appears every Friday afternoon in this space.

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