Keep the community safe. Provide the community with assurance. This was the priority for O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

On Friday, Nov. 20, Heather Courtney, Peak Cellars General Manager, was told by one of her staff that their spouse tested positive for COVID-19 and their own COVID-19 test was pending. Within twenty minutes of this conversation, Peak Cellars closed its doors for the weekend to await the test results. When the test came back positive on Monday, the winery decided the safest decision was to remain closed for a full two weeks.

Heather says closing the winery provided the opportunity for all employees to take time for their health, to self-monitor for symptoms at home, and to not place unnecessary risks on each other or visiting guests.

After 24-hours with no one in the facility, a top-to-bottom professional sanitization was completed. Peak Cellars also purchased a disinfectant fogging machine – the latest device used for protection against infectious pathogens. Throughout the two-week closure, the machine assisted in purifying and sanitizing the environment.

Today, Peak Cellars is open, safe, and welcoming the community back to enjoy wine in the tasting room and dine in the Garden Bistro.

Chef de Cuisine Scott Geiring and General Manager Heather Courtney welcome guests back to the winery.

An Honest Approach

There was no delay in the approach Peak Cellars took to respond to COVID-19. Staff appreciated the aggressive reaction to take care of everyone above all else. Heather says it was a stark reminder of how quickly a positive result can impact day-to-day life, but everyone did the right thing and stayed at home while the winery was closed.

Even on the day the news about this risk was received, the guests dining at the time were approached individually at their tables and informed that the winery would be shutting down due to potential exposure.

Guests and the community shared positive comments and their appreciation for the winery’s quick action to close. A little honesty goes a long way to ensure the trust and confidence is maintained in a time of uncertainty.

Re-Open and Safer Than Ever

Peak Cellars and Garden Bistro re-opened on Saturday, Dec. 5 with a full compliment of wine tasting and bistro bookings. In addition to welcoming guests back, their already cautious safety practices were enhanced.

Enjoying the 2018 Riesling on a sunlit patio. This wine is filled with aromatics of lemon, lime, pear, grapefruit, honey and an intriguing floral note that soars above the fruit.

Routine self-symptom and daily temperature checks for staff have been in place since May, but documentation has been increased. Service methods have been revised to assign staff with a particular service duty, rather everyone doing everything. This helps to reduce high touch points by numerous people.

Guests can expect to see more signage, assigned pathways, hand sanitization stations, mask wearing, and an exceptionally clean washroom. The disinfectant fogging machine is also part of the daily cleaning routine and used after high-volume periods. The machine is food-safe, does not leave a residue, and only takes 10 minutes.

Looking Ahead

Peak Cellars has big plans for the future and the brief closure has not held them back.

A major kitchen renovation is underway to expand food services at the winery. The Chef Team of Scott Geiring, Jay Bennett, and Bernard Casavant are working together to create a new identity for food services at the O’Rourke estate.

Chef Scott is leading a menu redesign for the Garden Bistro, Chef Jay is the private chef for off-site catering, and Chef Bernard is consulting on new winery operations. The Peak Cellars renovations will offer different experiences for everyone – from a new private dining room to a redesigned picnic area. Guests can experience a casual stone-oven pizza on the patio to a formal, fine dining dinner. Any experience desired will be facilitated.

Margherita Pizza with vine ripened tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, olive oil, balsamic drizzle.

Live music, comedians, fundraisers, and other COVID-safe events are on the agenda for 2021 – both member-only and public events. On-site tours through the vineyard will offer wine tasting and canapés in stations.

If this was not enough to look forward to, a new “big sister” winery is under construction not far from Peak Cellars located on the O’Rourke estate. This new winery will feature chardonnay and pinot noir, cellaring caves and amphitheater, and additional dining and tasting experiences supported by the Peak Cellars Chef Team. The new winery will have a 2020 first vintage.

Construction underway at the new O’Rourke estate winery.
Inspired by Europe’s most famous wineries, the O’Rourke property features 300 metres of winding tunnels and 12,000 square-feet of cave space to store and age wines.

Perks of Peak

Wine club membership here is the Inner Circle – and the benefits are beyond. Aside from the delightful wine, benefits include access to a private boathouse with shuttle service to Peak Cellars for lunch or a dockside charcuterie and tasting.

Private bookings can be made for stays at the luxury, log home bed and breakfast. Stay packages offer lunch at Peak Cellars or a happy-hour boat cruise on the 40-foot San Juan yacht, followed by a full portfolio tasting.

The vision at Peak Cellars and the new winery under construction seems endless.

So, while no business wants to close – especially not because of a COVID-19 exposure – this is only a small set-back in the grand vision of what’s to come.

Canadian lobster salad with shaved O’Rourke winter garden vegetables, tossed in a ginger sesame marinate and wrapped in rice paper, served on a bed of pickled ginger and chili infused avocado, garnished with crispy seaweed.
Grilled Broccoli Salad with crumbled blue cheese, candied pecans, tomatoes, heirloom olive oil and balsamic reduction.

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Breanna is a communications and marketing professional with a life-long passion for Okanagan food and wine. In the industry, she worked at local wineries and fine-dining restaurants. These experiences sparked her passion for new world, Okanagan wine and nurtured a love for locally inspired, beautiful, and delicious food. Breanna is an advocate for environmental sustainability and lives a primarily plant-based diet. You can also find Breanna with Roxy, her black poodle, doing dog agility or hiking in the woods. Together they explore all the offerings of the Okanagan and beyond.


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