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Cork pops on Okanagan Fall Wine Festival

With fall weather upon  us, the local vineyards are gearing up for the wine festival which not only allows visitors such as Nathalie Gamache, left, the opportunity to taste the fruits of local vintners but also to appreciate the vistas and the tempting aroma in barrel storage rooms. - Percy N. Hebert/Western News
With fall weather upon us, the local vineyards are gearing up for the wine festival which not only allows visitors such as Nathalie Gamache, left, the opportunity to taste the fruits of local vintners but also to appreciate the vistas and the tempting aroma in barrel storage rooms.
— image credit: Percy N. Hebert/Western News

Whether you are an experienced connoisseur or a novice wine drinker, there is something for everyone at the Okanagan Fall Wine Festival.

Starting this weekend, running until Oct. 11, over 150 events will take place throughout the valley from the Osoyoos border all the way up to Kamloops. Okanagan Fall Wine Festivals Society public relations director Lori Pike-Raffan said they expect about 10,000 people will take in the events.

“It is such an incredible experience for people to be able to come during all the excitement of harvest and get to see the hands-on process themselves,” said Pike-Raffan. “We are out in the vineyards picking, crushing, fermenting and the smell in the air is gorgeous of the fermented juices. It is such a pretty time too when the leaves start to change. You get to see winemaking up close and personal.”

Now into the full-swing of the harvest season, vineyard visitors will get to not only see the process but meet those behind it.

“Very much so. That is another thing that is very special about our valley, is that we are small wineries and you do get to meet the owners and winemakers that you might not say visiting a region in California where they are all big wineries and you don’t get to actually meet the people behind the grapes,” said Pike-Raffan. “They will be out on the crush pad bringing in grapes, you’ll see the people out in the vineyards picking and several of the wineries offer hands on type experiences.”

From going out on a hike in the vineyards and helping pick grapes, to taking part in a blending session there is plenty to do.

“Then, of course, there is all the amazing food. There is tons of winemakers dinners and lunches,” said Pike-Raffan.

This Sunday the always popular Festival of the Grape takes place in Oliver at the community centre from noon to 6 p.m. Live entertainment will be provided by Rumba Calzada who feature original and classic Latin jazz and salsa music. This event attracts about 3,500 people who come to taste the various wines on display, enjoy the music and either compete in, or watch, the grape stomp. In addition, local artisans also display their crafts in the art gallery.

The Festival of the Grape kicks off with a parade where participants honour the various wineries in attendance with their banners hoisted high. After the parade, the mayor gives a short speech and then Bacchus announces the grape festival is to begin.

The 11 days of celebration culminate to the Valley First Grand Finale Consumer Tastings at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.

“Something that is really cool and new this year at the Grand Finale Tastings is they are offering Wine 101 classes. So if you are wanting to learn more or just getting into wine it is a great opportunity to learn in a fun, casual environment,” said Pike-Raffan.

The Grand Finale takes place on Oct. 11 and 12 from 6 to 9 p.m., allowing consumers to experience 80 wineries under one roof.

Tickets are available at ValleyFirstTix.com or by calling 877-763-2849.

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