Organizers have taken the climax for the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival’s 35th season to a new height.
The festival is running now until Oct. 11, with over 120 events scheduled at wineries from the north end of the Okanagan to the south.
The longstanding Grand Finale Consumer Tasting, a signature event which was traditionally one of the concluding festivities, has been transformed this year into Cropped… by Valley First.
“We’ve completely changed the format,” said Lori Pike-Raffan, Okanagan Wine Festivals Society public relations director. “Given the huge popularity of supporting local and farmer’s markets, and the fact that B.C. wines are now allowed at farmers markets – what could be more fun than trying to recreate that atmosphere?”
Cropped takes place on Oct. 9 and 10 at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre between 6 and 9 p.m. Wine producers will be joined by other vendors, including local farmers, who will arrange the large room into a downtown-style layout.
“We’re creating a farmers market, in effect, within the PTCC and coming to it we have farmers, bakers, produce sellers – you name it,” she said. “They’ll be setting up a Main Street within the convention centre, and then on top of that of course we’ll have over 80 B.C. wineries pouring some fabulous wine.”
She said the collaboration is seamless, as wine producers are farmers too.
“We have to grow the grapes and we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature just the same. It’s just natural that we would have this affinity for other farmers, and then of course wine and food are a natural pair. Fresh local ingredients with local B.C. wine – it’s the perfect pairing.”
After intriguing many guests last year at the finale, students from the Okanagan College Sensory Lab will return to demonstrate the different tastes of pinots.
“It’s a fun, educational tasting bar where they characterize the differences,” Pike-Raffan said. “And the Okanagan produces such incredible pinots.”
Also returning are the Dairy Farmers of Canada, who are very well-versed in the art of pairing.
“They offer fantastically entertaining, and very tasty I may add, wine and cheese pairings. They show you what to look for, and explain what works and what doesn’t.”
She said the market won’t be as large as the one downtown every Saturday, but the same atmosphere is being sought.
“Instead of one live big band we used to have at the Grand Finale, we’re going to have bunch of buskers that are going to be performing different styles of music throughout the Main Street.”
Another signature event in the South Okanagan – this one completely new – is the Thanksgiving Sparkling Brunch at Watermark Beach Resort.
Guests attending the brunch will enjoy naturally-smoked Okanagan Sockeye from Osoyoos Lake; organic omelettes; local artisan cheeses, house-made charcuteria and a chef’s carving station – all of which to be carefully paired with sparkling wine.
Tickets for Cropped cost $65 for one night or $110 for both, and can be bought through valleytixfirst.com or 877-763-2849.
For the Thanksgiving brunch, tickets cost $35 and can be purchased by calling 866-307-2224.
Throughout all the festival’s events though, connoisseurs are excited to experience the effects of an ideal growing season.
“We are absolutely delighted by this spectacular season,” said Pike-Raffan. “Summer was beautifully long and hot; started nice and early, and the precipitation was low, so it’s the ideal conditions for grapes.”
She said many wineries in the Okanagan will have wrapped up their harvest season more than a month early, which she said is unprecedented in the Okanagan.
“If things continue, this could be one of the most outstanding vintages ever,” she said.
And a local producer was able to verify those comments.
“There was a lot less disease pressure because it’s been so hot and dry,” said Lyndsay O’Rourke, winemaker at Tightrope Winery. “Some wines have some pretty amazing flavours in them so far, even white varieties that I wasn’t expecting to do well in the heat.”
To learn about all events scheduled for this year’s Fall Okanagan Wine Festival, visit thewinefestivals.com.