Hundreds of BC wines are waiting to be poured into your glass. Fresh, local ingredients have been skillfully prepared by the Okanagan’s top chefs. This is your chance to mingle with winemakers and winery proprietors.
It’s time for the fall Okanagan Wine Festival!
Wineries are busy harvesting grapes from the vineyards, wine shops are quiet after the summer rush, and many of last year’s red wines are ready to be released. Autumn in the Okanagan is a fantastic time of year!
The 2016 fall schedule features an assortment of BC wine experiences throughout the valley. These range from wine paired dinners, blind wine tastings, wine awards ceremonies and wine tasting events.
Wine Tasting Events
The Westjet Tastings in Kelowna, Cropped in Penticton, and The Festival of the Grape in Oliver are excellent opportunities to sample dozens of wine in one venue. And whether it’s your first wine event or you’re a seasoned wine sampler, it really helps to have a plan before you visit these events.
That’s right, you need a wine tasting strategy.
These simple tips will help to make the most of a relatively short time for tasting:
- Check the Okanagan Wine Festival website for details on which wineries will be pouring at your event.
- Make your game plan. Personally, I head straight for wineries whose wines I haven’t tasted before, then search for my favourite wineries with new releases. Or maybe you want to try every wine made with your favourite varietal(s), to compare the wineries’ different wine styles. Alternatively, you could try wineries from an area of BC wine country you’ve never had the chance to visit.
- Just like wine touring, I find it really helps to taste sparkling and white wines at the beginning of the event, then potentially move to rosés before switching to reds. Be sure to keep an eye on the clock… Time has a way of evaporating at these events! You can always go back for a palate cleansing sip of your favourite bubbly to refresh your palate at any time… That never hurts!
- Be sure to stay well hydrated and eat a few bites of the delicious bread, cheese, and snacks provided to maintain your tasting stamina!
Top Okanagan Wine Festival Events – Fall 2016
With more than 300 events happening at wineries, restaurants, and entertainment venues, there’s something for everyone. It wasn’t easy to choose the best events because they’re all fun in their own way, but I managed to narrow it down. I highly recommend the following events if you want to experience more of BC wine:
September 29/30, October 1-8 | Okanagan Crush Pad Winery | Summerland, BC
Natural wines. Biodynamic farming. Organics. Non-interventionist. What the heck are these buzzwords that always seem to come up in wine conversations these days?
It’s true what they say: Trends are cyclical. What is old is new again. More and more wine producers are emulating the way wines were made hundreds if not thousands of years ago. In the vineyard they are farming without the use of chemical pesticides or herbicides. Not adding any additional sulphur before or after fermentation. Using clay amphora to ferment and store wines. Not using any commercial yeasts or additives to help the yeast ferment the grape juice into wine.
Why bother making wines like this? The answer for me is simple: When it’s done right, these techniques can yield some of the most complex, thought-provoking wines you’ll likely ever taste. Be warned, these wines can be polarizing… Most people either love or hate them. Go try them for yourself and decide at this sit-down seminar-style tasting.
Saturday, October 1 | Mission Hill Family Estate Winery | West Kelowna, BC
Mission Hill’s annual harvest dinner is always worth checking out! This event starts with a winery tour with Mission Hill’s winemaker Darryl Brooker. Afterwards, you’ll enjoy wine paired canapés during the reception in the wineshop. Sounds like a good time, right? The best part is still yet to come. A seven-course, wine paired dinner in the Chagall Room… A room pretty much reserved for special events and people who have enough money to fly in private jets. Even at $160 a person, it will be worth every penny!
Wednesday, October 5 | Laurel Heritage Packinghouse | Kelowna, BC
I heard nothing but great things about this event last year, so it’s great to see that they have brought it back for a second time!
Several wines will be served from brown paper bags (link to post about the blind tasting) so you don’t know what you’re sipping. Tasting wines blind is an exercise that all sommeliers have to master while they are studying. It’s a great way to truly assess the qualities of a wine without having any preconceived notions or bias to what’s in the glass.
My buddy Grant, a sommelier who is also the winemaker and vineyard manager for Kitsch Wines won this event last year. Check out this event and see if you can knock him off his high horse!
Tasting wines this way is tonnes of fun. On top of that, they’ll be serving a great selection of Canadian cheeses. This will be a fun night!
Thursday, October 6 | Okanagan College | Kelowna, BC
This looks like a great event! Twelve apprentice chefs from some great restaurants around the valley have been challenged to create a dish, sweet or savoury, that contains at least 20% cheese from Alexis de Portneuf. On top of that, each of these dishes will be paired with a local wine.
Obviously the food has to be delicious, but this competition is all about how well the dish pairs with its wine. You get to be the judge. There will be a people’s choice vote for best pairing as well as a panel of professional judges on hand to name the year’s Top Young Chef.
Saturday, October 8 | Culmina Family Estate Winery | Oliver, BC
Here’s another harvest dinner that I wouldn’t want to miss. Culmina is one of my favourite wineries in the Okanagan. Proprietors Don and Elaine Triggs and their winemaker Pascal Madevon will be on hand to mix and mingle with guests and present their wines.
My favourite chef in the valley, Mark Filatow (Sidenote: I’m biased because he’s a good friend of mine, but his restaurant, Waterfront Wines, has won the Vancouver Magazine award for the “Best Restaurant in the Okanagan Valley” the last eight years in a row) will be cooking at the event. Mark will prepare five courses along with canapés for a reception before everyone sits down to a long table dinner in the winery’s Fermentation Hall.
Saturday, October 8 | Poplar Grove Winery | Penticton, BC
Tasting wines from the barrel is generally an experience reserved for a privileged few winemakers and sommeliers. Not on October 8th at Poplar Grove! It’s really cool to sample the components of a wine before they are blended together. You really get a sense of what characteristics each barrel of wine brings to a blend. This will be worth checking out for sure.
Experience BC Wine at the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival
The Fall Okanagan Wine Festival is an amazing opportunity to experience a different side of BC wine. I hope our tips and recommendations will be helpful to you and that you’ll have a wonderful wine festival! You’ll be sure to discover some new favourite wines and wineries.
What’s your favourite event? Did you find any new favourites wines at a festival event?
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