Despite the recession, ticket sales for the signature events for the 31st Fall Okanagan Wine Festival are up, reports organizer Blair Baldwin.
Thousands of visitors are expected in the valley over the next couple of weeks as the festival gets underway Thursday with a new event, the B.C. Wine Awards Reception and Tasting, at the Rotary Centre for the Arts.
International wine judges are in Kelowna this week, swirling, sniffing, sipping and spitting their way through the hundreds of entries in this year’s awards competition, and their decisions will be announced at the Thursday evening event.
Baldwin said they’ve moved it into the Mary Irwin Theatre, with the reception to follow in the arts centre, in order to accommodate more people, because of early interest in it.
“It’s a chance to be the first to try the best wines, and enjoy some great food from Chef Neil Schroeter,” noted Baldwin.
However, the Westjet Wine Tastings Friday and Saturday are sold out and there are only a few tickets remaining for the FortisBC Salute to Food and Wine Sunday evening.
There’s still some room in the Battle of the Wine Experts panel discussion about Meritage wines, Tuesday, Oct. 4 and The Young Chefs at Okanagan College Thursday, Oct. 6.
That will feature young chefs paired with a local winery competing to produce the most creative dish using cheese for the Saputo Top Young Chef Award—and you get to vote.
Baldwin says they expect most of the visitors to come from the Lower Mainland and Alberta, but there’ll be some international visitors for the 10-day run as well.
The early popularity of most events “has put a smile on our faces, and on those of all involved,” he said, noting that it’s good to see more young people interested and young consumers learning more about wines.
“The younger crowd is perhaps less interested in the grape varietal than in whether it’s from a fun winery with a fun theme,” he added.