Spring wine festival growing up

As warmer spring weather encourages the first grapevine buds to swell and vintners release the latest vintage,spring winefest begins.

The Spring Okanagan Wine Festival celebrates bud break in the vineyard

The Spring Okanagan Wine Festival is growing up.

It’s the 19th year for the younger cousin to the popular Fall Okanagan Wine Festival and it only expanded to a 10-day run from a weekend a few years ago.

But, this year, it’s moved to a more-professional wine awards event as well, says coordinator Blair Baldwin.

Whereas in all previous years the spring festival has featured industry judges doing blind judging of their competitors’ wines, this year, professional, independent judges from the sommelier, consulting and wine writing worlds are being brought in.

It’s still a best of varietal competition, where pinot noirs are compared to pinot noir, but there’s been a jump by 20 per cent in the number of wineries competing, notes Baldwin.

“This obviously means more to the industry and moves it to a more-serious, professional competition,” he commented.

Five panels of four, each led by a professional, are closeted in Penticton this week working their way through the 436 wines that have been submitted, tasting blind and coming to a consensus on how each rates.

Baldwin said this year wineries have also come up with more-innovative events, like Ex Nihilo’s Food Rave with Chef Michael Lyon and DJ Krucial K; and Kalala’s East meets West tapas for a donation to the food bank.

“It’s not just an invitation to come out and try the new releases of wine, but a clever idea for an event around that,” he noted.

The Westjet Wine Tastings this Friday and Saturday in Kelowna at the Rotary Centre for the Arts are attracting a young demographic, says Baldwin, as well as more single females.

“People are dressing up for a night on the town. It’s an exciting and lively event,” he commented.

This year’s wine festival begins Thursday with the Best of Varietal Awards and Reception in Penticton and runs to Sun., May 12, with events up and down the valley.

For details pick up a copy of the events booklet wherever wines are sold, or go to the website at: www.thewinefestivals.com or call 861-6654.

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com