More than 20,000 visitors are expected to descend on the Okanagan for the annual fall wine festival from Oct. 1 to 11.
The 35th annual Fall Okanagan Wine Festival will feature more than 120 events across the valley in the midst of the busiest time of the year for B.C. wineries, the grape harvest.
This year’s wine grape harvest began on Aug. 12, a record early date for picking wine grapes in the province.
The early spring coupled with a hot and dry summer prompted wineries that produce sparkling wines to the unprecedented early start, three weeks ahead of the customary picking time.
With one of the warmest and driest springs and summers in the Okanagan, if the good conditions continue through autumn, some local winemakers are predicting 2015 will be the vintage of the century.
British Columbia wines are also hot with consumers, with the total provincial market share for BC VQA wines for the first quarter of this year up 15.78 per cent over the same period last year.
“At Okanagan Crush Pad, harvest began last week on August 14 with the arrival of Chardonnay grapes from our Secrest Mountain Vineyard in Oliver. Allocated for our sparkling wine program, the fruit looks exceptional, some of the best that we have seen over the years. The season has been hot and dry so we are seeing very little disease pressures which is fantastic given that all our growers are transitioning to organic farming. It is always a bonus when the season cooperates, but as we all know, these are early days,” said Christine Coletta, owner of the Okanagan Crush Pad Winery. “Hopefully the exceptional weather holds through the fall, both for a stellar vintage and for our wine touring visitors.”
“We’ve been growing grapes since the 1970s and this is the earliest I’ve seen a harvest. It is one of those very rare years where everything has been near perfect valley-wide, with ideal ripening and flavour development in our vineyards from Osoyoos to Lake Country,” added Steven Heiss, owner and inventory manager of Gray Monk Estate Winery in Lake Country.
” Our biggest concern is that the red grapes will ripen the same time as the whites, creating significant bottleneck issues on our crushpad. This at least is one of the better winemaking problems to have, since you can always turn on the sprinkler but you can’t turn on the sun.”
New this year for the fall wine festival events will be Cropped…Presented By Valley First, B.C’s largest wine tasting and farmer’s market on Oct. 9 and 10 in Penticton, which will replace the past Grand Finale consumer tasting event.
A sensory and visual experience, guests will experience the sights, sounds and tastes of a farmer’s market with a “main street” of farmers, bakers and over 80 wineries, along with lively buskers performing a variety of musical styles.
Also on tap, the new Okanagan College Sensory Lab is conducting a Pinot Bar featuring Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. As well, fun and tasty educational seminars will be held by the Dairy Farmers’ of Canada.
Event and ticket information for the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival is available at www.thewinefestivals.com.