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Wine 'Fest' 20 years later

The Okanagan Spring Wine Festival has come a long way in 20 years.

It started with 60 guests squeezed into the old Laurel Packing house, tasting from only 12 wineries.

Today the tasting is a sold out two-night event, with 60 wineries pouring and 600 people coming through the doors both Friday and Saturday.

Blair Baldwin, the festival’s general manager, says the crowd has also changed from years previous.

“It’s energetic, young, lots of couples, lots of singles. It is a far cry from where we were 20 years ago,” he says. “The expectations are when they come here, is nothing but professional standards."

WestJet is the sponsor of the event, and Baldwin compares loading the 600 guests through the doors of the Rotary Centre for the Arts, in 27 minutes on Saturday, to that of boarding one of the airline’s flights.

“We did pre-boards because we gave booklets to people waiting outside, so everybody was set to go with the exception of getting their wine glass. Really it’s a science,” he jokes.

For the WestJet Wine Tasting, The Rotary Centre for the Arts is divided into the wine regions of the Okanagan, so guests can enjoy a tasting from similar terroirs  such as Summerland’s Bottleneck Drive or the Naramata Bench.

“We really make this room work, our customers love it, we have had nothing but positive feedback,” says Baldwin.

The festival only focuses on  BC wines explains Baldwin.

“It doesn’t matter if it is VQA, fruit wine, sparkling, red, white, late harvest, or ice wine, as long as it is made from 100 per cent British Columbia fruit we are here to promote it.”

The WestJet wine tasting kicked off the festival which runs until May 11, check out thewinefestivals.com for more events.

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