Okanagan Wine Festival takes-off

At a time when the harvest is ready, the grapes are being crushed, and the long hot days of summer are only a memory, the Okanagan Fall Wine Festival arrives at the perfect time to truly offer an opportunity to celebrate the finest the Okanagan has to offer.

Friday night at the Rotary Centre for the Arts, hundreds were in attendance to help kick off the 2012 Fall Festival during the first of two WestJet Wine Tastings.

"It's always impressive when you see over 300 people lined up to come in the door and all so excited," says Okanagan Wine Festival General Manager Blair Baldwin.

In all, Baldwin says 550 people attended the opening night.

"There's a lot of people who have heard that tasting wine is fun, it's not stuffy and that wines are affordable in the Okanagan. It's pretty impressive when we look around and see 63 wineries. Who would have thought that 15 years ago when the industry was happy if 20 wineries got together and you could have 100 people, hopefully, wanting to buy a ticket?"

Baldwin added that they could have sold out Saturday night`s tasting twice over. 

Now along with all the people, Okanagan wineries are also lining up to take part.

"We love this event, it's a great event, we love the layout, it's different and unique," says Stephanie Keuhlem, Cellar Master at Osoyoos Larose Winery in Oliver.

"Its a great way to get exposure, especially for us. We don't have a retail store, we only sell through the government and private liquor stores, so it's a great way for people to know us...and to promote our brand."

The owner of Ancient Hill Winery in Kelowna, Richard Kamphyus, agrees.

"Every year it gets better and better. I see more and more people coming, more and more connection with the local community. It's an excellent festival. We are very fortunate in the fact that, as a business, we have such an organization that actually promotes your products, gives people a fun night out and introduces people to your community."

Along with the incredible variety of wines, those in attendance also got to sample a tremendous selection of food, listen to great entertainment and even win prizes from the WestJet. On top of that everyone got to take their wine glass home with them, and had access to taxi's courtesy of the Wine Festival.

"Fabulous, it's wonderful," says Diane Kuner, who was attending the festival for the first time. "I'm a wine enjoyer," she joked adding the night was a wonderful way to enjoy the selection offered in the Okanagan.

With the wine tasting broken down by region, those in attendance were able to go on mini-tours of the various wine producing areas within the valley.

"I like that it's organized by region," says festival goer Theresa Arsenault. "It gives me the opportunity to try the ones that I like from each region. I'm a fan of Okanagan wine, and I have my favourite wineries so I will check out what they're offering this year."

And Friday was just the beginning. With events continuing until October 13, there is a wide variety to choose from and tickets are available for many events.

"We have 112 wineries in the middle of crush. It's the only wine festival in North America that happens dead-on during the crush," says Baldwin.

"There are grape stomps going on this weekend, there are winemaker's dinners, there are crazy innovative events involving art and wine.

To get all the information on how to enjoy the Okanagan Fall Wine Festival, visit their website.

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