Over 1,000 people filled the Penticton Convention Centre this past weekend for the Valley First Grand Finale Consumer Tastings.
This is the second 'Experience Okanagan' wine tasting put on by Okanagan Wine Festivals this month, the first was the WestJet Tasting that took place last weekend at the Rotary Centre for the Arts.
Blair Baldwin, of Okanagan Wine Festivals, says the Valley First wine tasting provides more of an opportunity for wineries to have a conversation with consumers.
"There are more couples here, than at the WestJet Tasting. People are really interested in the wineries that are here, because it is the long weekend and what they taste here they will be able to go to the winery and experience that later if they want."
Baldwin says the Valley First event allows wineries, consumers and organizes to say goodbye to the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival, as the tasting serves more of a broader reach than other signature events.
"We have a strong corporate support with BC Liqour stores, who have provided a huge 3,000 square foot wine store on site for the event, " explains Baldwin. "Every winery that pours here tonight has to provide a wine for the store, so if you taste the wines you can take them home with you."
The Valley First event drew a diverse crowd from around the Okanagan, as well as from out of the country.
"I've run into people from Montreal, Saskatoon, Santa Barbara, even a couple from Sweden."
Baldwin explains that the event on Friday night applies to more of a regional audience, mostly those from around the Southern Okanagan, while Saturday opens up to a wider audience of people who plan to stay the night in Penticton.
New at the event this year were vibrant cheese seminars from Dairy Farmers of Canada and a Wine 101 seminar.
"The wine 101 seminar was full each night with sommelier Jay Drysdale and Jerry Mason, the winemaker at Dirty Laundry, putting on a stellar class. While the cheese seminar was set up for 46 people, and clearly the consumers like it. The seminars are a great added value that proves this event is not stuffy, wines can be easily enjoyed, it gives people a different perspective, it's so electric," says Baldwin.
Okanagan Wine Festivals once again chalked up the Valley First event as a success, with Friday night bringing in the second largest crowd ever for the finale event.
The society will now begin planning for the winter Okanagan Wine Festival to be held at Sun Peaks Sun from January 11–19, 2014. For tickets and information click here.