Learning while sipping

A few years ago at a wine tourism conference, one of the presenters spoke of an emerging trend in tasting rooms: the growth of educational offerings. 

Think of tutored tastings and experiences that you book in advance, maybe sitting down to learn about the wine-making process or food pairing.

A tip to wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries: statistics show that visitors, in particular, are up to 80 per cent more likely to book an experience online than by any other method, and if they have a seated tasting, they will generally buy more of your products.


When you have the full attention of the winemaker, for example, or a well-trained host, you pay more attention to what’s in your glass, have the opportunity to ask questions, and are more invested in the entire experience. 

Couple that with the growing trend of consumers wanting to know where their food comes from (and that includes what’s in your glass), and you’ve got a winning combo. 

As the tourist season ramps up, even if the weather is not quite co-operating just yet, consider booking your guests and yourself for a bit of “summer school” at one of these suggestions. 

The more our visitors learn about our region, the more likely they will come back, and tell their friends to do the same.

Intersection Estate Winery in Oliver has created The Vinstitute wine school, described as educational outreach dedicated to increasing awareness and appreciation of B.C. wines as a whole. 

Classes are led by an instructor and range from weekly “vinsight” classes to special seminars during the summer.

Also in Oliver, Culmina Family Estate Winery offers reserve and portfolio tastings that are in-depth seated tastings booked in advance, though drop-ins are welcome at regularly-scheduled reserve tastings if space allows. Book a vineyard and winery tour as well.

At Pentage near Okanagan Falls, book a tour in advance to explore the property, including the 5,000 square foot natural rock cellar. During the busy season, this experience is offered at 3 p.m. daily and requires a reservation, though the tasting room (with comfy stools) is always open for visitors.

On the Naramata Bench, Red Rooster now offers a Sensory Room Experience. 

Ever wonder how your favourite wine snob can identify the difference between nutmeg and cinnamon when sniffing wine? Sign up for one of these sessions at 11a.m. or 2 p.m., and you’ll learn how to identify scents and flavours.

At Mission Hill in West Kelowna, book a sommelier-guided experience, from one-hour to 90 minutes. The sommelier experience includes a stroll through the vineyards to learn about viticulture, followed by a visit to the barrel cellar and a guided tasting. 

The wine-and-artisan-cheese experience is just that: after a tour, sit down for a flight of wine paired with local cheeses.

Booking a specific experience or not, if you are bringing a larger group (perhaps six or more), call the wineries you plan to visit in advance to give the staff a heads-up so they can prepare, especially on busy weekends when tasting rooms may be packed. 

Everyone will have a more enjoyable and comfortable experience.

More Okanagan Taste articles

About the Author

A creative thinker with more than two decades of experience in communications, Allison is an early adopter of social and digital media, bringing years of work in traditional media to the new frontier of digital engagement marketing through her company, All She Wrote.

She is the winner of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association's 2011 and 2012 awards for Social Media Initiative, an International LERN award for marketing, and the 2014 Penticton Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award for Hospitality/Tourism.

Allison has amassed a following on multiple social networks of more than 30,000, frequently writes and about social media, food and libations as well as travel and events, and through her networks, she led a successful bid to bring the Wine Bloggers Conference to Penticton in June 2013, one of the largest social media wine events in the world, generating 31 million social media impressions, $1 million in earned media, and an estimated ongoing economic impact of $2 million.

In 2014, she held the first Canadian Wine Tourism Summit to spark conversation about the potential for wine tourism in Canada as a year-round economic driver.

Allison contributes epicurean content to several publications, has been a judge for several wine and food competitions, and has earned her advanced certificate from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.

In her spare time, she has deep, meaningful conversations with her cats.

She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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