Acknowledging and accommodating accessibility

Welcoming to all

We are smack dab in the middle of National Accessibility Week in Canada. This year’s theme is Forward Together: Accessibility and Inclusion for All.

I am coming at this topic as a person with a disability (multiple sclerosis), one that is generally hidden until I stand up and take a step or two, becoming more obvious if I am navigating uneven ground, stairs, or the curb of a sidewalk.

As the summer season begins and people venture out to explore the Okanagan—hopefully planning to visit a myriad of our beverage producers, take in a signature festival or two and savour our growing culinary culture—I have a few ideas and suggestions for those businesses about to invite everyone to experience this valley.

Make coming to you just a bit easier for everyone of all abilities. Yes, there are regulations for the standard items such as accessible parking spots and washrooms, lighting and signage. But a few gentle tweaks would take the pressure off the extra planning that can become a burden—or barrier —for those who need to do that advance planning.

How about starting with your website?

• A map, written directions, or even a photo of your accessible parking space(s) would be wonderful, especially if the spots are away from the main parking lot.

• List the location’s available accessibility options—a ramp to get to the entrance, instead of stairs, where to find the elevator if you have one and if you need a staff person to operate or unlock it and note the languages your team can offer for communicating, including on signs.

• Ensure your website complies with required accessibility standards.

• List possible hazards, no matter how small they may seem—a lip in the door frame, an extra large or heavy door or areas that can get slippery.

Next, look at your printed materials.

• Do you have a menu available in large print? In Braille? Or a QR code that anyone can scan to take them to more accessible versions?

• Are there images on your tasting notes for an extra layer of understanding and explanation, especially if the print is small or condensed?

• If you allow dogs (other than service dogs), in your establishment, is there a sign pointing their owners to a more comfortable area for poochie? Your dog may be welcome and friendly, but a lovely puppy can easily nudge someone into a trip or fall.

Finally consider learning about the “Hidden Disabilities Sunflower” program <link https://hdsunflower.com/ca/>, recently adopted by the airports in Vancouver and Nanaimo and gaining traction worldwide. Invest in training for your staff. It’ll help with everyone’s comfort, knowledge and empathy.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Noble Ridge attains a first for a winery in Canada

Sustainable winery

Saying the word “biosphere” in conversation probably conjures up thoughts of sci-fi movies or something similar, not a benchmark achievement in the Canadian wine industry.

But Noble Ridge Vineyard and Winery recently announced that in early April it became the first Canadian winery to achieve certification through the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association’s (TOTA) Biosphere Sustainable Commitment Programhttps://www.totabc.org/biosphere-commitment-program.

The certification was obtained after completing more than 133 activities related to the 17 sustainable development goals and 169 targets of the United Nations.

In 2017, the Thompson Okanagan region became the first region in North America to achieve the prestigious Biosphere Tourism Destination certification, led by TOTA’s commitment to assisting local tourism industry stakeholders in the implementation of sustainable practices.

TOTA’s Biosphere Commitment Program helps equip tourism businesses in the region with tools and resources to continuously measure, manage, and report sustainability management efforts.

Given growing discussions worldwide about “overtourism” and its impact on the environment and local economies, plus mounting climate challenges faced in the Okanagan—notably to agriculture, vineyards and fruit production—sustainability is no longer simply a buzz word, but a critically needed system.

Implementing sustainable practices is a priority to nurture short, medium and long-term benefits for the vines, winery and region, noted Benoit Gauthier, the winery’s director of winemaking and viticulture, in a media release.

Noble Ridge began switching from conventional farming to sustainable farming practices in 2014. In 2020, the company started the Sustainable Winegrowing B.C. Program with the BC Wine Grape Council, and in 2021, Noble Ridge became one of the first vineyards in British Columbia to achieve the Sustainable Winegrowing BC certification.

As its sustainable work expanded, Noble Ridge decided to adopt sustainable practices for the entire business, from the use of eco glass for bottling to the development of a waste management and recycling program, to composting, to the use of geothermal energy for heating and cooling, and much more.

Founded in 2001 in Okanagan Falls, Noble Ridge has grown to 24 acres planted, primarily with Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir grapes. Its sparkling wines under the name “The One” are a personal favourite for celebrations of any kind.

Conveniently, there’s a 2014 bottle of The One tucked away on my wine rack.

Raising glass to a decade of sustainability will be a great reason to pop it open, and congratulate the team at Noble Ridge.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Countdown to the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival

Wine tastings and events

It’s still a month away but spring feels like it’s been whipping by, so why not start planning now for the spring version of the Okanagan Wine Festival?

Starting June 2, which will be here before we know it, and running throughout the Okanagan Valley for three weeks, the festival will include many events and experiences to choose from before the busy summer season begins.

This year’s festival will focus on a TASTE and SIPS series of events throughout the Valley, with the official festival launch June 7 at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.

Following the British Columbia Wine Awards private reception, where the 2024 B.C. Top 50 wines and the Wine of the Year will be announced, the wines will make their first public appearance as Valley First presents the B.C. TOP 50 Grand Tasting. It will be a great way to start your wine shopping list before the winners sell out.

A few days prior to the Grand Tasting, the TASTE series will hold its first event on the Naramata Bench, which will include six vouchers to be redeemed for an elevated tasting experience at participating wineries. The weekend after the Grand Tasting event, the District Wine Village will host its own TASTE events on June 8 and 9.

Fans of rosé may want to plan to attend Kelowna’s Sandhill Wines Rose-focused TASTE event June 13, and the TASTE series will wrap up June 23 along the Scenic Sip Wine Trail in Lake Country.

On the SIP side of the festival, two signature events are planned. With Mother’s Day and Father’s Day on the horizon, tickets for these events would make great gifts.

SUMMER SIPS will take place in the south Okanagan at Spirit Ridge Resort in Osoyoos on June 8, featuring an afternoon of wine tasting paired with bites from The Bear, The Fish, The Root, and The Berry, while SOLTICE SIPS will be held in the North Okanagan June 22 at SilverStar Mountain Resort, taking place outside in the charming resort village.

As the festival approaches, more events may be added to the roster, and conveniently, there’s a good list of experiences leading up to June that can be perused online here, and pondered with friends who may be planning to visit this season.

Before the hustle of summer, head out to a part of the Okanagan Valley that you haven’t visited in a while, check out what’s new, stock your cellar and taste and sip along the way.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Challenge issued by Naramata-area wineries

Wineries seek visitors

Social media and Okanagan wine enthusiasts, this challenge is for you.

A handful of wineries that form Naramata’s Aikins Loop Cooperative—Elephant Island Winery, JoieFarm Winery, Deep Roots Winery and Van Westen Vineyards (the latter recently named B.C. Winery of the Year by Great Northwest Wine Magazine) have launched a hashtag campaign: #OkanagansGotIt.

This grassroots marketing endeavour serves as an invitation to all, assuring visitors that Okanagan wineries and local establishments stand open and eager to share experiences only the Okanagan can offer, according to a media release from the Naramata Bench Wineries Association.

While coverage of the continuing challenges facing the wine industry is not in short supply, reminders the Okanagan is ripe with a wide range of experiences can provide a boost.

Certainly no one can turn a blind eye to the factors impacting – or may impact—culinary and beverage tourism in the region, but why not instead elevate the positive?

Miranda Halladay of Elephant Island Winery summed things up succinctly.

“Okanagan wine and hospitality producers have hit a few bumps over the last couple of years, but the inventory of Okanagan-grown wines, ciders and other delicious drinks, experiences and adventures in the Valley remains strong. We encourage and welcome visitors to come and experience firsthand what makes the Okanagan one of a kind. Come visit us!”, she states in a media release.

She’s one of the proprietors featured in the challenge video on Instagram, as well as its follow up.

Further south, Kerri McNolty, vice-president at Burrowing Owl Vineyards Ltd., says, “As we prepare to unveil our 2022 Burrowing Owl reds and 2023 Wild Goose whites, we are thrilled to showcase them to both locals and visitors alike. Anticipation for the exceptional wines gracing our shelves this summer is palpable.”

As for Naramata, consider going to the Naramata Wine Vault for wine tasting on April 20, hosted by Sustainable Winegrowing British Columbia. If you’re in Vancouver, save yourself a seat at the Naramata Bench Spring Release event at Vancouver Community College on May 3.

Closer to home, the third annual Best of the Bench event will take place June 6 at Poplar Grove Winery.

Planning to visit a few wineries Penticton and Naramata? Consider purchasing the newly created Naramata Bench Passport, which has more than $1,000 worth of complimentary tastings, special promotions, and experiences at wineries, breweries and distilleries—all for $75.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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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