'Savour the Sun' brings Oliver Osoyoos wineries to Sun Peaks

Valley wineries branch out

The Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country took the show on the road this weekend, with the second annual Savour the Sun wine festival at Sun Peaks.

Spanning five events over four days this weekend, the festival brought the region’s wines to the lips of new customers, part of the winery association’s plan to reach outside the Okanagan Valley. 

“We can really uncork the sun anywhere,” said Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country executive director Jennifer Busmann during the festival’s largest event, Uncork Your Senses, Saturday night at the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel. 

Close to a dozen wineries poured wine to pair with a diverse offering of about as many flavours, including grilled Brome Lake duck confit, herb-roasted sous vide lamb, miso-ginger salmon or beef tender tips with Hungarian noodle dumplings, fermented cabbage sauce and more.

“At our tasting room, we always talk about ‘this would be great if you make this,’ but it's in theory,” said Oliver Twist Winery general manager Sheila Whittaker.

“Here you can really enjoy food and wine culture, for us, all of our wines are so great for the table so it’s really nice to say, ‘try our pinot gris and get some sushi, or get our syrah and go and get the lamb,’” she added.

With the winery association's summer and spring events like the Half Corked Marathon — which has to hold a lottery for tickets — or the Pig Out Festival extraordinarily well supported, the group is looking to grow its brands outside the Valley.

Busmann said they are also in the process of launching other events under the “Savour the Sun” banner in Calgary, Vancouver and Whistler. 

“In the winter, it tends to be fairly quiet in Oliver Osoyoos wine country, so a year and a half ago, we just started thinking about new ideas about how we can get in touch with people that love the brands from our region.”

She said Sun Peaks, which already has a decades-long history of hosting wine festivals, approached them to host a festival early in the ski season before hotels are typically full for the holidays. The wineries jumped at the opportunity to host a festival that could offer unique events above and beyond a traditional food and wine pairing.

On Thursday night, Sun Peaks Grand executive chef Hans Stierli — who created the menu for most of the events — faced off against Oliver Eats chef Derek Uhlemann in a black box mystery-ingredient challenge and kitchen party.

“We’ve packed up our whole region, and brought it to a new one,” Busmann said.

Other events provided the chance for attendees to take a guided night ski down the hill in the dark after experiencing a meal at the Sunburst Lodge paired with wines not available to the general public. 

An “Uncork Bubbles” Sunday Brunch showcased B.C. ingredients in dishes like croissant eggs Benedict, oyster shooters and pork tenderloin while the wineries poured bubbles and whites.

Two of five of the weekend’s events completely sold out, with the remainder coming close. Busmann said some them had about 40 per cent of attendees returning from the inaugural year.

“They had marked it on the calendar and were waiting for it to come,” she said, adding the strong support for such a young festival is indicative of the quality of the food offered by Hans Stierli and the wineries “putting their best foot forward.”

The majority of the festival’s attendees came from Kamloops, Vancouver and the Central Interior of B.C.

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