West Kelowna  

Promoting what the Okanagan has to offer to locals

Showcasing local wineries

Sarita Patel

Do the Okanagan is a website dedicated to all things fun and local around the Valley. They host an annual wine competition that takes place for six months out of the year where an array of judges pick their favourite wine in each catergory. 

Battle of the Wines picks a different type of wine in each round, consisting of 10 local wines using the same grape and the panel picks their favourite in a blind tasting format. 

“We didn’t want anybody to be biased so, some labels are fancier than others, some look more expensive or some people have already tried the wines,” explains Saffron Quist, who says they bag the wines to keep it blind for all judges, including her. 

She says judges range from wine scholars to those that drink boxed wine with ice cubes, but usually the winner is unanimous. Due to COVID, they were unable to host guest judges this year.

“The goal is to get people drinking wine through a relatable experience," Quist said. "We’re not all super sophisticated with our wine tastings, some of us are pretty just normal people experimenting with wine and we really want to get people enjoying wine and being aware of what’s available on a local level.”

This year’s Chardonnay winner was the 2018 Unoaked Chardonnay from Off the Grid Organic Winery, in West Kelowna. 

‘“I’ve only been making wine here for five-or-six years here in our own little organic winery so you always love what you’re doing, but it’s so amazing to be recognized by a group of your peers or even regular customers that just enjoy your wine … makes you feel like you’re doing the right job,” says Shery Paynter, winemaker and co-owner at Off the Grid Organic Winery. 

Paynter explains how the Okanagan Valley differs from other growing regions. 

“We have so many micro-climates, we have the ability to grow so many grapes and we don’t have any regulations as to what we can grow and how we can make them and that makes us so unique to the rest of the world,” says Paynter. 

Off the Grid only sells wine out of their tasting rooms and Paynter says if it wasn’t for the locals they wouldn’t have been successful this year.

“The tourists come into town for a few months a year and that’s amazing but it would never sustain us if we didn’t have that local support.”

Each Battle of the Wines event takes place at a local venue and the local wines are paired with local foods. They are looking to add guest judges, hopefully in the 2021 season. 

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