I was in Oliver this weekend, here to partake in the “Festival of the Grape”; the fall festival celebrating the fine wineries of South Okanagan. “Crushing it since 1997”. As Canada’s wine capital, Oliver produces more than 50% of all wine grapes in BC, which is reason for celebration. The festival welcomes over 50 wineries from BC to sample their local wines and fruit in wine.
Similar to the “Cask and Keg” festival (the day before), guests roam around the park visiting vendors for wine tasters, and food trucks for small bites in between. Except today’s event was double the size. Held during the day, this is a family friendly celebration, with plenty to see and do to keep any one engaged, at any age.
We came in 30 minutes earlier with our VIP access, grabbing our glass by the entrance. Every one drinks out of their own miniature wine glass, a great keepsake with the event’s logo etched on.
A new feature this year is the VIP pass. It gave guests the opportunity to enjoy an elevated VIP area. A lounge with a large charcuterie board to nibble from, specialty wines to try, and seminars from winery owners and local and regional contributors to listen to. And while general admission ticket holders had to wait until 1pm to start drinking, VIPs entered at 11:30am and could start tasting from the 4 wine producers stationed in the VIP area. All while enjoying the first seminar of the morning.
This was with Moss, the wine educator of “The Vinstitute” at “Intersection Estate winery”. He has us learning about BC wines in an approachable and fun way. We tried 3 pours, including a Riesling; and two very different tasting reds. With the latter two, the grapes used in both were similar to one another, minus the soil they grew it; and it made all the difference.
The seminars to follow included “learning about BC’s very first Sub Appellation, The Golden Mile Bench; which is home to several notable Oliver Osoyoos wineries”. And the ins and outs of proper stemware, featuring Riedel Glassware. I especially enjoyed the class on pairing the right wine with the perfect cheese with plenty of tasting opportunities.
With the VIP area, you can come and go as you please and explore the festival grounds at your leisure. Under tents were wineries pouring a selection of their collection. This was a great opportunity to learn about a new winery, or try a wine you might not want to commit a whole glass too. All while engaging the very producers of it, with any questions you might have.
The day began with the opening ceremony and parade. Drummers set the tone and pace, and this year’s grape stomp competitors were introduced.
One of “Festival of the Grape’s” main attractions is the grape stomp. In teams of 3, contestants sign up and dress up to compete in the tradition of grape stomping. An old practice that was once the only way grapes for wine were macerated. Now, it is more of a novelty and makes for a great exhibition; especially here as most of them dress up in costumes for the occasion. After 5 heats the team that produced the most juice in the allotted time won.
Also on location were local artists selling their artisan wares. Wine barrel wood work, hand painted wine glasses, locally roasted coffee, and hand made jewelry. There was also the fall art show and sale, set up to showcase various works across varying mediums. You could appreciate them here or take home to own.
For the younger kids, there was a playground for toddlers to climb around in; with face painting and inflatable bouncing. And for those who need a break, there was seating areas available to grab a drink and rest at. Hay bales, picnic tables, wine barrels converted into standalone tables, and floral arrangements featuring recycled wine bottles. And throughout the day, “Jack and Jill” performed live on stage, regaling the crowd with their music.
Though the wine is the real reason why you are here. And with over 50 wineries offering 3-4 different tasters for a ticket each ($1 = 1 ticket), there are far too many to try. Below, are a few of the wineries I did visited. But truth be told it got difficult to try any more after the 5th taster. With no place to spit or pour out excess wine, you find yourself having to drink it all. And a $1 per 2oz pour, you definitely aim to try as many as you can. That price is the best deal I have ever had at any similarly structured event.
There was also a lot more food vendors today and we got to try a few more. Like the honey garlic wings and fries from the “Wings” food truck.
And a gourmet, certified organic hotdog from the “Wienery” trailer. A unique creamy peanut butter, bacon, and dill pickle combo; with crispy onion and spicy mayo, all over their juicy beef wiener.
With an afternoon worth of activities, I can see why the festival attracts more than 4,500 attendees annually. Myself included, who came to “sample a variety of local and regional wines, dance to live music, and cheer on the fun and chaotic grape stomp”. Not to mention the new to 2019 “On-site Liquor Store, where a variety the wines on offer were available for purchase as you departed the festival.”
In short this was a great way to get to know BC’s wine country a little more intimately, and taste your way thought the Okanagan without have to drive from winery to winery. For more on the “Festival of the Grape” and why you need to attend next year for yourself, visit the link below.
FESTIVAL OF THE GRAPE