It’s a glass half empty kind of year, with COVID cancelling anticipated events, including the fall Okanagan Wine Festival.
“We have had to cancel all of our consumer events due to Covid-19,” said Jennalyn Christopherson, festival and administrative coordinator.
“Our focus this year has shifted from events to supporting our winery members in their tasting rooms. Wineries are hosting fewer events this year as well, but some are still going ahead.”
This is the 40th year of the Okanagan Wine Festival (OWF), a huge event that usually draws wine aficionados from around the world and from the Coast and Alberta, with visitors filling hotels and restaurants.
Last year, B.C. wine enthusiasts were treated to a new Fall Wine Festival finale called Sensation, presented by Valley First. Held inside the Penticton Lakeside Resort, it was an unique tasting experience where wines have been paired with different cultural experiences, keeping the five senses in mind.
Another signature event was the WestJet Wine Tastings at YLW Kelowna International Airport.
One event that did go ahead was the BC Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards.
From Sept. 23-25, the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society hosted the awards at the Manteo Resort in Kelowna.
“Unfortunately, the inability to host large events in 2020 due to Coronavirus has greatly affected the B.C. events industry,” said society manager Elan Morris. “However, due to the contained scope of a judging competition, the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society is full steam ahead with this event in order to support B.C. wineries by giving them the opportunity to get their wines in front of an elite panel of judges.”
In 2019, the award for Wine of the Year went to Deep Roots Winery in Naramata.
“Having our syrah named Wine of the Year in 2019 was an incredible honour. We were thrilled to be recognized among all of the great wine being made in B.C. For a small family-run winery the award provided us with national exposure and introduced our wine to new customers across the country,” said winemaker Will Hardman.
This year’s winners will be announced soon.
So far, the only winery listed on the OWF events page is Township 7 hosting a Riesling vertical tasting this weekend.
A recent industry-wide survey conducted by the BC Wine Institute (BCWI) in collaboration with the BC Grapegrowers’ Association and Leger Marketing, found 83 per cent of BC wineries and grapegrowers have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.
One in 10 B.C. wineries and grape growers noted that they are at risk of closing due to COVID-19.
“I think it will take some time for the industry to see the full effects of COVID-19. Obviously for smaller wineries who depend on restaurant and wine shop sales — and many of them do — they’re going to feel the effects more immediately, but for others, it may take until the end of the season to fully understand the effects industry-wide,” says Kathy Malone the winemaker at Hillside Winery.
The BC Wine Institute said that with the threat of a second wave, and provincial health orders already tightening up on restaurants and bars, it’s imperative that the support of BC’s local wine industry and related businesses continues to help businesses weather the storm.
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