Okanagan Fall Wine Festival 2023
The festing begins today! Traditionally held at the beginning of October, the reimagined Okanagan Fall Wine Festival shifts its focus to a post-harvest series of elevated experiences throughout the Okanagan Valley from Oct. 27 to Nov. 5.
From Lake Country to Osoyoos, locals are encouraged to show support for our winemakers and growers after a particularly challenging year. Your presence is appreciated; your wine purchases are most vital.
For the signature events, Valley First presents the Après Crush series as a celebration of the vintage during two evenings of wine, culinary and live entertainment.
Friday, Oct. 27, indulge in the best Southern Okanagan wines from Summerland to the Black Sage Bench paired with harvest-inspired culinary bites. Festivities begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.
Après Crush North showcases Kelowna, West Kelowna and Lake Country wineries Nov. 3 at the Manteo at Eldorado Resort.
Tickets for either Après Crush event are $95.
For adventurous spirits eager to explore wine routes, the Taste Passport makes a grand return on Oct. 28 and 29, showcasing elevated experiences at six participating wineries. Two routes are available, one featuring a lineup of experiences in Summerland, Penticton and the Naramata Bench and the second with a focus on Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Osoyoos. Passport holders are encouraged to create their unique itinerary. Tickets are $65.
From North to South, here’s my curated list of not-to-be-missed gems for those touring and wanting to add age-worthy vintages to their cellars before some wine shops close for the season. All these exceptional wines have earned gold medals, a nod to their excellence, from the expert wine judges at Thompson Okanagan Trends Magazine Top BC Wine Awards.
Ex Nihilo Vineyards is known for its wines of distinction at this long-loved gem in Lake Country. While many turn to their Pinot Noir, don’t overlook this deep, dark Bordeaux-inspired red blend: 2020 Ex Nihilo Vineyards Night ($54). Grapes were sourced from their Black Sage Bench and Golden Mile vineyards. The blend: 43% Merlot, 19% Malbec, 14% Cabernet Franc, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Petit Verdot.
Some may need to learn of the micro-winery Nagging Doubt Winery on the East Kelowna Slopes where winemaker Rob Westbury is crafting exceptional vintages. The 2020 Nagging Doubt The Pull ($33.40) blends Merlot (56%) with Cabernet Franc (16%) Cabernet Sauvignon (15%), and Malbec (13%). This big wine has an intense nose of black cherry, plum, blackberry, baking spice, and hints of chocolate and tobacco, all echoed on the palate.
One of the competition’s most-awarded wineries was Naramata Bench’s Upper Bench Estate Winery. Capturing gold was their 2019 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($45). It’s always great to find this fine grape crafted into a single varietal and even more fun to explore its expression from a unique terroir. (Upper Bench sources their grapes from their Naramata Bench property.) While 2019 has sold out, the 2020 vintage is also a gold medal winner, recently placing top in the All Canadian Wine Championships.
Another small family-owned winery not to be missed is Christy and Daniel Bibby’s winery in Okanagan Falls, Nighthawk Vineyards. Here, the peppery rich notes of the 2019 Nighthawk Vineyards Cabernet Franc ($42) will delight.
Golden Mile – Oliver
I’m a big believer in aging Riesling wine, as its acidity creates the structure needed to endure a few years in the dark. What emerges is a rich wine that pairs with almost any cheese or table offering. Each year, Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery crafts some of the finest examples of this Germanic wine. The 2022 Gehringer Brothers Classic Riesling ($18) continues to shine golden.
I’ve written before of the beauties that comes from the Similkameen and the wines crafted by Howard Soon at Vanessa Vineyard. The winery captured three golds for their 2022 Rose ($31), 2017 Syrah ($44) and the 2017 Right Bank ($48.) Right Bank is a Merlot-dominant wine with small percentages of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon blended in for complexity — and one of the finest red wines in B.C.
Golden Mile – Oliver
To end our list of cellar-worthy wines, here’s one to put down but also perfect to toast to the fall harvest: Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2018 Blanc de Blanc ($52.) This gold medal winner also captured the Best of Show Sparkling from Top BC Wine Awards competition.