Ah, the pageantry of the holidays, glitter and sparkles, the cozy warmth of a fireplace — and hearts that open to care for those around us.

With the goal of raising funds for the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation, Mission Hill Family Estate Winery is once again welcoming crowds to its majestic grounds at the launch of its Festival of Trees tonight. 

Like those of yesteryear, this grand event will enchant, from the tree light-up and live music to a warm glass of mulled wine and holiday treats.

Touring through the lighted trees offers glitter, glow, and some whimsy. From donkeys and toy sombreros to tiny owls wrapped in scarves, each decorated tree will delight.

For those on the nice list, Santa Claus will welcome a photo. 

Tonight’s launch, Friday, Nov. 25, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at $20 per guest (ages three and under complimentary), will kick off a month of Festival of Trees winery experiences.

It will be exhilarating. 

Greeted with a glass of sparking Exhilaration Brut Rosé (made from 100% Pinot Noir in the Charmat method), guests will tour through the cellars trimmed in festive galore then head up to the Visitor’s Hall past the enchanting trees to a private seated wine tasting in a salon. The cost is $60 per guest, free for club members, with the $15 donation to the Foundation. 

Book at missionhillwinery.com/tastings-experiences. The Festival of Trees extends from Nov. 26 to Jan. 5.

For a dark, rich, velvety red, take home the 2017 Compendium ($80). This Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated Bordeaux-inspired blend saw 18 months in French oak and another 15 months cellared in bottle. The plum notes on the nose mix with rich leather, followed by the taste of ripe currant berries on the palate. Enjoy now, or buy a second one for the cellar. 

For a white, the 2021 Bluebird Passage Vineyard Viognier ($40) is the perfect pick for dreaming of tropical places or a toast to send you off to (or for your return from) sunny southern spots. The aromas waft up from your glass — a whole bouquet of the garden — yellow gold glows in your glass and the apricot-nectarine tastes with hints of ginger spice warm going down. This medium-bodied white is dry but expresses itself in mouth-watering fullness. Sourced from a single vineyard in West Osoyoos on the edge of a cliff, the grapes capture good heat and early evening shade for full ripeness.

Summerland lights of the vines

If you’re in the South Okanagan, the annual tree light also begins tonight, Friday, Nov. 25, in Summerland. The wineries of Bottleneck Drive will join the celebrations.

The Santa parade begins at 5 p.m., followed by live music, the light-up at 7 p.m. and fireworks at 8 p.m.

Headlining the main stage is Ben Klick, known for his modern country mixed with a traditional twist. His engaging personality has gained the attention of fans across Canada and resulted in five B. C. Country Music Awards and five international accolades.

To keep all warm and toasty, Bottleneck Drive members will be pouring a selection of wine, cider, spirits and beer for a small fee in the beverage garden.

The light-up kicks off the two-weekend festival, Light up the Vines, running from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26 and Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 2 and 3. 

A few festive offerings include sparkling wine flights and cheese bites at Dirty Laundry Vineyard; hot cocoa, homemade poutine and ice-skating through the vines at SummerGate Winery; cider flights and homemade chilli at Millionaires’ Row Cider; and a fire pit and s’mores station at Lunessence Winery & Vineyard.

Wine lovers can have a sneak peek at the renovation and expansion at Okanagan Crush Pad/Haywire by reserving their winter experience in advance. Seatings are at 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. for both weekends of Light up the Vines. Enjoy your wine flight ($15) with passed canapes.

With their organic approach, Haywire offers a natural expression of each grape while aging in concrete adds depth without added flavour. These naturally fermented, unfiltered wines are crisp and clean. (And the massive concrete eggs and pottery amphoras are a must-see at the winery.) 

For a creamy mouthfeel (unexpected in this generally light white wine), try the 2021 Haywire Pinot Gris ($29.99). Sourced from the Switchback Organic Vineyard that extends down the slope from the crush pad, the wine tastes of Summerland in a glass. This wine greets you with smokiness, the savoury of sage hits mid-palate, and a mineral flint note finishes. The depth results from dedicated winemaking, with the wine brought to full malolactic fermentation before resting on lees (in concrete tank) for 11 months. 

Tickets for the tasting experiences are $15 per person at okanagancrushpad.com/winter-wine-experience-summerland.

Cheers to the season.

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