Challenge issued by Naramata-area wineries

Wineries seek visitors

Social media and Okanagan wine enthusiasts, this challenge is for you.

A handful of wineries that form Naramata’s Aikins Loop Cooperative—Elephant Island Winery, JoieFarm Winery, Deep Roots Winery and Van Westen Vineyards (the latter recently named B.C. Winery of the Year by Great Northwest Wine Magazine) have launched a hashtag campaign: #OkanagansGotIt.

This grassroots marketing endeavour serves as an invitation to all, assuring visitors that Okanagan wineries and local establishments stand open and eager to share experiences only the Okanagan can offer, according to a media release from the Naramata Bench Wineries Association.

While coverage of the continuing challenges facing the wine industry is not in short supply, reminders the Okanagan is ripe with a wide range of experiences can provide a boost.

Certainly no one can turn a blind eye to the factors impacting – or may impact—culinary and beverage tourism in the region, but why not instead elevate the positive?

Miranda Halladay of Elephant Island Winery summed things up succinctly.

“Okanagan wine and hospitality producers have hit a few bumps over the last couple of years, but the inventory of Okanagan-grown wines, ciders and other delicious drinks, experiences and adventures in the Valley remains strong. We encourage and welcome visitors to come and experience firsthand what makes the Okanagan one of a kind. Come visit us!”, she states in a media release.

She’s one of the proprietors featured in the challenge video on Instagram, as well as its follow up.

Further south, Kerri McNolty, vice-president at Burrowing Owl Vineyards Ltd., says, “As we prepare to unveil our 2022 Burrowing Owl reds and 2023 Wild Goose whites, we are thrilled to showcase them to both locals and visitors alike. Anticipation for the exceptional wines gracing our shelves this summer is palpable.”

As for Naramata, consider going to the Naramata Wine Vault for wine tasting on April 20, hosted by Sustainable Winegrowing British Columbia. If you’re in Vancouver, save yourself a seat at the Naramata Bench Spring Release event at Vancouver Community College on May 3.

Closer to home, the third annual Best of the Bench event will take place June 6 at Poplar Grove Winery.

Planning to visit a few wineries Penticton and Naramata? Consider purchasing the newly created Naramata Bench Passport, which has more than $1,000 worth of complimentary tastings, special promotions, and experiences at wineries, breweries and distilleries—all for $75.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Okanagan Fest of Ale coming up in Penticton

Suds to sip this spring

With the popular Fest of Ale preparing to pour craft brews and ciders from around the province in Penticton on April 12 and 13, plus the weather already pointing towards 20 C days, it feels like a good time to ponder ales and more.

The Okanagan Fest of Ale was founded in 1996 making it one of the largest and longest-running annual beer festivals in the Pacific Northwest. Operated by a non-profit society, $800,000 in event proceeds has been gifted to qualifying registered charities and other not-for-profit societies.

Just by sipping samples of suds, attendees support numerous community initiatives, while also raising a glass to the craft beverage industry.

Close to 70 beer and cider producers will show off their creations this year for a total of around 225 tastings available, so sample responsibly. There will also be live entertainment and a plethora of food choices.

As for the stars of the show, here are a few brews to seek out.

Howling Moon Craft Cider from Oliver will have its Lavender Plum Craft Cider. Described as a fragrant floral cider, made with heritage apples and an infusion of Italian plums and English lavender, the cidery suggests pairing it with a ham quiche.

Coming from Prince Rupert, Wheelhouse Brewing Co. is bringing three brews, and the most intriguing one may be its All Inclusive Pineapple Coconut Sour, while the Bramble - Raspberry Vanilla Wheat Ale from Prince George’s Trench Brewing and Distilling sounds equally compelling.

From the Okanagan, Kelowna’s Barn Owl Brewing Co. will put Escape (The Pina Colada Sour) up against Penticton’s Barley Mill Brew Pub’s Nitemare Brown Ale, Love Potion – Raspberry Berliner Vice from Kelowna’s Vice & Virtue Brewing Co. and a non-alcoholic Peach Cream Ale from Penticton’s Tin Whistle Brewing Co. up for votes in the People’s Choice award category.

Local favourite Cannery Brewing will have four brews at the Fest this year, including its Penticton Vees Lakeboat Lager, a special edition beer that just returned to the brewery’s lineup, paying tribute to the Penticton Vees hockey team.

On International Women's Day last month, the women of Cannery Brewing and a couple of special guests got together to brew a new Pink Boots fundraiser beer. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this beer will go to the Pink Boots Society which helps women beer professionals pursuing their education.

A West Coast Pilsner, Pink Boots will be launched at the Fest of Ale on April 12, when It will also be available in the Cannery Brewing taproom and at select private liquor stores in four-packs of 473ml cans.

With so many choices, it’ll be easy to sip for a good cause this spring.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Opportunities to blend agriculture and tourism

Agritourism opportunities

Back in 2017, British Columbia’s Ministry of Agriculture put together a 63-page manual to guide agritourism activities in B.C., aimed largely at farms so they could diversify their businesses with corn mazes, tractor tours, petting zoos and more.

You can still read the report online, if you’re so inclined. It defines agritourism as “tourism that supports agricultural production.”

This past week, the ministry (with it new name, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food), announced $70 million in funds to support farmers in replanting their vineyards, farms and orchards to make them more resilient to climate change.

You can start making plans to experience agritourism first hand this season, and immerse yourself in an experience at a farm, dine overlooking a vineyard, fetch ingredients while wandering a market or go to an agricultural fair.

Keep an eye on the pastoral pocket of the Garnet Valley above Summerland, its bespoke Garnet Valley Agri-Tourism Association, and its calmer culinary experiences. Start with Garnet Valley Ranch, which you can wander – with a guide – on foot or via electric golf cart, venturing to vineyards, field crops, a lavender cooperative, beehives and a reclaimed pond attracting birds of prey. This season plans are in the works for e-bikes and rides on horseback. One of very few structures at the ranch, tours end at a small winery tasting area.


Some of the early spring veggies harvested at Garnet may end up being served at a winemaker’s dinner down the road at Solvero Wines, celebrating the opening of its tasting room. Limited seats are available for the inaugural dinner, featuring chef Terry Port. Have a sneak peak at the menu for this event on May 25.

Farmers’ markets will soon open, and one of the best lists of markets around the province can be found at B.C. Farmers’ Markets, with more info about local products and what’s on season via Buy BC.


If you’ve ever visited a fall fair, you’ve already participated in agritourism. Agricultural fairs and exhibitions take place year-round across the province. Find a calendar through the B.C. Fairs Association, or better yet, learn about agritourism next month in Penticton at the association’s annual Learning Exchange.

If you’re in the business of tourism, agriculture or both, you’re welcome to attend.

(Disclosure: Allison Markin is a volunteer board member for the B.C. Fairs Association and will be a volunteer speaker at its Learning Exchange being held April 15-16 at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.)

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


March towards the arts this spring with several upcoming events

Okanagan arts festivals

The beginning of 2024 felt incredibly slow. Then, like the rubber band of a slingshot being pulled back, it suddenly started to speed up.

And suddenly, we are flying into spring—the impending time change, Easter for those who celebrate, bistros and tasting rooms coming to life and more.

This season also brings a fresh start to the arts and culture scene throughout the Okanagan for all ages to enjoy, so break out the day timer or Google calendar and start saving some dates.

This coming Saturday in Lake Country, the Creekside Theatre will welcome the Lake Country Children’s Festival presented by Venture Commercial and Stream Property Partners, back after a three-year hiatus. There will be activity booths, Nerf gun area, Zumba and more to stave off spring fever. The theatre’s calendar has a number of events on the horizon.

Before a Saturday of youthful fun, head to the Reel Rock Film Festival at Kelowna’s Rotary Centre of the Arts this Friday night for an on-screen adrenaline rush, plus take a walk through the galleries on your way in.

The New Vintage Theatre Society will host the Black Cat Cabaret and 10-Minute Play Festival March 21 and 22 in the Black Box Theatre behind the Kelowna Community Theatre.

Six original play finalists from across Canada, six emerging directors and their casts will vie for the Black Cat Cabaret Cup and a $500 prize in this five-show celebration of original plays and live performances.

West Kelowna’s Grizzli Winery has a rotating list of live music performances on Fridays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. for Happy Hour. Enjoy a glass of wine or peruse the extended bar menu including classic and festive cocktails and local craft beer. Pair with a cheese board, charcuterie, bruschetta or a trio of dips and salty mixes.

In Penticton, Ignite the Arts returns from March 22 to 28, followed by its Festival Weekend March 29 to 31. Community Week will start the 10-day celebration with a week of free and discounted events that will include more than 40 local community partners and businesses.

Highlights will include the unveiling of the Penticton Art Gallery’s Mini Mural project in partnership with Cannery Brewing, a lake-to-lake art walk in partnership with Penticton and District Community Arts Council, and a youth song writing camp in partnership with the Penticton Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.

Festival Weekend will have more than 100 acts across multiple venues. Get your wristband before they sell out.

There’s something for everyone to explore this early spring.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

A creative thinker with more than two decades of experience in communications, Allison is an early adopter of social and digital media, bringing years of work in traditional media to the new frontier of digital engagement marketing through her company, All She Wrote.

She is the winner of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association's 2011 and 2012 awards for Social Media Initiative, an International LERN award for marketing, and the 2014 Penticton Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award for Hospitality/Tourism.

Allison has amassed a following on multiple social networks of more than 30,000, frequently writes and about social media, food and libations as well as travel and events, and through her networks, she led a successful bid to bring the Wine Bloggers Conference to Penticton in June 2013, one of the largest social media wine events in the world, generating 31 million social media impressions, $1 million in earned media, and an estimated ongoing economic impact of $2 million.

In 2014, she held the first Canadian Wine Tourism Summit to spark conversation about the potential for wine tourism in Canada as a year-round economic driver.

Allison contributes epicurean content to several publications, has been a judge for several wine and food competitions, and has earned her advanced certificate from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.

In her spare time, she has deep, meaningful conversations with her cats.

She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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