Kelowna wineries say it’s been the best year yet

Even though the weather hasn’t been as warm as usual in Kelowna, wineries in the area are reporting record visits and sales.

Ezra Cipes, CEO of Summerhill Winery, said up to this point this has been the best year they’ve ever had in their wine shop. When it comes to visitors and spending, last year had been the best, but by the end of the season, it will likely be outdone.

Cipes said looking at receipts, more and more people are coming through and more are spending greater amounts of money.

“The industry is doing really well and I think we’re attracting people to us as an industry,” Cipes explained. “And it doesn’t hurt to live in such a beautiful place like the Okanagan Valley.”

They get tour buses with visitors from Europe, Asia and the U.S.

Still, he said they see a lot of locals bringing in their guests.

“We want to show off our region to our friends and relatives so we’re really honoured to welcome and entertain people’s guests through the season,” he said.

Cipes said he doesn’t think weather has had much of an impact, although he said they expect rainy days to be slower.

Jaesin Hammer, media relations at Mission Hill Winery, said the 30 C temperatures in April brought tons of guests, and that has continued into the summer.

“It’s nice to see that on the flip side, with the weather being bad, it doesn’t necessarily negatively affect a lot of the traffic that we’re seeing at the winery,” Hammer explained. “Speaking with a couple other local ones as well, they’ve been seeing very similar numbers.

“So, it’s been pretty successful.”

Hammer said Okanagan wine country has been “exploding” in recent years, as winemakers get better and better.

The industry, which he said has been in the Okanagan for about 25 years, has expanded from 12 wineries to 280.

“It was a hidden gem, and I think it still kind of is, but the word is getting out there at this point and it’s great to see,” said Hammer. “Even with increased numbers over the past few years here, I think everyone’s been happy and we’ve had great feedback so that’s a success in our books.”

Maggie Anderson, marketing director with the British Columbia Wine Institute, said the tourism season started earlier and wineries all over the region have been reporting more out-of-town guests and locals filling up their wine shops.

Wine touring as an experience seems to be catching on, according to Anderson. With a range of newer options like regional wine tours, paddleboard wine tours, wine and Picasso, bike tours and more, it seems to be of more interest to people.

“It’s a really fun and awesome thing to include in your trip if it’s not the main reason for coming on your trip to the Okanagan,” said Anderson.

Besides all the winery visits, the grape-growing season is producing a bumper crop.

Anderson said the hot spring weather was worrisome for growers, but the cooling off of June and July gave the grapes time to slow things down.

Now, the rain is helping them grow and with hot weather in the forecast, they growing season is ahead of schedule.

“The warmer weather will help develop the fruit and sugars in the grapes and we’re expecting a really excellent crop,” said Anderson.

For information on wine tours and events, visit the B.C. Wine Institute website.

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