17 wineries, nearly 300 upbeat wine lovers at Apex for 7th annual Verticals and Vintages

It was snowing lightly and 10 degrees colder than the valley Saturday afternoon (March 9) at Apex Mountain. By 5 p.m., the light was fading and the runs were getting quiet.

But inside the Gunbarrel Saloon, the action was just heating up.

One by one they arrived. Small groups of people, carrying boxes and signs and decorations. Each new group represented another winery, and by 6:30 p.m. there were 17 wineries in all.

Soon the Gunbarrel chefs were hauling out the food. Hot food, cold food, appetizers and desserts. It was a bit of a madhouse now – the winery folks putting the finishing touches on their displays, the chefs preparing, and the dudes at the door readying for the 7 p.m. flood of people.

This was the pre-event scene Saturday night for the seventh annual edition of Vertical and Vintages – a wine extravaganza that not only highlights the great wines coming out of the Naramata Bench, but also traditionally signals the coming of spring.

A half hour in and the place was packed. One fellow brought along his octogenarian mom, who was having the time of her life. There was a couple who said they’d never miss the event. And there was a group of young women – 10 in all – celebrating the upcoming marriage of one of their own by dressing in flannel and engaging in an on-premises scavenger hunt.

Word was that one of the scavenger hunt items was a pair of men’s boxer shorts. We asked if they’d been able to find such a thing in the midst of an upscale wine soiree and were shown the proof – a cell phone photo of the shorts in question, clearly taken at the event.

Watching over the fun was Naramata Bench Wineries Association marketing director Tina Baird.

“There are 270 people here tonight,” she said. “We’re sold right out.

“We could have sold more tickets, but we really wanted people to have the space to move and get around and to have comfortable access to all the different winery stations. We wanted people to be able to taste the wine, to talk to the winemakers.”

“With a $55 ticket, people get to have all the wine they can taste, visit several food stations, and get 25% off their lift tickets Saturday and Sunday. And, when the event ends at 9 p.m., Naramata’s own “Uncorked” plays live music ’til midnight.”

Baird accurately called the event casual and “very après ski,” and was most pleased with the mix of ages. “A lot of the events we do in other cities, they tend to skew more towards other age groups, but this is a very mixed event. We enjoy that.”

By 9:30, Uncorked was well into its first set, the dance floor was jumping, and three stagetters were standing outside the back door trying to figure out how to accomplish their next mission.

It was a great time.

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