Extreme weather can’t smoke out winemaker’s spirits as Kelowna kicks off fall wine festival

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It’s the heart of the grape harvest in the Okanagan Valley.

At Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna destemming and sorting machinery is working around the clock.

It’s the first step in the wine making process.

The harvest action will be on full display as Kelowna kicks off its premier fall wine festival.

“We love to have everyone come see what we do and be part of it, it is a great treat to share,” said Stephen Cipes, owner of Summerhill Pyramid Winery.

At Kelowna’s Laurel Packinghouse, set up is underway ahead of Thursday night’s prestigious B.C. Wine Awards.

It’s the start of the 10-day festival, which boasts more than 100 events, and is meant to boost wine tourism during the shoulder season.

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It attracts 15,000-20,000 people to the Okanagan Valley.

“There is a larger percentage of long-haul destination tourists coming, so in fairness and this sounds like a cliché, but people are coming from around the world,” said Blair Baldwin, general manager of the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society.

Organizers don’t expect this year’s extreme weather to have any impact on attendance.

“Tourism, while challenged this summer with the smoke and the fires, we think is going to be very very strong in the fall because of the power of the brand of the wine industry in British Columbia,” Baldwin added.

Michael Alexander, assistant wine maker at Summerhill Pyramid Winery, said heavy rain followed by drought conditions and long periods of smoke makes for an “interesting” harvest.

“We will have a little bit lower of a crop this year. As soon as it started to get nice and it started to get hot we saw the vines really flourishing,” Alexander said.

Even extreme weather and smoke can’t extinguish wine makers spirits.

“Overall the grapes are small and intensely flavoured, and I think they will be fabulous tasting wines this year,” Cipes said.

The Fall Okanagan Wine Festival, now in its 37th year, is produced by the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society.

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