USA Today readers choose Okanagan Valley as world’s second best wine region to visit

By on August 13, 2014
Mike Kosaka, operations manager at LaStella, pours a sample of Fortissimo, a red wine blend. (Richard McGuire photo)

Mike Kosaka, operations manager at LaStella, pours a sample of Fortissimo, a red wine blend. (Richard McGuire file photo)

Readers of USA Today, the top circulation newspaper in North America, have chosen the Okanagan Valley as the world’s second best wine region to visit.

“Drop. Dead. Gorgeous,” is how wine expert Kerry Woolard described the Okanagan Valley.

Woolard and wine educator Frank Pulice made up a well-travelled expert nomination panel that made an original 20 selections.

Readers then voted daily over the contest’s four-week run.

Although the Okanagan took an early lead in voting, it was squeezed out of the top spot in the end by Portugal’s Alentejo region.

The Okanagan Valley, in the number two spot, was picked above such well-known wine regions as California’s Napa Valley, chosen for sixth place, and Italy’s Tuscany, which came seventh.

Other well-known wine regions such as Burgundy in France, La Rioja in Spain, and Moselle in Germany were nominated, but failed to make the top 10 list.

The newspaper called the Okanagan Valley “a remote British Columbia wine region famous for its white and ice wines. Tucked between two mountain ranges, about a four (hour) drive from Vancouver, Okanagan Valley enjoys a rural character, dramatic vistas and abundant outdoor adventures to occupy the time between tastings.”

Voting was open until Monday, Aug. 4 at noon in the 10 Best Readers’ Choice awards contest.

The panel took into account all the reasons a visit would be pleasurable including setting, scenery, number of wineries to visit, quality and affordability of the wines produced there, USA Today wrote.

Also considered were the quality and number of other things to do and the entire cultural experience a visitor could enjoy.

Both Blair Baldwin, president of Okanagan Wine Festivals Society, and Tim Martiniuk, president of the Oliver Osoyoos Winery Association, praised the quality of Okanagan wines and the wine tourism experience.

“It’s fantastic news,” said Martiniuk.

Baldwin, however, suggested the result might have been partly due to his organization asking its members to vote in the online poll.

“We are an amazingly well organized wine region,” he said. “We represent 120 member wineries and 41 tourism operators. We asked our members to make sure that they vote and make sure that they add comments out our great wine region. We worked to rock the vote based on our organization.”

Canada, as a wine-producing nation, is coming into its own, Baldwin said. And Canada is respected at international wine conferences.

“What we have done as an industry in a mere 30 years eclipses what others have done in 100 to 150 years,” said Baldwin.

Wine tourism has blossomed in the past 10 to 15 years, he said, pointing to the number of tourist operators with top credentials.

“No one thought that tourism was a major economic engine in the 1980s,” he said. “It was something that you played at. Now it’s serious business.”

Martiniuk praised the Okanagan for its beauty.

“It’s absolutely spectacular here,” he said. “I’ve been to several other wine regions around the world and few places rival the Okanagan for its sheer beauty. The lakes, the mountains, the narrowness of the valleys – it’s such a dramatic landscape.”

He also praised the quality of the wines and said visitors often think of Canada as cooler and are surprised to learn the Okanagan produces much more than ice wines.

The visitor experience is rich because of the number of wine varieties and wineries, as well as because cellar door sales are so important.

“Every winery has really honed the experience that it offers,” said Martiniuk. “Plus Canadians are really nice. I think that probably helps.”

Both Baldwin and Martiniuk only see the Okanagan wine experience becoming better.

“It’s only a matter of time until we’re number one on the list,” said Martiniuk.

RICHARD McGUIRE

Osoyoos Times

 

 

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