Winter Okanagan Wine Festival Recap

The Progressive Tasting through the Village


A Canadian winter above 1,200 meters is unique. And snowy. Really snowy. At the destination ski resort of Sun Peaks, 45 minutes north of Kamloops, they know high altitude, powder – and BC wine.

This year marked the 14th annual Winter Okanagan Wine Festival at Sun Peaks Resort. Hosted January 14 – 22 at British Columbia’s second largest ski area (third largest in Canada), the Winter Wine Festival attracted over 700 people to celebrate the grape. It has evolved into a week of activities, with attendance climbing as more events are added.

Once a one-lift mountain known as Tod’s Mountain, Sun Peaks Resort boasts 11 lifts (5 quad chairlifts), 3678 acres of skiable terrain, 882 meters of skiable vertical, and 122 trails. This is capital A Alpine, and so habitable that it recently became the Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality. It’s been 50 years since Tod Mountain skiers lurched around hairpin turns in their Westfalias, eager to be the first in line at the Burfield chair. But the sense of community is still palpable – due in large part to Director of Skiing Nancy Greene Raine. For those who may not know, Nancy was Canada’s Olympic gold and silver ski medalist (1968) and our Female Athlete of the Century (1999). Amazingly, she holds “Ski with Nancy” every day at 1pm. Seriously.

The Winter Wine Festival peaks in the final four days with 14 events, many selling out weeks in advance. An annual favourite (and in my opinion, cooler than the winter mountain air) is the Sun Peaks Progressive Tasting – attendees grab a glass, a map, and wander the village in search of tasty samples. From the Worshipping Icewines seminar to a cheese and wine pairing lesson, winemakers’ dinners and brunch with bubbles, Wine Festival organizers know how to make your taste buds water. Lucky for us, there’s always a beverage close by.


Best introduction of Up-and-Comers: The Winemaster Dinner. Not every chef shares the spotlight, but Delta Sun Peaks Resort Executive Chef Steve Buzak did – by including Thompson Rivers University Culinary Program’s Ed Walker and his students. Stand out dish: Brined Pork Loin and Smoked Pork Belly with espresso BBQ, purple cabbage & grilled fingerling.

Best Learning Experience: All You Need Is Cheese & Wine… The Seminar. Reg Hendrickson from the Dairy Farmers of Canada teamed up with Master of Wine Rhys Pender to deliver the goods on wine and cheese pairings. Key lesson: the fats in cheeses will counteract tannins in wine. Favourite pairing: Sumac Ridge Pipe with bleu d’Elizabeth from Fromagerie du Presbytere, QC.


Best Get-Out-and-Taste Tasting: Sun Peaks Progressive Tasting. 24 wineries were scattered throughout the village, scavenger-hunt style, in galleries and hallways. Big fat snowflakes drifted to the ground like something out of a movie; we ducked into shops, wine glasses in hand, swirling and sipping with abandon. Surprise of the evening: Rustic Roots 2009 apricot wine. Think fruit stands, warm sunshine, and that feeling you get when you lick the last juice of a ripe apricot from your fingers.

Best Use of a Limited Supply: Rollingdale Winery 2006 Sweet Tooth Pinot Blanc. Everything you’d expect from an icewine and more. According to Steve Dale of Rollingdale, “There were only 25 cases of that made, and I brought 3 of those up here tonight.”

Best Meeting of Wine and Spirits: Mixology Face-Off. Five contestants from various eateries on the mountain competed for the coveted title of Mixology Champion. My favourite: Cleopatra’s Symphony by Damon of Globe Café & Tapas Bar. Summerhill Pyramid Winery’s Cipes Brut meets Cointreau, spiced rum, and other tasty ingredients. Two words: edible flowers.


With those many vertical feet to slice, dice, and carve with skis or a snowboard, it’s pretty impossible to resist. But I did, because I can’t do any of that without serious injury. My fella carved it up with Nancy (she’s amazing!) while I snowshoed off the weekend’s excesses. The Winter Wine Festival is a unique blend of EAT, DRINK and PLAY – with culinary events, wine tastings, educational seminars, and outdoor recreation for all levels and palates.

There are wine festivals celebrating each season in BC. For details on the next Okanagan Wine Festival celebration, visit

Written By:

Jeannette is EAT's Okanagan writer.\r\n\r\nWith her rural Canadian roots and love of grand experiences, Jeannette is equal \r\n\r\nmeasures country and city. Since moving from Vancouver to the Okanagan in 2007, \r\n\r\nshe quit ...

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