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Less beach, more wine

While the cooler summer temperatures may have hurt beach traffic, tourists are still flocking to the Okanagan and they are hitting up more wineries than ever before.

BC Wine Institute marketing director Maggie Anderson says wineries up and down the Valley have seen an increase in traffic, despite the rain.

“From April through to July, we have seen a strong increase in winery visitations, which is great,” says Anderson.

“We put that down to the weather. This ‘cooler’ weather has certainly helped. People are not at the beach, the lake is not as warm as it normally is, so wineries are seeing a huge increase, year on year, in the amount of visitors they are receiving.”

She believes that overall awareness of wine touring as an activity is also helping, but the weather itself has boosted the industry a lot this year.

A sentiment shared by Tourism Kelowna that states tourism numbers are up in the region, despite the weather, and visitors are finding other ways to enjoy the Okanagan.

“I reached out to a few hotels in Kelowna, and sentiment is that visitation is up slightly, and pacing up (year over year),” says Chris Shauf with Tourism Kelowna.

“Sounds like visitors are choosing spending time on wine tours and other activities if they aren’t on the beach or in the lake. It’s fortunate that Kelowna has lots of variety to offer.”

He adds that the only common complaint they have heard is that accommodations aren’t always easy to find and that visitors had hoped for a bit more sun.

On top of the benefit in increased visitors, Anderson also says the weather is not hurting this year’s wine crop.

With a very hot start in April and May, wine is on, or ahead, of schedule throughout the region.

“We had a really early start which really boosted the overall growth season and length of the season,” says Anderson.

“So, even though we haven’t had that intense heat we would normally have in July, we certainly have had heat and all indications are that it will be another strong, successful season.”

She says while the weather is not as hot as we might be used to, it stayed in the grape-safe temperature range of 10 C to 35 C that allows the grapes to continue to grow and ripen.

“I know down in the South Okanagan they are already going through veraison (the onset of ripening/change in colour of the grapes), which is some of the earliest we have seen ever, because of the early start of the season,” says Anderson.

“Although everyone thinks the warmer the better, that is not always necessarily true when it comes to the vineyards. It has not been cold, it has still been a very, very strong start to the season.”

She adds that while some high heat is still needed to finish off the ripening season, there is lots of time left for the heat to come.

“Heat is in the forecast so we are not concerned, it is very early.”

For maps and information on wineries throughout the Okanagan check out winebc.com.

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