I was able to attend my second Garagiste North Festival last Sunday, September 18th and two years after the festival began, I can safely report that it is still the most casual, accessible, and most really-like-it-is-in-wine-country wine festival I’ve ever attended.
The first one was held in 2014 and was hosted by Meyer Family Vineyards in Okanagan Falls. It was a beautiful day and I had the distinct impression that nobody – wine makers, festival organisers, or attendees – really knew what was going to happen. To use a Tom Petty lyric, the future was wide open. But it worked. It was a beautiful day and everyone was in good spirits to taste some exciting new wines. Some were really new – barrel samples, in some cases.
The recent Garagiste North had equally beautiful weather but the location was very different – the garden centre at the Penticton Canadian Tire. At first blush, it seemed like an odd place for a wine rendezvous but it worked very well. Outside air was clean, the space was never too crowded, and the pathways and trellises made each area of the festival unique. Everyone, wine makers and attendees, seemed to be a happy mood all of the time. Festival co-founder Jennifer Schell pointed out that it is really a true wine tasting festival rather than a wine drinking festival. After the first festival in 2014, many of the wine makers commented that the festival attendees where clearly interested in the work that went into the wines and were asking informed and intelligent questions about their craft. For attendees, like me, who are more used to elbowing their way into a busy table in a noisy conference room, shouting out a wine’s name, then waiting for the wine maker or sales rep to pour it, this casual style is so much more enjoyable and far more human in scale. In fact for me, two hours had gone by in the blink of an eye and I realised that I hadn’t taken enough photos!
The really big added bonus for the attendees was the addition, for the first time, of a retail store to buy many of the wines that the wineries were pouring! What an amazing opportunity for both wineries and attendees! Many in attendance clearly made use of this shopping opportunity as it was not long before some of the wines began to disappear.
In a nutshell, the Garagiste North festival is a far more “wine country” tasting experience then you will ever get in a conference centre, with far more interesting people pouring far more creative wines. It is an appropriate scale of event where people on both sides of the barrels can enjoy themselves. Garagiste North will never become a large festival because that would defeat the purpose. As it grows in popularity, it might start to get more difficult to get in. Enjoy it now!
Cheers from wine country!