(photo: President Kathy Malone (left) and vice president Jacquie Carlson of the Naramata Bench Winery Association toast the second-place finish by the Okanagan Valley wine areas in the USA Today Reader’s Choice for Best Wine Region. The winning area was Alentejo, Portugal.)

A second-place finish by the Okanagan Valley among the world’s top wine areas is cause for discussion and celebration among many in the local industry.

The Okanagan Valley was one of the top-10 choices of a USA Today Readers’ Choice for Best Wine Region.

“It’s really exciting,” said Roland Kruger, president of the Okanagan Falls Winery Association and general manager of Wild Goose Vineyards. “Second is absolutely amazing, especially when you look at the regions we were competing against.”

Finishing in first place was Alentejo, Portugal, while rounding out slots three through 10 were Maipo, Chile; Marlborough, New Zealand; Croatia; Napa Valley, Calif; Tuscany, Italy; Oregon; Hunter Valley, Australia and Virginia.

“I think every winery was well-versed in what was happening,” said Kruger, who thought initially that it was just nice being recognized. “Things have started to pick up a bit and there’s a lot of talk about it amongst the wineries and the people that have supported B.C. wines.”

Kruger’s father purchased the property 30 years ago and the family’s winery is celebrating its 25th anniversary next year.

“It really shows the traction that our industry has gained over the years in developing the industry and tourism in this area,” he said. “It is phenomenal for us to sit back and see what’s happening in this valley and our industry throughout British Columbia. Five or 10 years ago, we never ever would’ve thought that we’d be where we are at today.”

President of the Naramata Bench Winery Association (NBWA), Kathy Malone, winemaker at Hillside Estate Winery, said the calibre of wine regions on the list is amazing.

“For the rest of the world to give us that thumbs-up is huge,” said Malone, who noted one of the reasons for positive results could be related to having a strong social media presence as voting was conducted online.
“That could be part of it but it was pretty exciting to see, especially because it really was a wine tourism survey,” she said. “It’s the whole experience, the welcoming nature of the local industry.”

She believes this type of news will also translate into more support of the wine and tourism industry from those living in the area.
“A lot of other places are fabulous and have been well-known and very well-promoted for many decades so for us to have come this far in a short period of our industry is pretty thrilling,” said Malone.

In a news release, Ellen Walker-Matthews, marketing chair for the Okanagan Wine Festivals,  said to not only have the Okanagan Valley recognized among the finest wine regions globally but to finish in second spot by readers of a major international newspaper is a tremendous honour.

“This will continue to build the incredible momentum we have seen in our wine region over the past several years.”

~ Scott Trudeau