East Kootenay Wine Festival

November 2021

We made our way to Fairmont Hot springs Resort for the annual East Kootenay wine festival. This was our 7th time and over the years, we have seen the festival evolve.

However, with the pandemic, the hotel has had to make drastic changes to align with health regulations. It has gone from over 300 people to now just a small intimate group of around 50 over several weekends.

This festival is dear to me as it started me on my journey into the world of wine. When we first started going, there were around 30+ wineries from the Okanagan region.

The wines were grouped in order of grape and all hidden in paper bags. We were to choose which grapes were our favorites, and the wines that won would be used for the following year’s 5-course wine-paired meal.

It amazed me how different the same grape could taste. That was only the Saturday afternoon festivities! The evening allowed us to go around to each winery in order to try their wines and speak to the wine reps.

My favorite part though has always been the wine-paired meal on Friday night. I find it fascinating to see how wine can change with the right food and vice versa.

We arrived on Thursday, as always, since we like to come a day early to visit friends and shop in the local shops like the La Galleria and Purple Cow.

The hot springs are a wonderful welcome after a long drive there and we look forward to them every time we go. This year, the hotel reversed the evening’s events with having the meet-and-greet on Friday and the dinner on Saturday. Other changes included only being able to go to one winery rather than the usual of going to multiple ones.

The featured winery was Indigenous World from Kelowna. It is the only solely owned indigenous winery in Canada.

The wine rep, Ryan Widdup, whose Syilx name is səxʷqʷl̓qʷl̓tm̓, which means “the Spokesperson”, spoke about four of his wines in the afternoon seminar. Indigenous World wines were also the wines used in the evening’s wine-paired meal.

I have had the opportunity to visit this winery several times over the years when visiting the Kelowna area, and some of my favourite wines are the sparkling Ho-We-Nam Ho-We-Nem, sparkling La’p Cheet, Hee-Hee-Tel-Kin Red Blend, and the Simo small lot.

The 5-course dinner was delicious. Starting with Cauliflower Cheddar Bisque paired with Chardonnay.

This was followed by Watermelon & Feta Salad paired with the Red Fox rose’. Afterwards, we had some delicious Grilled Pacific Prawns paired with the Pinot Gris. The entrée’ of the evening consisted of Beef Tenderloin paired with my favourite Simo Bordeaux blend.

Lastly, to end the amazing meal, we enjoyed Layers of Chocolate paired with the merlot.

One thing I did miss this year was the door prizes that usually accompany the dinner.

The Fairmont Hot Springs resort has some staff who have been there for years, and it is always a pleasure to see them again. Nan, who has been there for 39 years, works in Antlers as a server and always has the widest smile.

Fairmont Hot springs Resort does have a new Food and Beverage Director, Bruce Stephen, who started only in October. I had the opportunity to speak to both Bruce and Larry Gale (Director, Sales & Marketing) while I was there. Though no definite details, there will be changes to the festival in the coming years.

I am excited to see what next year’s festival will bring under Bruce’s lead.

Hopefully we will see you next year!!!



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