There was a time, not too many years ago, when the Okanagan Valley evoked images of orchards and fresh, juicy fruit ripening on the trees.
While the orchard industry is still a part of this valley, the image of the Okanagan has evolved to include vineyards and wineries.
The rapid emergence of the Okanagan Valley as a wine region is something few could have predicted.
When I moved here in the mid-1990s, there were just two wineries in Summerland. Today we have around 10 times that number.
Elsewhere around southern British Columbia and especially in the Okanagan Valley, the story is the same.
Wine grapes have been grown in the Okanagan Valley since 1859 and wineries have been active here since the early 1930s.
However, it was not until the 1980s that the industry began to come into its own.
Today, there are 257 licensed grape wineries in British Columbia.
Over the past week, many of the Okanagan wineries have held special events during the 2016 Okanagan Fall Wine Festival.
The emergence of the Okanagan as a wine region has fascinated me.
Over the years, I’ve seen many of the Summerland wineries, as well as some outside of our community, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet with the owners, managers, winemakers, tasting room staff and vineyard workers.
What has amazed me above all else is the level of joy I’ve observed.
Without exception, those involved at the various B.C. wineries believe in their product and are proud to showcase it to the world.
I can’t think of another industry where I’ve seen the same consistent level of enthusiasm or exuberance.
One can find stellar, dedicated employees at many workplaces. One can find professionals and entrepreneurs who take pride in the product or service they are producing. And there are some examples where a business consistently provides outstanding service.
But I have never before seen an entire industry where such a strong level of pride resonates.
The people in the wine industry work incredibly hard to deliver the best wines they can create.
What I see at our wineries is something I would like to see in every business, in every industry and in every workplace.
When people are excited about the work they are doing, it will show in the product or service.
A week ago, when the 2016 British Columbia Wine Awards were presented in Kelowna, organizers mentioned that more than 90 wineries had submitted a total of 624 wines.
Each of these entries represents a winery which believes its product is among the best of B.C.’s wines. This speaks to a high level of confidence in the work.
I should mention that I’m looking at our wine industry as an outsider. I haven’t worked for wineries and I know nothing about the winemaking process, other than that grapes are involved.
Even for me as a nondrinker, I’ve noticed the wineries will work to provide something for everyone, with lunches, entertainment and special events.
Since I don’t drink, I can’t offer opinions on which wineries are best at producing a particular varietal.
However, quality, craftsmanship and enthusiasm will impress me.
And this is what I continue to see every time I visit a winery or write a story on what our wineries are doing.
John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.