Rick raves and the South Okanagan
scores with national exposure

Not that they need any help, but South Okanagan wineries got some national exposure last night courtesy of comedian Rick Mercer.

The popular host of CBC’s Rick Mercer Report was in Osoyoos and Oliver at the beginning of the month for the Festival of the Grape.

Last night, his visit aired nationally with an expected audience of more than 1.1 million tuning in.

“It was such a unique opportunity for the Rick Mercer Report to want to come to our community and participate in something that we’re passionate about,” said Jennifer Bussman, Executive Director of the Oliver Osoyoos Wine Association.

“It speaks hugely to what we’re accomplishing as a region.”

The visit was also a treat for FOG attendees.

“He came with just one cameraman and one producer and how they managed the crowd control is absolutely amazing,” she said. “He’s constantly on the move; he never stops moving — trying to get his bit for the show but also to try and keep being mobbed by people.”

FOG organizers learned Rick would be attending in August and managed to keep it a secret until the event.

Rick opens the six-minute segment at Nk’Mip Cellars at Spirit Ridge and makes mention of the more than 170 wineries in the Okanagan, what he describes as “one of the most desirable grape-growing regions in North America.”

He’s not here to work, though, and while visiting with winemaker Justin Hall — who apparently wines (or whines) a lot — asks to set aside his pruning shears and pick up a glass.

“(That’s) exactly when I like to show up somewhere,” he quips. “After the hard work and before the party.”

After a tour of Nk’Mip Cellars’ wine-making facility, Rick heads off to the Festival of the Grape in Oliver where he interviews some of the event team and several party goers.

He learns Festival of the Grape is a family-friendly event, one that has him pondering the possibilities.

“Think of how many children will be conceived today,” he suggests.

Rick then gets instruction on stomping the grapes and teams up with Linda “Killer” Bolton and Tony Munday to do some grape-crushing.

“It was so exciting,” said Linda, a member of the organizing committee. “I am so proud of the event and filming to make it noticed nationally.”

Added Tony: “I got to grape-stomp with Rick Mercer.”

After doing a bit of work cleaning his feet, Rick climbs into a barrel and gets to work.

“This is like an Irish jig, he quips. “I was made for this. I can see this as a fitness craze.”

Tony, the chair of the FOG organizing committee, said Rick’s visit puts the festival “on a national scale even larger than we’ve already been.”

And he’s hoping for another spin-off.

“We’ll get to see if Rick was right: if a lot of babies will be conceived and how many of them will show up at next year’s Festival of the Grape.”

So how much fun did Rick have in the South Okanagan?

“It was a vintage afternoon,” he concludes before heading off on a visit of Rideau Canal in Ottawa.

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