PHOTO: Josh Saunders and Ian Tate attended the wine fest. Tate is a former member of the Rotary club who still supports the cause.
(Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance)
In the past the Fraser Valley Wine Festival was a dressy affair.
But this year’s event on Nov. 5 continued the trend to a mix of styles ranging from out and out bling to jeans.
There’s also the continuation of a trend in who’s coming to the charity event.
“The crowd’s getting younger every year, that’s one of the biggest things we’ve noticed,” said Rotary president Steve Carter. “The restaurants have commented on it. The wine merchants have commented.”
And many attending have been to previous wine festivals.
“They’re bringing their friends. They’re bringing their families,” Carter added.
Saturday night’s Fraser Valley Wine Festival is a social event that brought together a thousand-plus wine lovers, tasting hundreds of wines from around the world and sampling nibbles from Langley best eateries.
PHOTO: Roses were given to women as they departed the wine fest. Langley Rotaract member Michaela Carter was one of the volunteers helping this year. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance)
But for Paul Coltura, it’s also about the charity work the Rotary Club of Langley Central is able to achieve thanks to this annual fundraiser.
In the festival’s 27-year history, it has raised more than $1 million, with Saturday night’s nearly sold-out event giving a huge boost to that tally, said Coltura, the office managing partner of BDO Canada LLP in Langley.
“The event every year is attended by many people, and they all seem to know each other, so it’s a great opportunity to socialize for a couple of hours,” he said, when explaining his initial draw to the event.
“The wine tasting and food options are fantastic and [people] have an opportunity to try many different varieties of wine. But lastly [it’s a chance to] come out to support the fundraising Rotary does for the community. A great cause,” said Coltura.
He has attended the wine festival for the past 15 years, and helped bring BDO aboard as a major corporate sponsor.
In 2009, his company made a five-year commitment to be a diamond sponsor ($15,000/annually), and their contribution has continued at that same level year after year, because they believe “so fully” in the cause, Coltura said.
“I think it is good for any sponsor to be on board to help give back to the community,” said Coltura, who is currently the vice-president of the host organization – the Rotary Club of Langley Central.
“It is important because the funds raised go to very worthwhile community causes, which if it was not for the support Rotary and the sponsors give, these programs would not be able to move forward,” he added.
In addition to the financial sponsorship offered by BDO, for the past few years their employees and partners have also volunteered to sell 50/50 tickets, organized the photo booth, and invite many of their clients to the event.
What’s the best part of the event? “Firstly, I like to see everyone there having a good time. It seems to be an event everyone waits for year after year. The wine and food suppliers are fantastic and very supportive of the event, and of course, Willowbrook allowing the event to take place there, year after year.”
But for him personally, he’s excited to see the amount of money raised for charity each year grow.
PHOTO: Langley Rotaract members Sierra Boschman and Michael Chang volunteered at the wine fest.
(Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance)
Meghan McCrea shares many of Coltura’s reasons for being involved in the wine festival.
She’s attended the event for the past half dozen years.
“It’s a fabulous opportunity to go to a fun local event that is close to home – you don’t have to drive downtown – and enjoy a huge variety of wines from a wide selection of local wineries, as well as tasty treats from local restaurants. All in a fun, festive environment,” McCrea said.
PHOTO: Clarence Joy donned his beer shirt for the wine fest after receiving tickets from his employer. He and his wife were celebrating their 39th anniversary at the event. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance)
But her motivation goes deeper than that, too. She is anxious to help raise money for the many charitable causes in Langley that are helped by the Rotary Club each year.
McCrea is the marketing director for Willowbrook Shopping Centre, which has been the host of the wine fest for the past quarter century.
After Willowbrook closed Saturday night, the team took about an hour to transform the mall into the perfect stage for the charity wine festival.
But her company’s involvement goes beyond offering up the space. The Willowbrook team also helps with ticket sales, promotion, and all the staff necessary to prepare and clean up after the event.
“Their commitment is huge, and we couldn’t do it without them,” said Rotarian Calla Krause, a member of the festival organizing committee.
“We are very grateful for their generosity and caring for community events,” Krause said.
PHOTO: Jessica Davies came to the Fraser Valley Food and Wine Festival previously and wanted to bring her financé, Matt Elliott, this year. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance)
Why does Willowbrook get behind this event in such a major way?
It’s all about “everyone getting together to support a great cause and have fun at the same time,” McCrea said.
“We are committed to supporting the community in which the shopping centre resides and are happy to support this great event which assists important causes in the region.”
There are literally dozens of corporate sponsors that come aboard each year to help make the wine festival possible, and help raise the money.
PHOTO: Steve Parsons, of Peacock and Martin wine merchants, was among the many offering samples. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance)
The goal this year was to raise $70,000, with the net proceeds going to several community initiatives helping youth and children in Langley.
Rotary members will now take a few days to tally the results of the 2016 wine festival.
Carter noted that the event seemed to come off better, with everyone set up and ready to go a bit earlier and the checking in of patrons going smoother. He said it made for a great, festive feel to the evening.
“Great ticket sales, great participation from the corporate sponsors, actually record amount of sponsorship,” he said. “The restaurants try to outdo each other with their presentations so that’s good to see.”
PHOTO: Gaurav Maan, winery manager at Abbotsford’s Maan Farms, brought a selection of fruit wines to the 2016 Wine Fest. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance)