Wine-lovers will descend on the High Country Convention Centre on Thursday, October 19, for the 26th edition of the Rendezvous Rotary Wine Festival. These grape connoisseurs will have over 200 wines available for sampling and tasting.

Those lucky enough to hold one of the 100 priority tasting tickets secured one of the hottest tickets in town. The day that they went on sale at 9 a.m., they had sold out by 2 p.m.

The wine festival is the major annual fundraiser for the Rendezvous Rotary Club and Anne Kennedy has chaired the organizing committee for the past seven years.

“The wine festival brings in approximately $35,000 of net revenue for our club each year,” Kennedy said. “With that revenue, we’re able to fund all the other community and international projects that our group supports.”

Kennedy noted that the funds go to projects like the Yukon Imagination Library, which Rendezvous Rotary started, and Morgan Weinberg’s Little Footprints, Big Steps project in Haiti. In addition, the club supports important work in the community like Blood Ties, Four Directions’ Outreach Van.

While the number of wine vendors attending has been as high as 25, this year 21 vendors will be in attendance. The space seems able to accommodate that number without overcrowding. Wine vendors use the festival to promote products not sold here, so the eight to 10 wines they each display will be a mix of listed wines and new products. One vendor will feature a port for sampling this year. But it isn’t the size of the market that draws the vendors back, but the love of the North.

“One vendor noted that he sells more wine in a year to one Vancouver restaurant than he does to the entire Yukon,” Kennedy said. “But like all the vendors, he loves the festival. They come because they enjoy the event, they love our northern hospitality, they have fun with our Rotary team and they care about the projects that Rendezvous Rotary can undertake with the revenue.”

The wine vendors are invested in the event because of this community connection. Kennedy noted that Authentic, Stile and Renaissance have all been long-time attendees, and Gray Monk has been with the event since the beginning. In addition, three new reps, Arterra, Delf Wines and Escalade are appearing at their first wine festival.

“The vendors really view their support for us as part of their community contributions,” Kennedy said. “This year they’ve gone a step further and each vendor will be bringing up a dozen socks and toothbrushes to add to our annual donation to the Blood Ties, Four Directions Outreach Van.”

Wine-lovers know that with good wine, goes good food and the wine festival prepares a fantastic spread of food pairings for attendees.

“This year Air North will be back and outdo themselves as they always do,” Kennedy said. “The Wayfarer Oyster Bar will be serving their oysters and that wouldn’t have happened without support from Skookum Asphalt. The Claim will be serving their amazing recipes and we will have the Yukon College Culinary Arts program there too.”

The Rotary club has a special connection to the culinary program at the college. Part of the Rotary philosophy is vocational service and education, so they provide a scholarship to the program.

The organizing committee attempts to improve things each year particularly with layout and traffic flow on the floor. They work to reduce wait times and changes like the self-serve coat check that was introduced last year will be back for this year’s event. The priority tasting was another change that was introduced three years ago to reduce pressure on the event and has become hugely popular.

Some of this year’s changes will be around the Yukon Liquor Corporation’s Wine Shop. The corporation has made changes to their layout in the hopes of speeding up purchasing. They are looking for ways to improve the experience for the festival-goers.

“One item they introduced a few years ago, but not many people know about, is the personal box service at the store,” said Kennedy. “If you plan to purchase wine, at the start of the night you can get a box at the Wine Shop with your name on it and add to it all night. That way if you aren’t walking around with a shopping cart right at the end of the night. You go collect your box and pay, which really speeds up the process.”

Some long-time attendees may note that the wine festival is earlier in this year’s calendar. That change is here to stay.

“We moved it up earlier in the year because it fits better in the Canadian wine festival calendar,” Kennedy said. “Next year, we are scheduled for Thursday, October 18.”

Although they won’t be on sale until next September, if you want to get one of those priority tasting tickets for next year, perhaps it’s time to start thinking about it now.