2024 Judges

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Barb Philip MW

Barbara Philip MW was the first Western Canadian to achieve the Master of Wine designation in 2007 and has worked for BC LIQUOR since 2009. Barb is Category Manager for all European still wines as well as VQA and BIBC. In addition to her role with BC LIQUOR, she works as a presenter, journalist and judge with a small company she runs with her husband Iain called Barbariain Wine Consulting. In addition to lecturing across the United States, Europe and Canada, Barb has judged for the Argentina Wine Awards, Gambero Rosso and the Decanter World Wine Awards in London. For ten years, she was the wine columnist on CBC Radio One’s “On The Coast”

Barb has been recognized for her work in European wine by some of the world’s most prestigious wine organizations and is a member of the Confrérie des Gentilshommes de Fronsac, the Confraria do Vinho do Porto, the Commanderie des Grands Vins d’Amboise and the Confrèrie des Chevaliers du Tastevin in Burgundy.

Iain Philip 
Iain is a long-standing wine educator and has been teaching the Wine & Spirit Education Trust courses since 2002. He has also consulted for some of North America’s largest wine companies wanting to incorporate WSET curriculum into their staff training. Iain achieved the WSET Diploma in 2001, French Wine Scholar in 2014, and is a Cavaleiro in the Port Wine Brotherhood. With his wife Barbara Philip MW, and their Vancouver company Barbariain Wine Consulting, Iain is a regular contributor to Taste Magazine and a wine competition judge.

Jo Audette

Jo Audette has spent twenty-seven years in the hospitality industry, with seventeen of those years having a focus on wines, wine pairing, and development of wine menus and cellars.

Jo’s successes in restaurant and bar management led her to her true calling, and she is now an accomplished wine consultant, sommelier and wine buyer based at Big White Ski Resort, catering to a national and international clientele.

Her certifications include: WSET 3 Wine and Spirits (including partial completion of her Diploma); Canadian Wine Scholar; Sommelier Certification; Cicerone Level 1; and Fine Vintage Sensory and Olfactory Certification. Additionally she has won Gold Awards in Mixology and Wines competition, but that is another story ;)

DJ Kearney

In almost two decades in the wine business, DJ has trained over a thousand sommeliers throughout North America, judged and presented around the world, and tasted thousands of wines in pursuit of quality and value. She has been the Drink Editor for Vancouver Magazine, the Chief Judge for several wine competitions, initiated a Judge Mentorship program in Canada, and contributes to WineAlign.ca.  DJ has a special devotion to wines of her home province, and frequently speaks, writes and teaches about the winelands of British Columbia.

Rhys Pender MW

Rhys Pender MW is a wine educator, freelance wine writer, wine judge, and consultant to the industry. Working in the wine trade since age 14, Rhys’ career has included experience in the vineyard, cellar, wine retail, education and hospitality – providing knowledge in all facets of the business. In 2010, Rhys became Canada’s youngest Master of Wine (MW) and was awarded the Taransaud Award for best Production of Wine paper. In his downtime, Rhys enjoys dirtying his boots at his vineyard and winery.

Mike Lee

Mike is a Kelowna-based wine educator.  He completed his WSET Diploma in 2011 and teaches the WSET wine programs as well as many other courses for Fine Vintage. He also teaches the Wine Ambassador Level 2 program for the Wine Growers of BC.   

Mike has extensive knowledge of the Okanagan wine industry having previously worked for both Mission Hill and Quails’ Gate as part of their sommelier teams.  

He has judged at Okanagan wine competitions and has visited many of the world’s great wine regions. 

Kevin Curtis

DipWSET, current Master of Wine Student and a Certified Cider Guide.

Currently Director of Sales & Marketing for Lass Chance Beverage Co. in Keremeos.

Formerly of Andrew Peller Ltd and Time Family of Wines locally, Kevin has also spent time as an importer of unique wines from Greece, Spain and Mexico to BC.  

He is also a wine consultant for hospitality, cook, tech geek and does some work with vineyards to utilize drone technology to assess vine health. 

Karen Gillis

Karen, a Vancouver native, was immersed in a family of chefs, fostering her early fascination with sensory science. Pursuing this passion, she obtained a diploma in food technology from BCIT.

Her journey in the food sciences industry spanned three years, during which Karen refined her technical prowess and crafted several enduring food products still prevalent in the market today.

Driven by her scientific culinary background, Karen delved into the intricate world of wine at Andrés Wines (now Andrew Peller Limited), swiftly ascending to Assistant Winemaker within two years. This venture sparked her enduring quest for understanding the complexities and nuances of winemaking.

Relocating to Kelowna in 2005, Karen assumed the role of winemaker at Calona Wines before assuming leadership at Red Rooster Winery on the Naramata Bench in 2006. Over her 15-year tenure, Karen garnered a plethora of awards and accolades from esteemed competitions, revitalizing the brand's sparkling wine program and amplifying its legacy.

In 2014, Karen expanded her sensory journey by enrolling in the WSET Wine and Spirit Education Trust Diploma Program, a testament to her unwavering dedication to mastery.

Ian Casterton

Raised around the dinner table, Ian drew inspiration from food, wine, and the people who made them from an early age. As the Western Canada Key Accounts Manager for Andrew Peller Limited, he collaborates with restaurant groups to craft insightful, interesting, and profitable wine programs. His seven years of portfolio management at a flourishing Ontario Import Agency and five years as a Fine Dining Sommelier and Wine Director give him a unique perspective into our beloved industry.

Ian was recently named the 2024 Best Sommelier of British Columbia, holds a WSET Diploma, and is pursuing the Master of Wine designation. You can find him moderating workshops, judging on wine panels, teaching WSET, or practicing his golf swing.


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It’s still a month away but spring feels like it’s been whipping by, so why not start planning now for the spring version of the...

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'Taste and Sip' your way through spring with Okanagan Wine Festivals
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Several events are planned throughout the Okanagan between June 2-23. Okanagan Spring Wine Festivals are back. The festival pops the cork on...

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TASTE and SIPS BC Wine Country at the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival
April 9 2024
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The Okanagan Winter Wine Festival Embraces Winter in Wine Country
December 19 2023
The Okanagan Winter Wine Festival Embraces Winter in Wine Country

(OKANAGAN VALLEY, BC) – As we turn the page on an exciting year of Okanagan Wine Festivals events, we look to kick off the new year with...

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Meet our Members

The Okanagan Wine Festival Society is made up of a number of Okanagan wineries and tourism related businesses. Every member is recognized as an outstanding service or product supplier in their related industry.

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