Despite challenges associated with COVID-19, Kamloops wineries appear to be thriving. File photo

Despite challenges associated with COVID-19, Kamloops wineries appear to be thriving. File photo

Kamloops area wine industry sees record year

With more one-on-one time with winemakers, the public seemed to have enjoyed the experience

By Joel Barde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sun Peaks Independent News

Despite challenges associated with COVID-19, Kamloops wineries appear to be thriving.

“The Kamloops Wine Trail wineries had record breaking summers,” said Trish Morelli, executive director of the Kamloops Wine Trail.

Morelli said this positive experience owed to pivoted marketing campaigns, innovation on the part of wineries, and a desire among British Columbians to support local businesses.

Morelli said sales were up 12 per cent between January and August this year compared to last, and that direct-to-consumer sales were up 61 per cent for July and August, which is effectively the height of the wine tourism season.

Morelli said while early on in the pandemic there was panic among local wineries at what the future had in store, they were able to quickly transition.

Like other establishments, before reopening in late April they installed signage to ensure proper social distancing and instituted new measures to restrict the spread of the virus.

Morelli said they operated at around half of normal capacity.

With more one-on-one time with winemakers, the public seemed to have enjoyed the experience.

“People were generally actually having better experiences,” said Morelli.

Morelli added the wineries owe their success to the support they received from Kamloops area residents.

“The local support was out of this world.”

She added the positive experience in the Kamloops region isn’t necessarily indicative of the industry at large, with the pandemic having a “horrific” impact on some wineries that weren’t able to open this summer.

The challenges facing the industry were captured in an August survey of winemakers published by the B.C. Wine Institute, a body that represents B.C. wineries.

While liquor sales have increased across the board, this hasn’t been the case for B.C. wines, explained Miles Prodan, president and chief executive officer of the BCWI.

Much of the increased sales of wine have been for cheaper wines made out of the country rather than B.C.-made wines, he said.

“It’s impossible for the province’s small producers to compete with the low price point of `bag-in-a-box’ producers,” he said.

“Other farms around the world have acres and acres of mechanically produced .125fields.375, and they can .125rely on to.375 get that cost down,” said Prodan.

Prodan said B.C. wineries have had to transition quickly to new COVID-19 restrictions. That said, Prodan said that some numbers are in fact up, and some wineries are doing well.

“I think anecdotally, what we’re seeing is that the quantity of people was down, but the quality of purchases was up,” he said. “So we’re thinking that not as many people visited, but hopefully as much wine was purchased in the end, because .125guests.375 got a chance to really experience it with that reservation time.”

In August, the BCWI engaged a market research and analytics company, Leger Marketing, to conduct an industry-wide survey to help understand and assess the impact of COVID-19 on the B.C. wine industry.

It found that one in 10 B.C. wineries and grape growers reported being at risk of closing due to COVID-19, with 58 per cent seeing a loss in revenue and 55 per cent having reduced access to customers.

Prodan said thankfully the industry has been experiencing somewhat of a recovery since then. The institute plans on commissioning a new survey in November once the province’s grapes are fully collected.

“Anecdotally, we know that visitors came to wine country and did stop at wineries to visit and buy wine, so we’re hoping it’s not as bad as what they were thinking,” said Prodan. “But we’ll wait till the end of this harvest to see when we go back and redo the survey.”

Prodan added many of the issues related to the wine industry resulted from challenges with distribution, as restaurants and wineries closed for an extended period of time it impacted the ability of wineries to get their product out.

With provincial health orders already tightening up on restaurants and bars again this fall, it’s imperative that the support of B.C.’s local wine industry and related businesses continues, he said.

Prodan recommended purchasing wines with the BC Vintners Quality Alliance (BC VQA), which means that it was produced in British Columbia.

“The end value product is a beautiful bottle of wine, but it’s the same dirt and hard, Mother Nature effective process that every farmer goes through. So buying a BC VQA wine not only ensures you have a quality product, but you’re also supporting agriculture and buying locally here in the province,” he said.

Wine and Vineyards

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens is a multi-level care facility for seniors, located on Russell Place in Port Alberni. (ELENA RARDON/ Alberni Valley News)
Third case of COVID-19 confirmed at Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens

Second resident diagnosed with illness from Nov. 16 outbreak

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

A sign at the entrance to Ty-Histanis asks visitors to stay out of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation announces lockdown after member tests positive for COVID-19

Essential travel only and restricted to Tofino and Ucluelet.

Joe and Della Drinkwater pose for a formal portrait circa 1898. The Drinkwater name has been a noted one since the 1800s, and numerous landmarks and streets are named for different family members. Drinkwater Creek at the headwaters to Great Central Lake was named for Joe Drinkwater, who had a number of mining claims in the Drinkwater Valley. Joe named Della Falls—the highest waterfall in British Columbia—after his wife Della (née Fayette). The couple was married in December 1899. This photo is one of 24,000 in the Alberni Valley Museum’s online archives, available for public viewing at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN01129 COURTESY AV MUSEUM)
A LOOK BACK: Joe Drinkwater carves a name for himself in the Alberni Valley

Take a peek at the history of the Alberni Valley with the AV Museum

The Harbourview Apartments on Third Avenue (popularly referred to as “The Frigstad”). ELENA RARDON PHOTO
Port Alberni city council to discuss Harbourview Apartments in-camera

Owner of the property failed to meet Nov. 12 deadline

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

Vees goalkeeper Yaniv Perets stands watch while Tyler Ho takes the puck around the back of the net on Nov. 7. The BCHL press release did not name the player who tested positive.(Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton Vees quarantining after player tests positive for COVID-19

The team, staff and billets are isolating while they are tested

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Most Read