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

Sonya Perkins of Langley’s Forever Yours Lingerie said there’ve been challenges, but customers are supporting local shops during the pandemic. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
‘Shop Local’ key as Langley businesses work through COVID

Business groups are trying to encourage local buying to keep stores alive

Army and Navy was in business for more than a century but closed earlier this year, citing COVID-19 as the cause. The space at Langley Mall has been taken over by McFrugal’s Discount Outlet. (Lisa Farquharson/Black Press Media)
Few closures as Langley businesses battle COVID-19 downturn

Smaller, Canadian chains among casualties locally

Velma MacAllister, coordinator of the Langley Christmas Bureau, holds up donated gift cards at the bureau’s temporary location at Timms Community Centre in Langley City. The bureau is in need of cash, gift card or cheque donations this year to support 800 local families. (Joti Grewal/Langley Advance Times)
Generosity imperative this holiday season

Langley Christmas Bureau is dependent on the donation of gift cards this year

Fire crews dealt with a flooding home in Aldergrove last Tuesday night. (Liane Bisaillon/Special to The Star)
Aldergrove woman seeks help with flooded basement after receiving ‘lack of support’

Liane Bisaillon said she has not been able to get a hold of her property manager

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

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

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Police lights
Vancouver elementary school locked down after unknown man walks into classroom

Police arrested the man and sent him for a psych evaluation

Most Read