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

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

The Site C Dam location is seen along the Peace River in Fort St. John, B.C., Tuesday, April 18, 2017. The cost of British Columbia’s Site C hydroelectric dam has grown to $16 billion and the completion has been moved up a year to 2025. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
BC Liberal energy critic blasts ‘lack of transparency’ on Site C

MLA Tom Shypitka says Site C going ahead is a ‘good thing’, blames NDP for mismanagement

Volunteers from the Elk River Alliance cleared 14 car batteries from the Elk River near Elkford this week. (Photo contributed)
Elk River Alliance to move to more holistic environmental monitoring

The details of the ERA’s 2021 program will be discussed at the AGM next month

The Kitimat RCMP responded to false alarms, an apartment fire and more between Jan. 29 to Feb. 3, 2021. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Sparwood backs campaign to study Surrey RCMP impact

The City of Surrey is home to the largest RCMP detachment in the province

Brent Bidston is the president of Angel Flight East Kootenay. Black Press file photo.
RDEK ponders funding for Angel Flight East Kootenay

The district is considering funding for operations or to eventually help acquire a larger plane

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

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

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

Most Read