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

File photo
Gov’t of Alberta identifies estimated 300 new COVID-19 cases Sunday

Online COVID-19 dashboard unavailable as upgrades being completed

COVID
Red Deer down to 313 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta reports an additional 411 COVID-19 cases

Seniors in the 65-unit Piper Creek Lodge are among those waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Central Alberta senior lodges anxiously waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations

“Should be at the front of the line, not the back of the line”

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
Economists “cautiously hopeful” for economic recovery in Alberta

Charles St. Arnaud says Alberta’s recovery will rebound along with roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Kiara Robillard is seen in an undated handout photo. When the pandemic began, Robillard had to rush back home to Alberta from California, where she had been living for five years, after she was struck by a truck that broke her spine in two places. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Kiara Robillard, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘It kind of clicks:’ Text4Hope program helps with depression, anxiety during pandemic

Participants receive one text message every morning for three months

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

A decommissioned pumpjack is shown at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. The Alberta Energy Regulator says it is suspending all of the licences held by an oil and gas producer with more than 2,200 wells and 2,100 pipelines after it failed to bring its operations into compliance. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta Energy Regulator suspends licences of oil and gas producer that owes $67M

The company is being asked to comply with past orders to clean up historic spills and contamination

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Pictured here is Stettler’s Jenner Smith with a guide dog from Aspen Service Dogs. An online auction will be running soon to help raise funds for Jenner to receive his very own service dog later this year. Jenner, who is four years old, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2019. photo submitted
An online auction is planned to raise funds for a service dog for a Stettler family

Jenner Smith, four, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2019

Most Read