The Rise of British Columbia Wine Tourism
A stellar wine touring year for BC wineries, and the season is far from over!
Wine tourism in BC is on the rise, reporting a record high in visitors and sales this year, and gaining accolades as a world-class wine destination from publications and wine critics around the world.
This year, the Okanagan Valley was named one of the 10 best wine destinations of 2015 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, ranked #1 wine region in the world by The Huffington Post and dubbed the second best wine region to visit by USA Today. In August, the BC Wine Institute hosted acclaimed UK wine writer Steven Spurrier here for the first time, and in the fall edition of The Somm Journal he proclaimed, “For me, wine is the three Ps: the place, the people and the product. British Columbia ticks all three boxes with exuberance, elegance and conviction.”
BC VQA Wine sales are at an all-time high, up 8.96 per cent from 2014 across all channels with 30 per cent of VQA wines sold directly from cellar doors – a direct result of BCWI and Destination BC collaborate marketing efforts to date. Visitors to BC in the first eight months of 2015 were also higher than ever before with an increase of 7.1 per cent from last year according to Statistics Canada.
Wine touring, which had long been the sole ventures of connoisseurs and official “wine lovers” now attracts a much broader range of tourists who are looking for a variety of experiences. “Wine tourism is still relatively new in British Columbia, though more and more people are expressing an interest in it, evidenced by many of BC’s wineries expanding their guest experiences to include more than simply wine tasting.” notes Maggie Anderson Marketing Director for the British Columbia Wine Institute.
Of the 320 wineries in BC, 275 of them have now opened their doors to wine tourism offering services including tastings, on-site restaurants and shops, wine and food pairing experiences, cooking classes, vineyard tours, concerts, accommodation and much more.
As the wine industry continues to grow in BC, emerging wine regions are also becoming more popular travel destinations. “It’s been an incredible first season for the Kamloops Wine Trail,” notes Trish Morelli Marketing Director for Kamloops Wineries Association. “All of our wineries had record numbers in visitors and sales. Our longest standing winery saw an increase of 73 per cent in July’s year over year tasting room sales, and triple digit growths (266 per cent) were reported from one of our newer wineries.”
Season highlights for Kamloops Winery Association included the opening of Monte Creek Ranch Winery and the installation of specialized Highway wine trail and wine route signage in partnership with our Minister of Transportation. “Visitor experience feedback has been very positive, people are loving to discover BC’s newest wine region.” Says Morelli.
Fort Berens Estate Winery in Lillooet, another emerging wine region in BC, expanded their winery this spring opening a new on-site patio restaurant to accommodate the increase of visitors coming through. “People like the combination of drinking quality wine for a good price while enjoying excellent food and a view,” says Rolf Berens, owner of Fort Berens Estate Winery. “Duffy Lake Road is one of the most scenic drives in BC and we wanted to provide an additional feature for travelers to experience it.”
“There are now over 43 restaurants at BC Wineries; that’s more than 20 per cent of wineries offering a myriad of cuisine to go with their experience. Very unique in the world of wine touring,” remarks Sandra Oldfield, CEO of Tinhorn Creek Vineyards and Miradoro Restaurant.
Back by popular demand this season, Communal Table Dinners by Miradoro Restaurant paired with Tinhorn Creek wines are available every Tuesday until Dec 29 bringing together locals and visitors to celebrate local food and wine.
Also, for the first time this winter CedarCreek Estate Winery and Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate Winery will continue to offer wine and food pairing tours during the off-season. “We are excited to extend our winery hours and provide our visitors with an experience that is otherwise hard to offer in the busy summer months.” Says Anahita Pouget Marketing Manager at CedarCreek Estate Winery.
Don’t miss out on Discover the Wonder of Winter in BC Wine Country with winter wine events happening this weekend December 4 – December 6. For more information Click here.
For a full list of winter in Wine Country events, services and experiences go to WineBC.com.