Wine promoters look south for new fans 

B.C. vintners thirsting for more California customers

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - CALIFORNIA DREAMING Premier Christy Clark is a fan of B.C. wine and now she and other provincial leaders are working to win over California wine drinkers.
  • Photo submitted
  • CALIFORNIA DREAMING Premier Christy Clark is a fan of B.C. wine and now she and other provincial leaders are working to win over California wine drinkers.

The Winter Fancy Food Show was held in San Francisco on Jan. 21. This is noteworthy because for the first time B.C. wines were showcased at the event.

Our province is known as a young wine region and at this point most of the volume produced in B.C. is also consumed in B.C.

One Whistler wine expert, Eric Blouin, says the decision to have a presence at the event in San Francisco makes sense on two fronts. First he says the best wines produced in B.C. are great and worth sharing. Second he sees the promotion of B.C. wines south of the border as a good thing for B.C. tourism.

"The Okanagan is one of the most beautiful regions to visit, even for someone that lives in Napa," says Blouin.

Once Californians make the border crossing to check out this amazing wine region they've heard about called the Okanagan Valley they may choose to swing over to Whistler on the way back home to check out this amazing mountain resort they often hear about.

Miles Prodan, the executive director of the B.C. Wine Institute (BCWI), calls California a vital market.

"We're thrilled to be showcasing British Columbia's standout VQA wines to key industry and wine, food and travel media at this year's Winter Fancy Food Show," says Prodan.

The wine producers have now conquered their home turf and it is time to look for growth beyond the borders.

According to the BCWI, British Columbians choose B.C. wines over imported wines from any other region or country.

For wineries like Fort Berens in Lillooet or Blouin's One Barrel wine venture and the rest of the wine producers in the province, elevating the profile of B.C. wines outside the province can only be positive.

The United States is the largest retail wine market in the world and it is also reportedly one of the fastest growing markets. Americans drank more than $32 billion worth of wine in 2011. That year marked the 18th consecutive year the market in that state has expanded.

More than 17,000 people attend the Winter Fancy Food Show each year. Amongst them were Vancouver sommelier and chef DJ Kearney and Cassie Doyle, Consul General of Canada in the San Francisco-Silicon Valley area.

According to B.C. cabinet minister Pat Bell, Kearney and Doyle's California networking is a good way to draw attention to B.C. vineyards and wineries to set them up as must-sample tourist destinations and must-have products.

It is a good start to opening up B.C. red and white to one of the most influential states in the union.

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