1 of 3
Political big wheels: Naramata wine growers stage tractor protest convoy in July to push for acceptance of intraprovincial shipping for wine across Canada.
2 of 3
Okanagan Spirits distillery is part of a new wave of alcohol producers further diversifying the use of BC fruits and other produce.
3 of 3
Tinhorn Creek’s Sandra Oldfield was one of 250 who attended the first international Wine Bloggers Conference ever to be held in Canada.
Looking back at the year reveals a mixed bag of events, announcements and approvals that point to positive progress for most stakeholders in the B.C. wine industry.
A Late Start
January 11 and 12 – BCWI announces start of Icewine harvest at 10:30 PM on January 11, considerably later than 2012 vintage, which started on November 19. While these dates represent the majority of the harvest, some Icewine grapes were harvested in the wee hours of January 1, 2013.
All Tied Up in Legal Restrictions
February 8 – B.C. government announces liquor law and regulation reforms for some small or medium-sized wineries and distilleries in the province:
- A tied house exemption is now available for small or medium-sized wineries that have a financial relationship with up to three retail level licensees, such as a bar, restaurant, private liquor store or caterer. Conditions still apply; for example, only wineries producing less than 750,000 litre are eligible and licensees would have to offer a range of products. While a positive step, the reforms will affect only a few wineries such as Carbrea on Hornby Island, which has been prevented from selling their wine in the family lodge, a few miles away.
- A mark-up exemption for direct delivery of spirits made from 100% B.C. ingredients to licensees and consumers provide a much-needed financial incentive for B.C. distillers such as Okanagan Spirits of Vernon and Kelowna and Maple Leaf Spirits of Penticton.
Too Many and Too Few Laws
February 25 – The 2013 Wine Law in British Columbia Conference offered sessions on a variety of topics for stakeholders in virtually all sectors of the industry.
Two of a dozen or so were particularly relevant:
- In a session called ‘Freezing the Flood’, Christopher S. Wilson of Bull Housser addressed the matter of rampant counterfeiting of Canadian Icewine, Canada’s top wine export, especially to China, perhaps the world’s fastest growing wine market. There is no national standard for Canadian Icewine, only provincial ones that carry little or no weight in nation-to-nation negotiations, so seeking a solution through trade negotiations is not a viable option.
- The session on Land Use Regulation in B.C. given by Max Collett of Bull Housser described how a “complex, multilayered web of laws, by-laws, policies and practices” can stifle growth. For grape growers, the list includes the Agricultural Land Commission Act, Farm Practices Protection Act, Environmental Management Act, Water Act and Land Act. In the case of a winery restaurant, like Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek in Oliver, there are more layers: BC Liquor Control & Licensing, BC Liquor Control & Distribution, regional government and local First Nations. Required to operate with a restrictive winery lounge restaurant, not a restaurant primary license, because of ALR “land-use” restrictions, Miradoro cannot serve local beer, spirits or wine from other jurisdictions.
Revenge of the PST
April 1 – Return of PST heralded an increase in certain taxes on wine:
- A 3% increase of sales tax at the border from 12% to 15%.
- Wine purchased direct from B.C. wineries are subject to a higher mark-up.
- Wine purchased in restaurants/hotels/bars are subject to a combined tax rate of 15%, up from 12%.
Far and Wide
June 6-8 – The 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference brings 250 wine bloggers from across North America to Penticton. A first for B.C., it showcased wine and food of the Okanagan Valley to the fastest growing, and one of the most influential, segments of the media. About 25% of the participants were from the B.C. wine industry: independent wine writers, authors, winemakers, winery owners, PR folks and marketing consultants. The other three quarters were from outside the province, providing a unique opportunity to get the word out about B.C. product.
Icewine Regulations to the Rescue
June 15 – The Government of Canada proposed regulatory amendments aiming to create a national standard for Icewine. According to a Canadian Food Inspection Agency newsletter, the new standard will benefit exporters by allowing greater market access without having to redesign their labels for each individual country’s requirements, and help prevent the sale of fraudulent Icewine.
July 10 – Christy Clark’s win in the Kelowna-Westside by-election could be good for the wine industry. The first premier to represent an Okanagan riding since Bill Bennett’s tenure, Clark heads a province with a far bigger and more confident wine industry. Vowing to modernize B.C.’s antiquated liquor laws, the cabinet launched a wide-ranging review of the system.
‘A’ for Effort
July 11 – Don Albas and Ron Canaan receive BCWI’s inaugural Industry Recognition Award for work on Bill C-311, which received Royal Assent in 2012. Most provinces, such as Ontario and Alberta, have been slow to get on board.
Free the Grapes
July 18 – Okanagan wineries send a message to Victoria with a parade of tractors from the Naramata Bench to MLA Dan Ashton’s office in Pentcton. They brought wine for B.C. premier Christy Clark, to take it to the July 24 Premier’s conference at Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario.
July 24 – B.C. Premier Christy Clark brought the gift of wine and her support for reviewing Canadian wine laws to the Premier’s conference at Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario.
Mother Nature’s Fury
August 12 – A violent, 15-minute hail storm battered growers in East Kelowna, causing extensive damage to three vineyards: Sperling’s Pioneer Ranch, Spierhead and The View. Over summer and fall many Okanagan growers were hit by swarms of wasps, followed by infections of bunch rot, diminishing the prospects for a bumper harvest.
August 27 – Jackson-Triggs Okanagan starts harvesting Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Bull Pine Estate Vineyard on Osoyoos Lake Bench, the earliest date reported in the South Okanagan.
Beer for Wineries
September 6-26 – A coveted Food Primary license for Summerhill’s Sunset Organic Bistro allows full service of wine beer and spirits; a first for a winery restaurant situated on land governed by the Agricultural Land Commission Act. After initial rejections, the commission finally approved a “Non-Farm Use” exemption, specifically for operating the bistro.
Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek in Oliver is the second winery restaurant inside the ALR to receive a Food Primary license. Attaining the license was a cooperative effort between Tinhorn Creek and the relevant government bodies, including the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, the Agricultural Land Commission, and the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Commission, according to Sandra Oldfield, Tinhorn Creek’s proprietor and winemaker.
A Sensible Start
October 2 – B.C. Wine Information Society donates $300,000 to Okanagan College for a new, classroom-style sensory lab at the Penticton campus, the first educational facility of its type in the Okanagan Valley. Similar to those already in existence at Brock University and Niagara College in Ontario, “This sensory lab will demonstrates how important the relationship is between the college and the industry,” said OC president Jim Hamilton. ■