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South Okanagan wineries go virtual with socially distant tastings

South Okanagan wineries go virtual with socially distant tastings

(File photo)

Sophie Gray

Local Journalism Initiative

Local wineries are turning to online sales and virtual tastings to keep business going during these difficult times.

Using Facebook and Instagram live streaming services, wineries around the Okanagan are hosting virtual wine tastings and pairing events to connect with their customer base. 

Noble Ridge Vineyard and Winery is using Facebook and Instagram to livestream tastings every Saturday night while their usual customers are stuck at home. Tasting room direct to customer (D.T.C.) manager and in-house sommelier, Preston Radford, said they came up with the idea to connect with their customers on a more personal level. 

“Normally, we would have opened our tasting room now on a daily basis but unfortunately we can’t, so we’ve kind of come up with this way of making sure we’re still maintaining that connection,” said Radford.

Like many other industries, the B.C. wine industry has taken a hit during the pandemic. A recent impact survey done by Wine BC found that roughly a third of B.C. wineries have seen revenue loss of more than 50 percent, while half have incurred unexpected costs of up to $5,000 associated with COVID-19. Despite this, through promotions like free shipping and curbside pickup, online wine sales are going strong.

Radford said Noble Ridge fits these trends, as their online sales have taken off in the last few weeks. They are also able to keep their growing and harvesting going, as social distancing in the vineyard is easy to manage.

“We’ve got to make sure everything is still moving along there so we have wine coming up,” he said. “Interesting, we’re doing bottling right now as we speak. That’s been a bit of a challenge. It’s probably taking twice as long to bottle just so that we can maintain safety.”

Noble Ridge isn’ the only winery to go virtual. Radford said they got the idea to start hosting virtual tasting after other wineries around the province started the trend. Radford said it’s a way for them to keep that face to face connection that they are lacking without open tasting rooms. And the response has been overwhelming. Their first two broadcasts saw between 500 and 600 people tune in from all over the world, according to Radford.

“We just kind of started it and I figured oh well if I get a couple dozen people watching it that’ll be an awesome kind of thing and yeah, the response has been great,” he said. “We’re getting people that are tuning in from Europe, Australia, Mexico, the US, not only just in Canada which is kind of really kind of cool.”

Radford’s spirit remains high despite the challenges the B.C. wine industry is facing, as he plans virtual tastings through May. He’s enjoying the chance to explore new ways to share his wine knowledge, even if he’s not a fan of the cameras.

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