The Naramata Bench Wineries Association is jumping into the wine club business to take advantage of ongoing changes in federal and provincial regulations.
Twice a year, Best of the Bench Wine Club members will receive, delivered direct to their door, a mixed case of the latest releases of wines from participating wineries on the Naramata Bench. It’s not a new concept, but thanks to the recent lifting of federal prohibitions on shipping wines across provincial borders, a B.C. wine club can ship to a larger market.
Cynthia Enns of Laughing Stock Vineyards said she first proposed the idea of the association getting into the wine club business last fall, in hopeful anticipation.
“You could kind of see the tides turning,” she said. Federal prohibitions were removed in June, leaving it to the provinces to decide how to handle cross-border shipping.
“Not all of the provinces have verified what their specific laws are to be,” she said, adding that the club and work as well for a wine lover in Vancouver as Calgary. But B.C., Alberta and Manitoba have already given the green light, and that’s what Enns said the association is banking on.
“Given that our core tourism market is B.C. and Alberta, we are pretty happy about those markets being available right out of the gate,” said Enns. “I have a great belief in the wine club format. We launched our own wine club two years ago and we have seen it grow quite considerably. It’s also the way that I personally built our own wine cellar, years before we were in the wine business.”
This is the first idea the association has had, according to Enns, that actually includes selling wine. Previously, their efforts have been aimed at marketing and promotional events. To make the venture work, the Bench association is partnering with the Naramata General Store, who will be handling the logistics of the club, the selling of the wine and its delivery to wine club members.
“It’s fantastic for a number of reasons: they are local, they are called Naramata, they are right in our backyard,” said Enns explaining that the participating wineries will take their selections to the store, which will purchase and ship them.
“It’s a business opportunity for the store as well. We are hoping it will be a growing revenue centre for the individual wineries as well as the Bench association,” said Enns. “We’ll just have to see what the interest is.”
The wine club venture, said Enns, is a supplement to the current marketing efforts of the Bench association, though more tangible to the consumer than their current work.
“If I was to check out Ontario wines, I wouldn’t necessarily want to order a full case from one winery,” said Enns. “That’s what got me thinking that the Naramata Bench should do a mixed case. What better way to explore a wine region than to just get a little bit of everybody?”
Many of the wines will be limited production wines, giving club members access to wines which are not widely available, but Enns hopes the wine club will grow from the simple mixed case twice-a-year shipment, to offering a wider range of products.
For more information and to join the club go to www.naramatabench.com and click on ‘Join our Wine Club’ link.