Okanagan

A NEW TAKE ON THE WINE CLUB: OKANAGANWINE.CLUB

Ivan Gonzalez of OkanaganWine.Club

Ivan Gonzalez of OkanaganWine.Club

Have you ever belonged to a wine club? It's a thrill that never fades, to get wine in the post, but sometimes that commitment can be pricy.

Is there an alternative? How about a wine club focused on local wine producers, with no membership dues or commitment to buy for members, that gives the wineries themselves a healthy profit. A win-win-win business model for the consumer, wine club, and winery. OWC have quickly amassed a solid following, with over 25,000 wine loving fans on their FB page.

Instead of collecting membership fees, they scout out and select a new winery for each offering of 6 bottles, allowing members the chance to opt-in to purchase. I love that they're exposing the wine loving public to some very delicious but under-the-radar wineries like C.C. Jentsch & Lunessence. The orders and payment are fulfilled by the winery, and members pay the winery price. Each shipment arrives with a nice write up about the winery and each of the bottles included.

Pricing is key: members aren't paying a mark-up from the price they'd pay by buying directly from the winery (most non-producer wine clubs operate on the mark-up margin plus the negotiated volume discount, whereas OWC operate on volume discount alone). 

When I heard about the cool things OkanaganWine.Club were up to, especially the promotion of niche BC wineries, I reached out to co-founder Ivan Gonzalez to chat about the club.

Q What drew you to starting OWC? How did you become interested in BC wine?

Many things drew me to start OWC. Personally the fact that I wanted to provide a service that would empower local wineries and help develop the local wine industry. 

During my college years I volunteered at the WestJet Wine Festival and realized that there was a huge demand for local wines. I later tasted some leftover wine from the event and was surprised by the quality.  

Q How did you develop your wine tasting skills?

WSET 1, plus I literally go out to the wineries and speak to winemakers, local somms, and chefs. Each one of them has taught me something. Last time I counted I had visited 90% of wineries in BC. The secret is to ask, listen and pay attention to what you are tasting. I also have mentors that introduce me to new wine. 

I'm really impressed with your commitment to visiting the wineries, it's something I'm very passionate about as well.

Q What are your customers’ favourite wines, are you seeing a trend towards any particular styles?

Tricky question. I do see trends but I immediately try to avoid falling into that. The idea of OkanaganWine.Club is to provide a platform where people can comfortably order wine that they have not tried, and discover. So if I see a trend, I try to bring a different style of wine to keep them on their toes. Saying that, the only trend I really have noticed are people tasting wine that they had no idea about or thought they wouldn't like and end up asking for cases.

Q What changes have you seen in BC wine over the past several years?

I must say I'm not a veteran in this industry but from the two years I have been involved, I've seen many changes. Wineries are discovering that there is an online market and people are realizing that BC's wine regions are producing some very high quality wines. 

Congratulations Ivan on your success, and I look forward to seeing which winery OWC will be featuring next!

To find out more, visit okanaganwine.club / Instagram / Twitter / Facebook

WINETRIPPING: A GUIDEBOOK TO BC'S BEST OKANAGAN & SIMILKAMEEN VALLEY WINERIES

Looking down towards Osoyoos from the Golden Mile near Oliver

Looking down towards Osoyoos from the Golden Mile near Oliver

I've been a busy bee lately, just back from trips to England and Italy, which were respectively to be an associate judge at the IWSC on Canadian and American wines and study at the Vinitaly Italian Wine Ambassador program.

Now that I'm back in Vancouver, regular trips up to the Okanagan and Similkameen have recommenced. I've been continuing my grand tour of wineries, both new and old favourites, as I finish the research for my book Winetripping. Which is no hardship! The weather's beautiful {pool weather in April? yes, please}, and the desert flowers are in bloom in Osoyoos, a rare sight.

Winetripping is something I've been working on for over a year, and am so excited to see released this June. My goal in writing this winery guide comes down to my passion for the region, which I think is some of the most beautiful wine country in the world. I want you to come and visit! 

Certainly, the Okanagan is one of the friendliest wine regions you can explore, with sweeping valley views, glistening lakes, oh, and let's not forget the hundreds of unique wineries with tasting rooms and restaurants ready for your arrival!

Ultimately, there are more wineries than you can visit, so I've curated a list of places I love recommending to friends and family. I want you to have an awesome time on your trip up to Osoyoos, Oliver, Naramata, Kelowna, Vernon or Keremeos!

There's nothing like hitting up the tasting rooms on a sunny day, choosing your very favourite wines to bring home with you, then opening those bottles up months later to reminisce about your trip.

I've heard from wine lovers that there're so many wineries that it can be overwhelming choosing where to go, and planning which you'll include and which you'll skip. So, my guide is all about making it easy for you to find the exact kind of tasting room you love, whether that's somewhere with a log cabin and dogs wandering through the vines, or a modernist producer with fancy glassware and a view over the lake.

In addition to the 89 wineries listed, other handy sections will cover arranging a tour, getting to know the local grapes, wine tasting etiquette, and suggested itineraries based on your interests (love bold reds, want the hidden gems, or maybe you're into Riesling? I've got you covered).

I feel strongly about supporting our local wineries, who work day in and out to produce this incredible beverage we all adore. By visiting the wineries, dining at their restaurants, and buying wines on site, we consumers are not only having a great experience, we're ensuring that they're able to keep doing what they love while making a good living. Cheers to that!

Find out more here.