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Virtual Wineries in the Okanagan Valley


You may have come across the term “virtual winery”. At first thought, one might think this means a winery with an online experience or some sort of virtual tour. Close, but no cigar!


To take on the grand idea of starting a winery, there are many barriers to entry. As expected, money is one of the largest barriers, and the cost of opening a standalone winery is significant. Land, labour, and taxes add up very quickly.


The term “virtual winery” is linked to producers that currently do not own a licensed winery. Many up-and-coming vintners are determined, but don't have the financial backing to buy vineyards of their own, or to build a winery. To navigate this obstacle, vintners have the option to produce their wines at existing licensed wineries. The Okanagan Crush Pad and BC Wine Studio are two facilities that provide their equipment to virtual wineries.


A virtual winemaker purchases grapes from specific vineyards or regions and turns them into wine, under their own niche label, at an existing winery. Another option some vintners have is to make a deal with other wineries that they already have a solid relationship with. I have read many stories about wineries who have let new producers use their facility to produce the first couple vintages. All this sounds like a great deal for a winery that doesn’t have the capital to buy their own equipment. But there is a catch.


The province has set up some regulations that virtual wineries must follow. As stated in their licenses, they are required to sell their products where the wines are made. Another regulation prevents virtual wineries from selling their wine online. Finally, they can’t have their own tasting room. As you can imagine, starting a virtual winery has its ups and downs. It’s wonderful to have access to a facility where a new winery can produce their first vintage, but management does need to think creatively as to how they will market and sell the wine.


Because of these obstacles, virtual wineries attempt to become a licensed producer and open their own tasting room once they have established the brand. Over the past two years, three virtual wineries overcame these obstacles and became licensed wineries. Nagging Doubt in Southeast Kelowna, Black Market Wine in Kaledan, and Winemaker’s CUT in the District Wine Village located in Oliver (Okanagan Wine Tour Guide p. 27).


Here are the other virtual wineries in BC to keep an eye out for:


Black Cloud

Bottega Wine Studio (Seven Directions)

Prospect of the Okanagan

Tall Tale Wines


I wouldn’t be surprised if many of these wineries have their own location and become licensed in the near future.


Source:

Schreiner, John, and Luke Whittall. The Okanagan Wine Tour Guide. 6th ed., TouchWood Editions, 2020, p. 27.


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