Ok, kids, how does this fit into the grand scheme of things? It seems that the world of “virtual wineries” is under some scrutiny at this point. Wine maker Brad Cooper, long-time former wine maker at Township 7 and now at Serendipity in Naramata, has been producing top quality Pinot Noir under the Black Cloud branding for almost 6 years. He has recently volunteered to take down his online sales site because of a “crack-down on virtual wineries”. There are a lot of virtual wineries out there in BC right now but the line between a “virtual winery” and a “label” seems a little fuzzy. Has anyone ever visited the Prospect Winery? How about Sawmill Creek? OKV? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Many upstart wineries begin their production in other wineries’ facilities using the licence of the established winery until the upstart winery is established and can move into its own facility. Painted Rock’s first vintages were completed at Poplar Grove. Le Vieux Pin’s first vintages were also completed elsewhere. Incubator custom-crush facilities like Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland have multitudes of labels belonging to ‘virtual’ wineries – what will happen to them? Seven Directions, wine maker Daniel Bontorin’s rosé focused label, is another one along with a sundry of other garagiste-type labels that have really made the BC wine scene vastly more experimental and extremely interesting over recent years. Could this be the end of this kind of creative experimentation?
Suffice it to say that “crack-downs” from bureaucrats are usually initiated by outside complaints rather than initiated from within the bureaucracy. While it will be interesting to see how this plays out, this is an unfortunate turn of events for wine makers like Mr. Cooper and Black Cloud leading up to the Christmas Season. Just like on their labels, let’s hope there is a silver lining.
If you been over to www.blackcloud.ca you will have noticed that the site is down. We shut it down voluntarily after a BC Control and Licensing inspector made it known in no uncertain terms that a crack-down on virtual wineries was happening and that Black Cloud, a brand of Serendipity Winery, was under scrutiny.
According to the powers that be, there is only one kind of winery in BC. That’s the kind that they license, and brands like Black Cloud, operating under the wing of another operation, are not going to be tolerated. They don’t like wine e-commerce to start, and operating a site without direct correalation to our parent license holder is making them, shall we say, concerned.
In a business environment that favours the landed, the financed and the established, it’s getting harder and harder to be an innovator and to create a winemaking environment that is…
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