Readers (or listeners, if you go way back like that…) of Wine Country BC will know that supporting our local wine industry has been at the foundation of what I’ve been talking about on this blog. In the 11 years that has past since I started this site, B.C. wine has both increased in quality and popularity at an amazing rate.
What amazes me is not only how loyal B.C. wine lovers are, but how the concept of “local” has expanded. In my day job selling wine, I’ve spoken with many people from Vancouver (4 hours’ drive west) and Calgary (8 hours’ drive east) as well as Edmonton, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg. What amazes me is that people from all of those places consider B.C. wine as “local”. Ontario wineries should be so lucky.
Only in Canada is driving for 3 days still considered “shopping locally”. I love that.
That got me thinking about what local really means for me, particularly as we approach what is probably going to be the weirdest Christmas season in generations. I have no close family in my own time zone so ordering gifts online has been a convenient way to send or receive gifts. The difference this year where I am going to choose to spend my money. In the past, I’ve done at least 3 Christmases successfully without visiting any big-box retailers or even a shopping mall. And after 20 years of Amazon, I think they’ve had enough of my money. Where I can go to buy gifts?
With the increase in online shopping from platforms like Shopify or Wix, there now appears to be a critical mass of other options available. Some of them might even be from your own friends list on Facebook (if you haven’t yet deleted your account after watching The Social Dilemma, of course) but others might be only a short online search away! Spending your money amounts to a vote these days, so spend wisely.
Of course, gifts of wine are the easiest to order online and many wineries offer free shipping for the holidays.
If wine ordered online is your gift, some wineries are even getting creative with tasting experiences. Lightning Rock in Summerland is offering a “winemaker video call” with Jordan and Tyler! This is a great way to learn about the wines and is a spectacular addition to any wine gift.
If you really want to support a winery with the gift that keeps on giving, consider a wine club membership. Wine clubs are the most profitable sales channel per bottle for a winery so there’s a reason why wine club members are treated like rock stars by wineries. If you drink more than 1 bottle of wine a week (which is almost a prerequisite for reading this blog), wine clubs are a great way to save money. Some of them even have incentives for gifting and signing up friends. Check out this article on wine clubs for more information.
Amazon’s lock on the books departmet has become grotesque. But there are smaller stores that have stepped up their own online presence to help their own business. Mosaic Books in Kelowna has a great site with all of their available titles and they can order anything in that might not be in stock. Currently, they ship only to B.C. and Alberta. I’m not the only one with this idea – a Google map created recently provides locations for other bookstores that also ship so please consider those stores first. Small independent bookstores have been suffering for decades so start your shopping there.
Another great way to support writers is to order a book directly from them or contacting the publisher and ordering directly from them! For instance, both of the books that I’ve written (see sidebar on the right) are linked directly to the publisher’s websites.
Great gifts come in small packages too. Aurora Artistic creates jewellery with original photographs of the northern lights. Amy Caldwell, based in Thompson, Manitoba, captures the images and makes them into amazing earrings and pendants that has the beauty of the northern lights on them.
Closer to the wine world, Laura at Silk + Coupe has jewellery and other wine-themed merch, including the new-famous Titty Tee t-shirts, parasols, and digital prints available for sale on her website.
Things to do
The one thing that I’ve noticed people doing during this pandemic is learning new skills. First, there was the baking thing (raise your hand if you tried to make your own sourdough) and then guitars started flying off the shelves in music stores. Even if it’s just cooking a little more at home, it’s great to see so many people being creative and learning some great new crafts.
My friend Robin Whitford in Ottawa has created an empire of all things to do with this form of textile-loving called Hooking Outside the Lines. She’ll get you set up with kits to get started and then show you how to do it all with regular online workshops.
Another friend, musician and artist Moksha Sommer, offers seminars called “Conscious Creative Practice” which is a deep-dive into using art “as tools of healing, discovery, and expression”. These will be online sessions starting in January. She also has a range of art and music for sale and you should check out her band HuDost while your there.
Yet another friend (I only have ten, so this speaks to how amazing they all are…), Ginger LeBoutilliere created Otauna, a system of creating amazing mandalas. If you enjoy colouring, doodling, or painting, you will be all over this.
There are many small “cottage” businesses that are run from people on YouTube and focused on various interests. I’ve been watching a lot of sailing videos over the past few years but there are also large communities centre around other subjects like motorcycles, photography, or whatever else might interest you.
SV Delos has been travelling the world for over a decade and to me, they represent the best in curiosity and positive attitude. They sell clothing, beach towels, mugs, and all kinds of stuff. Though it’s hard to say that anyone making their living travelling can be considered ‘local’, there are Canadians doing this that you can support. Captain Rick Moore (from Barrie, Ontario) was an early vlogger on the scene with his boat Sophisticated Lady and also has things for sail.
What I love about purchasing items like this is that you are directly supporting the creator. You do have to be a bit careful with some of these because some of them offer mass-market “Made in China” swag with a branding on it. To me, that defeats the purpose of supporting a small business outside of the globalized economy. But if you are wanting to show support for someone who you think is worthy of it, purchasing their products is still a great way to do it.
There are some things that I’d never even considered looking for a more local source – like lingerie. It is a bit of a secret (see what I did there?) that you don’t need to bother with the big brands because there are small producers in textiles too. Sokoloff Lingerie is based out of Montreal and has all the good stuff, as well as face masks! Fortnight Lingerie is based in Toronto. It’s not hard to search local manufacturers for the things that you might usually shop for at a large store. Gifts for your dog? Check out Jasper’s Dog Treats in Vancouver. And don’t forget to clean up after the holidays with environmentally-awesome cleaning supplies from Norwex.
Wrapping it up
Some of these suggestions have come to you directly from my friends list on Facebook. I only say that to drive home the point that a lot of things that we need in life don’t have to come from a store far away. Very likely there will be a friend out there who has what you need. I’ve grown up in an age where everything comes from somewhere else, where products are so disconnected from their source that their value can be depressed so far that they become cheap commodities. No ‘law’ will ever make me want to pay the lowest price if what I get has actual value to me.
If anything, what I’ve learned from my time in the B.C. wine industry is that things do come from a place. With so many friends in all of those places, I want to support them all as much as I can. Pandemic or not, it just seems like the right thing to do.
Cheers from wine country.