Owner of the Larch Hills Winery, Jack Manser, stands behind his son Wayne as they bottle this year’s vintage of Siegerrbe Dessert wine. (Photo contributed)

Shuswap vintners want trade with Alberta to continue

Ban on wine criticized for different reasons but not being felt yet by small wineries.

The Alberta government’s boycott of B.C. wine isn’t palatable to local winemakers, for different reasons. But one Albertan’s reaction to the boycott earned a smile from a Shuswap winemaker.

Jack Manser of the Larch Hills Winery recounts how his son received an order from a woman who works at the Alberta legislature and really likes Larch Hills’ wines.

“A lady working for the Alberta government was panicking, thinking she couldn’t get our wine anymore,” he says with a chuckle.

Manser is hopeful the smaller wineries like his won’t be affected too much.

He points out that Larch Hills wines aren’t in the liquor stores yet, so he hopes the orders will keep coming in. He sends private shipments via courier, not through the government liquor distribution system.

“I kind of hope other people aren’t getting mad about what’s happening here… It’s not the small guy out here who has anything to do with the pipeline issue.”

Ironically, he says, before the news broke about the ban on B.C wine, his son had just started paperwork to get into the official Alberta marketing system.

“I personally find it childish that we have to deal with this… Is there no other way that both governments can prosper and do business?”

Related link: Wine war puts Okanagan vintners in a tough position

At Recline Ridge Winery in Tappen, Graydon Ratzlaff, who owns the winery with his spouse Maureen, says the Alberta ban came as quite a surprise – and they’re disappointed.

He said the pipeline and the wine industry are not necessarily connected; the ban is something the Alberta government has conceived.

“All along I thought there should be a working relationship, a free trade relationship, for economic well-being in Canada. The BC wine industry has worked really hard to have a good working relationship. It’s disappointing the decision that was made is threatening our progress and whatever we could benefit.”

As a small winery, it may be too early to tell what the impact will be, he says, but “we’re part of the whole.”

Ratzlaff’s first thought when he heard about the ban was, “here we go again,” because last year it was floods and then forest-fire smoke keeping people away.

He says it’s up to the two provinces to figure out which way to go.

Asked about the support from Quebec for B.C., he terms it awesome, but notes that his winery doesn’t do any business in that province.

Meanwhile, Ratzlaff says a wine trade show is coming up this week in Edmonton. The organizers surveyed ticket holders and they want B.C. wines there.

“Whether that bubbles up to the government, I don’t know how that works.”

Related link: John Horgan won’t retaliate in pipeline feud with Alberta

At the Celista Estate Winery, owner Jake Ootes points to a statement put out by the BC Wine Institute saying it is encouraging the B.C. government and Alberta to get together and resolve the issue.

“My feeling is it’s a lot of words of platitude that won’t have an effect,” Ootes comments.

He doesn’t blame the Alberta government, he says, because the B.C. government’s stance on the pipeline is hitting Alberta in the pocket book.

The pipeline has already been approved by the National Energy Board and is a national issue, he says.

“It’s important that the federal government does have decision-making power involving national matters. I think the provincial government is wrong in saying it needs more study.”

He thinks the B.C. government is reacting to its political base of the Green Party and environmentalists.

Ootes adds, in terms of cross-border trade, Alberta could say it’s going to cut off gasoline to B.C.

“The uproar would be tremendous,” he says, emphasizing he has no sympathy for the B.C. government’s position.

“Let’s cut this nonsense out.”


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

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Graydon Ratzlaff, co-owner of Recline Ridge Winery in Tappen, looks over grapes during the growing season. (Photo contributed)

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