How three B.C. wineries are elevating the experience for their visitors

From exclusive tastings to a VIP members program, these wineries are doing everything to create memorable moments for their guests

As B.C. is becoming widely known for its world-class vineyards, increasingly savvy consumers are demanding more out of the typical winery experience. For three of the province’s top wineries, this demand has been easily met.

Poplar Grove, a family-run winery nestled on the world-renowned Naramata Bench, has seen a gradual shift in consumer habits over the years. The winery, which enjoys long, hot summers as well as the aerating effect of the nearby lake, is open year-round for tours and will soon introduce a weekly, one-on-one tasting experience for visitors that includes a sit-down food and wine pairing component.

“Where we see a lot of focus in the wine industry is on winery experiences,” says Poplar Grove’s general manager Jacquie Carlson. “As consumers become increasingly interested in wines, they want to do more than just the tastings. They want to stay for lunch, get to know the winemaker and the vineyard and really develop an understanding of the process.”   

Guest experience also takes centre stage at Black Hills Estate Winery, located north of Osoyoos, which enjoys some of the hottest, driest weather in the country. The winery has taken the tasting experience to the next level with its Wine Experience Centre, an immersive, seated tasting room located in the middle of the vineyard. Guests are treated to a tasting of six different wines, each served in its own varietal-specific Riedel glassware, and paired with a personalized “wine evangelist” who guides them through the journey from grape to glass. 

“Our guests can look two feet away and see the very grapes used to produce the wine they’re tasting,” says Glenn Fawcett, president of Black Hills. “This forms a memorable connection between our wine and our terroir, and creates an overall guest experience inspired by the best practices we’ve seen in tasting rooms around the world.”

Poplar Grove has also found success with its exclusive Wine Club program, which treats members to regular deliveries of its wines, as well as preferred access to special releases like its signature estate-grown cabernet franc. “We find that consumers really like the exclusivity of our wine club, and the personalized experience that it provides,” says Carlson.

Beyond the Okanagan, the Fraser Valley is another of the province’s ripe wine-producing regions. Established in 1991, Chaberton Estate Winery in South Langley is one of the largest estate wineries in the province and the oldest in the Fraser Valley. With a terroir similar to other countries that produce world-class wine, the winery sees an average of 60 per cent less rain than Vancouver. 

“Wines represent a sense of place, and at Chaberton we strive to respect the nature of our terroir,” says Brian Ensor, general manager. “Whether harvested here in the Fraser Valley or by our Okanagan growers, our wines reflect the natural qualities of the land and the grape.” 

Situated a short 45-minute drive away from downtown Vancouver, the winery is enjoying an increasing number of local visitors as well as tourists from nearby Washington State. “I think people are becoming more interested in our wines,” says Ensor. There’s a growing awareness that these are world-class wines, and they’re produced right here in B.C.”