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New Sommelier in Residence Pods Offer a Personalized Wine Experience

A number of Okanagan Valley winery owners are launching interactive wine clubs to attract wine lovers who want more than the traditional tasting and a cheese plate. 

“Wineries are getting better at direct consumer sales and one of the ways they are doing this is by launching wine clubs,” says Laurie Barnes, marketing and sales director for Poplar Grove Winery. And a big reason for this, according to Barnes, is because consumers are looking for a more personalized experience. 
Barnes says club members have access to library wines and wines made special for the wine club, as well as a host of other benefits. “Other growing trends include using picnic licenses at wineries and orchards,” she adds.
Perhaps one of the most innovative ideas to sprout in the Okanagan is the sommelier in residence pods, which provide participants with a unique sleeping experience in a working orchard. 
The brainchild behind the pods, which will be completed this fall, is Scott Hawthorn, owner of The Picker Shack Orchard located in the Naramata Bench. Hawthorn has partnered with the Design Build Research institute to build three pods to be used by sommeliers, and others, interested in learning more about the terroir of this amazing region.
“There aren’t that many funky places to stay up there so hopefully it fills that void and inspires sommeliers to come up and experience life in an orchard for a few days during crush,” says Hawthorn. 
The cost to stay in a pod will be a bottle or two of fine Okanagan wine. “The intention is to build up a unique cellar over time that can be used for food and wine events in the future,” says Hawthorn. He knows of nowhere else in North America that is providing this type of program. He also hopes that as the program evolves, the pods will include an outdoor kitchen and wine cellars to encourage food and wine professionals to interact with the wineries.
Much like the artist in residence programs, the pods will be available on an application basis. “People will be able to apply for a residency if they can show that they will engage the local food and wine culture,” adds Hawthorn.