These days, when tourists come to Victoria, BC, they are often offered wine tours in places like Mill Bay, the place Enrico Winery calls home. And they are often surprised to hear that a forty-minute drive from the Island’s biggest city will enable them to sample fine local wines. Indeed, according to Enrico Winery’s Marketing and Design Project Manager Terrance Lam, the Island’s wineries are “BC’s best-kept secret.”
However, that secret—especially when it comes to Enrico, one of the region’s more established wineries— is an increasingly open one. And the rising profile of Vancouver Island’s wine culture owes a huge debt to Enrico Winery and the regional partners who banded together to make it happen.
“When we started out 23 years ago, we were one of a small handful of other Vancouver Island wineries. We didn’t have the population numbers or the reputation to be a destination for wine, especially compared to the BC interior. We worked hard to get consumers to understand that this place is comparable to the interior, it’s just that different kinds of grapes tend to thrive here.”
Now, Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island is a BC VQA-recognized subregion. And Enrico has taken many top industry awards, including the Lieutenant Governor’s Award of Excellence in British Columbia Wines for their Tempest Ortega in 2015. But a few decades ago, the perception was that the Island was climatically unsuitable for the industry.
“That is a misconception. It’s a good, temperate region with many microclimates. In some places, we get more sun than anywhere else in the province. Enrico Winery’s particular location is in a rain shadow that produces wonderful Ortega, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Gris. Cabernet Libre is another wine that is typically hard to grow but works well here. The key to our success is managing our watering very carefully.”
Changing consumer perceptions entailed plenty of outreach. Lorin Ingils, our long time general manager, and other Island wine industry representatives created relationships with wine connoisseurs—or “influencers”, to use today’s parlance. These included journalists like Terry Mulligan, who has a popular tasting program on the radio. Eventually, organic word-of-mouth marketing took over and piggy-backed onto the Island’s growing tourism industry.
Naturally, strong branding was key to the whole effort. Over the course of their two decades in the industry, Enrico Winery has worked with all three of the major label-producing companies in BC. But when they paired up with Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC), they knew they’d found the right partner.
“Our label partner needs to be able to deal with the challenges presented by the logistics we must manage. We work with labs to get alcohol percentages. We work with the Liquor Board to get permissions. We deal with so many challenges in short time frames. GLBC always meets deadlines but somehow manages to be flexible at the same time. Plus, their people have extensive backgrounds in liquor labelling. We trust their expertise.”
Looking forward, Lam and the team are excited about how emerging packaging technology is going to help the Enrico Winery brand continue levelling up. “We recently tried variable printing with GLBC to engage customers in entering a contest. We’re excited about trying new things with traditional labels because other ways of making our branding stand out—for example, etching our glass bottles—are much more expensive. We’re excited to keep getting the word out and generating more sales.”
We have no doubt that Enrico Winery, with their proven tenacity, will indeed keep getting the word out. We’re extremely happy to support them in doing exactly that.