Beginning with the first issues of British Columbia Wine Trails in 1991, founding editor David Gamble originally sought out as much information from local wineries as he could get. “We provided and opportunity for the wineries to talk to their potential customers,” explains Gamble looking back in 2016. “It was always meant to be a consumer publication. What would the consumers want to know?”

Early articles featured the youthful stories of a growing new wine industry and culture.To what heights can Okanagan Valley wines aspire?” reads the inquisitive first line from an early article in 1991.

The early issues were filled with stories about the Okanagan Valley, the people who made wine, sneak previews of new wineries that were just starting production, and speculations on the quality of the vintage. The growing readership of wine lovers became excited to read about new wines and new wineries on the horizon. Wineries were extremely enthusiastic for an outlet to tell their story through this new wine-oriented publication and were more than happy to provide anything Gamble needed to know. “There was always more information than we could use,” recalls Gamble.

Within the first few years, a clear layout style emerged that grouped articles and advertisements together by geographical region. Each region had its own original map to help readers locate the wineries and other producers as well as local resorts, restaurants, and attractions to help people plan their excursions. That regionally-focused style has largely been maintained to the present, although with mobile technology today the maps are less needed today than they were in the 1990’s.

The articles were all about wine: wine making, wine tasting, wine and food culture, and the progress of the wine industry. Early articles featured the youthful stories of a growing new wine industry and culture. “To what heights can Okanagan Valley wines aspire?” reads the inquisitive first line from an early article in 1991. Another early article featured views from pioneering vineyard owner Joe Busnardo of Divino Winery who suggested that the Okanagan was at least 20 years away from developing its own wine style. Busnardo said not to “expect carbon copies of California Cabernet” but rather, “appreciate the different characteristics” from Okanagan-grown grapes. The spring 1992 issue proudly announced forthcoming wineries to BC’s newest wine-growing region, Vancouver Island, and featured profiles of the people who would soon create Blue Grouse, Vignetti Zanatta, and Venturi-Schulze among others. Part wine exploration and part Wim Wenders-style soul-searching, BC Wine Trails provided a critically important new forum for education and discovery about the new industry in BC. The educational element was an important part of the magazine. Nearly coinciding with the birth of BC Wine Trails, the British Columbia Wine Institute (BCWI) was created in 1990. Founding BCWI Executive Director Nick Clark recognized the importance of a publication dedicated to BC  wine and was a huge supporter from its inception. The new Vintner’s Quality Alliance (VQA) quality standards program had just been launched and BC  Wine Trails was the perfect place to help wine consumers learn about what it was. VQA was the first attempt at quality standards in BC ’s wine history and became a symbol of a new generation of quality wine producers. It distinguished the new, quality-driven wines from the “block and tackle” jug wines that had previously dominated BC’s wine industry. Clark’s successor Christine Coletta, continued to use BC  Wine Trails as an educational outlet by contributing regular feature columns and large BCWI promotion campaigns.

The BC  wine industry fundamentally changed more in the 1990’s than at any other time in its history. By the end of the millennium, BC’s wine industry was clearly breaking away from its jug wine past. More than any other publication, British Columbia Wine Trails documented much of those changes but, over the next ten years, would start going through changes of its own.

Part two of a four part story – stay tuned for the July/August edition of BC Food & Wine Trails Magazine to continue the story.

(pictured: Dave Gamble)

Part two of a four part story – stay tuned for the July/August edition of BC Food & Wine Trails Magazine to continue the story.

by Luke Whittall

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