Ron Taylor, an influential winemaker who had a long career at Andrés Wines in Port Moody, wrote a recurring column called “Reflections in a Wine Glass” beginning in 1996 on the history of the wine industry. Dr. Larry Anderson contributed a column on wine and health and there were also articles about wine business and marketing. Wine scientist Gary Strachan and winemaker Anne Sperling also contributed to various issues. Contrary to the hard reporting style of most traditional news media, articles were generally very positive and upbeat about the industry. “There really wasn’t a lot to criticize,” remembers Gamble. Gamble did maintain a section for opinions at the beginning of every issue in a regular op-ed that offered his views about the current state of the wine industry.
There was certainly a lot to write about as the industry gained confidence in itself and acceptance worldwide. New Zealander John Simes was hired at Mission Hill in 1992 and two years later brought home the first major international wine award for a table wine in BC for the 1992 Reserve Chardonnay. It was a milestone in the industry as it provided a new level of confidence that world-class wines could be achieved in the Okanagan. That confidence was contagious. From the mid-1990’s to 2005, a new generation of wineries had begun production and built on that confidence using some of the lessons learned by the early estate and farmgate wineries. Young winemakers that were trained in other wine regions around the world started contributing their knowledge and experience they had gained from other wine growing regions.
BC Wine Trails documented the new wineries then being built and others as they expanded. Photographs that appeared in the issues often seemed casually candid and but are today an interesting time capsule of a quickly expanding industry. Photos of concrete being pumped to make the floor of Kettle Valley’s winery and John Simes in a hardhat standing in the unfinished barrel cellar deep underground at Mission Hill appear in the same issue in the fall of 2000. Issues that documented the harvest usually had many photos of winemakers as they finished working with the last load of grapes with their young cellar staff, many of whom today are now experienced winemakers on their own.
As the wine industry grew, so did the articles in Wine Trails and Gamble enlisted the help of his family to make it all happen. Articles on winery technology, winemaking and vinicultural techniques, and wine marketing were placed next to news about new wineries, recent awards, and wine events. Recognizing that the average wine consumer may not necessarily be interested in technical wine articles, Gamble created a dedicated industry section. By the year 2000 that industry section was called “B.C. Wine and Grapes” which contained articles on the latest grape growing and winemaking research, technology, financial issues, and marketing advice. This section was spun off into its own separate national publication called Grapes to Wine.
By 2005, expansion of the industry had exploded beyond anybody’s wildest expectations and clearly still had room to grow. After almost 15 years of documenting the wine industry through BC Wine Trails, David Gamble was ready to retire from his long and successful career in the media. “I’d reached retirement age and by selling BC Wine Trails and concentrating on Canadian Grapes to Wine, it was going back to pure pleasure again,” recalls Gamble in 2016. In the Harvest edition of 2005, Gamble wrote his last op-ed announcing that both British Columbia Wine Trails and Canadian Grapes to Wine had been sold to the Black Press Group based in Victoria, BC. Don Kendall took over as publisher and sommelier Dani Greene became the new editor starting with the Vintage 2005 issue released that December.
Changes to Wine Trails came quickly in 2006. The newspaper world of pre-internet 1991, when BC Wine Trails was first published, was a far cry from the established digital age of 2006. The print publishing landscape was shifting and a new style of websites, then known as “Web 2.0”, was becoming a new media world of social media, blogs, and wiki sites. To survive as a print publication, changes were needed. In her Editor’s Note for Summer 2006, Greene indicated that when BC Wine Trails began, “there were only 24 wineries in BC” but that “now there are over 130.” She added, “With the growth and development of the industry, we too found that need to evolve.” That issue was the first to be printed as a large, stapled newsprint magazine instead of as a folded tabloid-style newspaper. This made the issue easier to hold and read from cover to cover. The large, bright covers stood out on displays and represented well the vast images of wine country. The large four-column pages allowed many layout designs with lots of photos and ad content.
To help fill those pages, Kendall and Greene hired contributing writers from around the province. All of the writers had established wine industry credentials and many have gone on to illustrious careers. Rhys Pender (now a Master of Wine), Jay Drysdale (owner of Bella Wines in Naramata), and Eric von Krosigk (one of the most decorated wine makers in BC) all wrote for BC Wine Trails at this time.
Current Editor Jennifer Schell began as a writer in late 2006 before taking over as editor in 2008. Having grown up on a farm in Kelowna, Schell’s interest in promoting the local wine industry extended beyond the wineries to include all locally produced fare, especially farm produce and visual art. Schell changed the format slightly to a slightly smaller, convenient magazine print that allowed for better quality photographs and artwork to appear on the covers. The publication title was also changed to become “Food & Wine Trails” which allowed the publication to cast a wider net. Including all local food and drink producers complimented the wine-focus perfectly and matched the actual tourist experiences more closely. It also kept the magazine going through some tumultuous years that saw more than a few other wine-oriented publications start and fail.
Schell recognized early on that the world of wine encompasses more than just liquid in a bottle. It is about local food culture (the charcuterie chef downtown, the family that raises organic chickens, and local caterers that raise their own pigs) along with local art and music as well as the local wineries. Above all, it is about bring all of those elements together into a whole community to enrich the experiences of tourists and locals alike.
From the beginning of the modern age of BC wine to the growing community of local food producers and artisans, Food & Wine Trails has documented the changes for 25 years. Here’s to 25 more! A votre santé. Saluti! Prost! Cheers!