BC wine smuggling anyone?

B.C.'s trade war with Alberta has taken a new turn this week as entrepreneurs look to take advantage of the political tug of war for the hearts and minds of Canadian consumers.

The latest salvo comes in the form of a bespoke vacation from B.C.-based luxury tour company, Butiq Escapes.

Co-founder, Ryan Clark, tells Castanet the B.C. Wine Smuggling Escape for Albertans is designed to be "cheeky" and offers guests a potential way around the trade blockade.

"We have many clients we take on wine tours during the summer months and this is a tongue in cheek way of offering them something different and special and saying hold on tight," Clark said. 

The deal, for those with deep pockets and a hankering for B.C. vino, includes a private jet for you and your friends that'll take you to the Okanagan and/or the Cowichan Valley on the Island for three or four nights. You'll be sent home stocked with "bootlegged" wine.

Prices range from $13,000 to $25,000 but could go up or down depending on how elaborate your tastes are and how many friends you have.

The price includes accommodation, flights, access to private chefs and 50 bottles of wine for the road.

"If they want to take a helicopter from winery to winery or rent a Ferrari for a day, we accommodate that, it's five star plus definitely."

Clark says they just put it out there a couple of days ago and so far haven't had any bites, but he's optimistic that will change. Especially if the trade dispute continues into the summer months.

"I just thought it would be nice if people were thinking less war, more vacation. We're not trying to offend, I understand some may take offence but that can happen when you're trying to market to a niche audience. "

The Alberta government banned imports of B.C. wine into the province on Feb. 6 as a protest for the B.C. government’s stalling on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Albertans spent $72 million on B.C. wine in 2017.

"We're really worried this will escalate to the point where Albertans don't want to travel to B.C., I don't think it will get to that," Clark said. "I know tons of Albertans who travel to Kelowna every summer and I don't think that's going to stop. There's something about Kelowna, it has it all."

Newly elected Kelowna West MLA Ben Stewart, who's well acquainted with the B.C. wine business, says so far the rhetoric has all been knee jerk.

"Selling wine internationally is a tough and not very profitable market," Stewart said. "Our most profitable, and realistic, for high-cost producers like B.C. is making sure people keep coming to our doorstep where we get to keep some of the tax revenue that doesn't go to government. That keeps some of the small wineries in business."
The ongoing boycott does not prohibit consumers from travelling west to buy B.C. wine for themselves.

The edgy Butiq Escapes is also working on a vacation when marijuana is legalized, aptly named, "Highest of Highs."

The tour will include a five star chopper ride to a mountain peak, where guests can smoke weed, legally of course.

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