Wines take flight

Alaska Airlines will allow cases from Oregon vineyards to fly for free
A new promotion to boost Oregon wine sales, called Oregon Wines Fly Free, starts Sept. 10.Jamie Lusch

The bother of sending souvenir wine bottles home can pop an enotourist's cork.

No one wants the humiliation of retrieving leaking luggage off an airport baggage carousel. Or to face merlot-stained underwear. Or broken glass poking into silk ties.

Participating Southern Oregon wineries

Rogue Valley

Agate Ridge Vineyard

Belle Fiore Winery, Estate and Vineyard

Bridgeview Vineyards and Winery

Caprice Vineyards

Cliff Creek Cellars

Cowhorn Vineyard and Garden

DANCIN Vineyards

Del Rio Vineyards

Devitt Winery

EdenVale Winery

Folin Cellars

Foris Vineyards

Grizzly Peak Winery

Jaxon Vineyards

Kriselle Cellars

LaBrasseur Vineyards

Ledger David Cellars

Merrill Cellars

Pebblestone Cellars

Plaisance Ranch

Quady North

Rocky Knoll Vineyards

RoxyAnn Winery

Serra Vineyards

South Stage Cellars

Trium

Troon Vineyards

Valley View Vineyard

Umpqua Valley

Abacela

Anindor Vineyards

Bradley Vineyards

Brandborg Vineyard and Winery

Delfino Vineyards

Henry Estate Winery

Melrose Vineyards

Misty Oaks Vineyard

Pyrenees Vineyard and Winery

Season Cellars

Tesoaria Vineyard and Winery

Triple Oak Vineyard

Wild Rose Vineyard

12 Ranch Wines

See the complete list at http://tinyurl.com/moaqz7t

Shipping wine on an airplane or even by truck can be risky and expensive, but Oregon travel promoters are experimenting with an airport giveaway: Pack it safely, check it and you're home free.

Starting Sept. 10, passengers flying into Oregon on Alaska Airlines will be allowed to check a case of wine for free on the return flight out of Medford, Portland or Eugene.

While here, the Oregon Wines Fly Free promotion also grants them free tasting privileges at 220 wineries, including about three dozen in Southern Oregon.

Many local wine producers see the promotion as larger than saving $20 on checked-bag fees for a case of wine. It's a way, they say, to help grow the industry beyond state boundaries.

Earl Jones of Abacela in Roseburg appreciates that airlines are incorporating the state's wine industry in their business plans.

Removing the hassle of transporting wine, he says, will make wine lovers happy and likely increase tourism and wine-industry traffic. "I suspect the program will be a win-win for everyone," he says.

Carole Stevens of Folin Cellars in Gold Hill has seen a similar promotion increase sales in other wine regions.

In Walla Walla, Wash., Alaska Airlines is handling 30 cases of wine a week compared to two cases less than two years ago.

This is the first time the airline has extended the promotion to an entire state.

"Not only is Oregon the first to have statewide participation," Stevens says, "but the partnership brings additional validation to Southern Oregon as a reputable and desirable wine region."

In the Rogue Valley, participants include the oldest wine producers — Troon Vineyards and Valley View Vineyard — and newer, smaller ones such as Serra Vineyards.

All share a common concern: Too often, tourists say no to buying wine because it's tough to get it home.

"People definitely limit their buying because of the cost of shipping," says Terri Delfino of Delfino Vineyards in Roseburg. "Sometimes they ask us to calculate the cost for them, and that scares them away."

To have a $300 case of her 2010 tempranillo delivered by UPS to say, Mesa, Ariz., there is the $8 cost for packing materials, $27.16 to send it plus $4.75 to obtain an adult signature.

Fees are just part of the expense. It's time consuming for tasting room owners to fill out the paperwork and adhere to restrictions and state compliance issues. They have to have special permits and keep a log of shipments to pay that state's taxes.

Scheduling ground shipments requires strategizing, too, to dodge wine-damaging heat conditions. Pricier one-day shipping solves the issue for wine sent to California, Washington and Nevada addresses.

"However, you don't want to ship on a Friday because the wine will just sit in a warehouse over the weekend," says Delfino.

At Troon Vineyard in Grants Pass, shipments won't be sent out unless temperatures are below 85 degrees from portal to portal, says Marketing Director Erika Bishop.

"This means folks have to wait until mid to late September to get their wine," she says. "Now, with this flying promotion, people can take it home right away."

Todd Davidson of Travel Oregon, the state's tourism commission, which is sponsoring the program along with the airline and the Oregon Wine Board, has research that shows at least 43 percent of tourists say they are more likely to purchase Oregon products after a visit.

"Now they can bring home not only memories, but Oregon's award-winning wines," he says.

Jeanne and Jim Davidian of Caprice Vineyards in Central Point are hoping the promotion helps the region in the long run.

"We have a rather large number of customers from out of state who say they are flying with only carry-on bags and cannot transport wine," says Jeanne Davidian. "They frequently only purchase what they can drink while visiting."

Time will tell whether the promotion, which is scheduled to end Nov. 20, permanently changes people's points of view.

"Maybe this program will show more people how easy it is to fly with wine," says Jim Davidian.

Terry Brandborg of Brandborg Vineyard and Winery in Elkton has received inquiries about his wine since 2010 when the New York Times' wine critic Eric Asimov named Brandborg's gewürztraminer the best in the U.S.

Although available in other states, selling directly to visitors is lucrative.

In the past, he has paid the extra bag fee for tourists buying a case.

With this promotion, he will give them a free shipping container to encourage sales, but he wishes other carriers would jump onboard.

"In our tasting room, we don't see that many Alaska Airlines travelers," he says.

Nora Lancaster of Kriselle Cellars near Table Rock says most of Southern Oregon's wine brands are not widely distributed, and buyers may only be able to buy hard-to-find and limited releases at the tasting room.

The promotion will be an incentive, she says, for visitors to buy specialty wines as souvenirs or to age reserved wines in home cellars.

Laura Lotspeich of Trium Wines in Talent thinks that if tourists don't have to squeeze wine into their suitcases, this will help other local businesses.

"Tourists can also take back some great cheese or chocolates," she says.

Marketing Director Porscha Schiller of South Stage Cellars in Jacksonville has already heard of benefits from the promotion.

"Out-of-state regulars tell me that they're rethinking their choice of airlines," she says. "They want to get free shipping."

Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or jeastman@mailtribune.com


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