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Fly your wine home for free


Commerce — Trial Oregon Wines Fly Free program aims to increase tourism, winery sales

A few years ago, Carrie Kalscheuer heard about a program that allowed someone to buy cases of wine and fly them home from Walla Walla, Wash., for free. She said it sounded like something Rex Hill and A to Z Wineworks, the brands she represents as direct sales manager, could benefit from. This year she saw that hope become a reality when the Oregon Wine Board, Travel Oregon and Alaska Airlines partnered to haul Oregon wines for free.

“The program existed in Washington and California previously,” said Charles Humble, OWB director of communications. “It’s the first time Oregon was invited to participate.”

The program started Sept. 10 and ends Nov. 20. Visitors to Oregon who fly with Alaska Airlines are able to check one case of wine for free with their luggage, and also receive free wine tastings at participating wineries with their boarding pass.

Linea Gagliano, manager of global communications for Travel Oregon, said because of the Oregon Bounty program — which promotes culinary travels to Oregon — the Oregon Wines Fly Free program seemed like a natural fit.

“Research shows the top activity visitors enjoy when visiting Oregon are wine tastings,” Gagliano said. “In addition, we’ve always worked with Alaska so this year for Oregon Bounty we thought that would be great.”

She said the program is beneficial because it’s hard for visitors to purchase wines they need to fly back because of the added cost. But for wineries, those sales are vital.

“I know wineries depend on direct sales from tasting rooms, especially small boutique wineries that don’t have distributors,” she said. “Wineries have seen a lot of uptake from people coming in for free a wine tasting with their boarding pass and then buying wine.”

Kalscheuer said the program has been mutually beneficial.

“People are not just buying a case,” she said. “Our location is right at the start of Newberg. We’re seeing people buy a case shipper, buying a couple of bottles here, then going down the road and buying a few more until they make a case.”

Humble said as far as the OWB knows, the program is going well for everyone.

“Two hundred and fifty wineries signed up. That blows any stats about getting wineries involved in a program like this out of the water,” Humble said. “It’s very popular.”

Adelsheim Vineyard is another local winery participating. Cath­erine Douglas, Adelsheim manager of export sales, said for them, joining the program was a no-brainer.

“Anything to drive tourism in Newberg is something to be involved with,” Douglas said.

Gagliano said the ability to check a case for free means visitors can share wines with family and friends, which means tourism will grow exponentially.

“People are more apt to travel here (after tasting Oregon wines),” she said.

Although she said Travel Oregon is in regular communication with Alaska, they aren’t sure yet if the trial program will become a regular occurrence.

Douglas said while they have seen some traffic come through because of the program, it would be ideal to extend the program to drive more people to Oregon.

“Washington has the program year round and we would love to see it be year round,” Gagliano said. “It’s definitely up to Alaska and depends on their revenue streams. It’s a great partnership, so that conversation could happen soon. But we will probably not know until the program ends in November.”

For a complete list of participating wineries, visit bit.ly/ HLVDDc.