PORTLAND – Once again, Oregon wines will fly free, thanks to a program with Alaska Airlines that was put to the test last fall.
“It went very well,” said Ryan Pennington of Erath Winery in Dundee.
He said the Erath tasting room manager attributed at least 50 people coming in to take advantage of the program during its two-month trial period.
“That’s a nice piece of incremental business,” he told Great Northwest Wine.
The program will now run year-round out of five airports: Portland, Medford, Redmond/Bend, Eugene and Walla Walla.
Dave Rice, a direct-sales associate with Chehalem Wines in Newberg, said the program was great last fall, though he’d wished it had been extended into Thanksgiving weekend because of the amount of traffic the wineries get. That is now going to happen.
“The program worked out really well,” he said. “It was very beneficial to us.”
In Southern Oregon, Abacela in Roseburg also was pleased.
“It was a great thing to do, and it’s good to do it during Oregon Wine Month,” said Jenna Haskins, tasting room manager. “It was very successful, and we’re excited to be a part of it this year.”
Oregon Wines Fly Free starts May 1
The new program begins May 1, which is the start of Oregon Wine Month. From that point forward, any passenger who is an Alaska Air Mileage Plan member may check a case of wine at no cost.
Additionally, any Alaska Air customer who shows his or her boarding pass at a participating winery within a week of arrival in Oregon will receive complimentary tastings. Last fall, about 250 wineries signed up for the program. That has expanded to more than 300 this spring.
“Oregon Wine’s partnership with Travel Oregon and Alaska Airlines was a tremendous success in 2013, and we’re expecting the new program will be even more successful,” said Tom Danowski, executive director of the Oregon Wine Board in Portland.
The program is similar to Taste and Tote in Washington, which allows Alaska Air passengers to check one case free from the airports in Yakima, Pasco and Walla Walla. About 250 Washington wineries also waive tasting fees to those who show their Alaska Air boarding passes within 10 days of arriving in Washington wine country.
Pennington, who also works with Northstar and Spring Valley wineries in Walla Walla, said last month was the busiest March ever for the Walla Walla Valley Regional Airport, and Walla Walla tasting rooms saw an increase in traffic as a result.
“We do see an impact,” he said.