British Columbia

'School yard politics' over wine infuriates B.C.-based Alberta winery owner

Some Alberta business owners, who produce their wines in B.C., are finding the Notley government's announcement of a ban on B.C. wines tough to swallow.

Chris Fodor isn't sure about future of his wine which is produced in B.C. but destined for sale in Alberta

Alberta resident Chris Fodor is hoping to launch his new wine company in the spring. It is produced in B.C., but he plans to sell it in Alberta. (Chris Fodor)

Chris Fodor says he couldn`t believe Alberta's announcement banning B.C. wine when he first heard it.

"I thought it was a little bit of a joke," Fodor said. "It sounded like a school yard bully kind of comment."

But he says the reality of it is now sinking in. Fodor, who is originally from B.C., now lives in Alberta and dreamt for years of opening his own winery.

Two years ago he began the long and expensive process of making his dream a reality.

Initially, he hoped to use B.C. grapes but have all production in Alberta until it proved to be too expensive. So, he decided to make and bottle the wine in Penticton but sell it all in Alberta.

"Wine is based upon relationships, the sales and also the consumption. And so, I am here and it is my brand, my product my dream and I wanted to be able to interact with people to tell them about it, to share stories with them," he said.

"It only made sense for me to do this around Calgary and other parts of Alberta." 

Fodor believes he and his business partners have invested about $150,000 so far in City and Country Wine. The plan, including all the necessary paperwork, was in place to begin selling his first 8,000 bottles in Alberta in the spring. Even then, he says the company likely wouldn't turn a profit for a couple years.

B.C. based City and Country Wines was hoping to launch in the spring with products for the Alberta market. (Chris Fodor)

But after Tuesday's announcement by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, he isn't sure.

In making her announcement, Notley said she would halt the import of B.C. wine immediately, in response to B.C. Premier John Horgan's plans to restrict diluted bitumen shipments and further study oil spill risks of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

"I think I carry hope right now we don't have to try and move to a Plan B," he said. "Otherwise, I would examine other markets like Saskatchewan or Manitoba or B.C."

He says he doesn't understand why the Alberta government would pick an industry so unrelated to the oil business. 

"I think they need to think before they speak or act and realize this does affect small businesses in Alberta and consumers who are trying to support the Canadian economy in general," he said. 

"I think the Alberta government just gets into this school yard politics in which they don't really think about the big picture and just something that sounds good or looks good as a headline."

'The ironic thing is ... the money is staying in Alberta'

The B.C. Wine studio in Okanagan Falls specializes in helping startup wineries. It produces wine in B.C. for owners who could be based elsewhere, including Alberta.

B.C. Wine Studio owner Mark Simpson says that is the case for one of his clients.

"The ironic thing is my clients working through this situation are Albertans  who have invested their own money to create a business. You know the money is staying in Alberta," he said.

"Their kids go to school. They buy groceries there. You know, they put gas in their car. Whatever it is they do, they are Albertans, so this is an action by the Alberta government that is actually going to hurt Alberta."

He says this could hurt Canada in unexpected ways.

"In the context of negotiating with the Americans and all the other major parties in the world, it really weakens our position to be seen by these other parties as fighting internally," he said.

I think it is a really shortsighted move to in any way restrict free trade in Canada for any reason. All these things can be worked out through negotiation and compromise and, in some cases, the courts." 


Susana da Silva

Video Journalist

You can reach me by e-mail at or on twitter @CBCSusana.