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Oregon wine flies free

Wine board, state, Alaska Airlines team up to attract tourists

By Rachael Rees / The Bulletin

Published Apr 25, 2014 at 12:01AM

Starting May 1, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members flying out of Redmond and three other Oregon airports can check a case of Oregon wine for free.

“Most of our sales are done direct to consumer though tasting rooms, so it allows those out-of-state travelers to come in, experience our wines and then take it home with them to share with their friends and family,” said Michelle Kaufmann, assistant communications manager for the Oregon Wine Board, a marketing group that promotes Oregon wine.

The program is a joint effort among the Oregon Wine Board, Travel Oregon — the public name for the Oregon Tourism Commission — and Alaska Airlines. It began as a two-month pilot program last fall. Mileage plan members may check one case of wine free on their return flight out of Redmond, Medford, Eugene and Portland. In addition, passengers showing their Alaska boarding passes within a week of their arrival in Oregon will receive complimentary tastings at any of the participating wineries, according to the news release.

Alaska has similar programs for different regions in other states, but Oregon is the first state with a statewide wines-fly-free program, said Halley Knigge, spokeswoman for Alaska.

“We like to help people explore more, and one of the ways people can explore is through their taste buds,” Knigge said.

The program, she said, is currently only for wine, not other craft beverages.

Linea Gagliano, global communications manager for Travel Oregon, said the commission is striving to get a similar program in place for craft beer and spirits.

“It’s something we certainly think about because we’re all big fans of craft beer and spirits and we don’t want to leave those two out,” she said.

But for now, she said the focus is on the wine program.

A recent study of consumer behavior showed 60 percent of Oregon visitors bought Oregon products once they arrived home, Gagliano said. Wine, beer and artisan food topped the list. And when visitors share those products with their friends and family back home, she said they are more likely to return and their friends and family are more likely to visit Oregon, according to the survey.

“They build an affinity for Oregon through the culinary products that we have,” she said.

More than 250 Oregon wineries joined the pilot program in 2013 and Kaufmann expects more than 300 will join by the end of May.

Naked Winery in the Old Mill District is the only participating winery in Central Oregon so far, but Kaufmann said the program is open to all wineries in the state. However, they must register with the Oregon Wine Board.

Anne Jackson, tasting room manager for Naked Winery, said the effort will encourage tourists to spend money locally and make it easier for out-of-state travelers to take Oregon wine home.

“We signed up so we could offer a little bit more benefit to people in the winery so they could take wine home,” she said, adding the store sees a lot of tourists during the summer. “It’s just nice to have that tool in your back pocket, to say hey, you can take a case home and you’re not going to be charged.”

Kerry Damon, vintner at Monkey Face Vineyard at Ranch at the Canyons, said the Oregon Wines Fly Free program will showcase Central Oregon wineries.

“The program encourages people to taste and purchase wines and then check one case for free,” he wrote in an email. “Central Oregon wineries will benefit from the program because we will be exposed to new audiences, who otherwise might not be familiar with our wines.”

—Reporter: 541-617-7818,

rrees@bendbulletin.com