For wine-touring aficionados, the Niagara Wine Region, which stretches from the Twenty Valley Beamsville Bench to Niagara-on-the-Lake, is amongst the most romantic and picturesque experiences in North America combining fine foods and sumptuous wines.
Until September 2015, those looking for the ultimate wine tour experience weighed the options of booking a group wine tour on a mini bus with the likes of Crush Niagara, Winery Tours of Niagara or driving one's own car.
I have lived almost my entire life in the Niagara Wine Region and for many years I envisioned what it would be like to create a more sustainable and enjoyable wine touring experience not involving internal combustion engines or worries about a "driving under the influence" charge. Since vehicle emissions account for about 30% of GHGs, the cars and tour buses are also a major threat to the very existence of the Niagara Wine Region and other terroirs around the world - so it is really a two-fold problem.
The EV Wine Tour Project began in the fall of 2012 when I joined electric vehicle infrastructure company, Sun Country Highway. My first stop on my mission to "green" the Niagara Wine Route was Stratus Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the first LEED Certified Winery in the World.
Getting a core group of wineries equipped with electric vehicle charging stations became the goal. After two unsuccessful attempts to fund the project (which initially involved seventeen wineries, some with rooftop solar) in part through provincial tourism funds, we have started more modestly with three wineries: Kacaba Vineyards, Stratus Vineyards and Reif Estate Winery.
On September 14, 2015, the Niagara EV Wine Media Tour kicked off at Kacaba Vineyards -- the first winery to complete the requisite installation of one universal Sun Country Highway EV charge station and one Tesla wall connector. The date was selected to fit neatly within the parameters of National Drive Electric Week and the Niagara Wine Region celebrations. The event was graced with spectacular weather attracting 32 gleeful participants, 19 electric vehicles from Golden Horseshoe Electric Vehicle Association (GHEVA) members, several wine journalists, auto industry reporters and the Weather Network.
The 19 electric vehicle convoy made the 38 km tour from Kacaba Vineyards to Stratus Vineyards and on to Reif Estate Winery in relative unison. While on route I could not help but think, "What if we could enjoy the full wine tasting experience without the necessity of utilizing the wine spittoon?" Drinking and driving is, of course, a major concern for wine tourists and wineries alike. Could driverless electric vehicles be the future of wine touring?
There is unfortunately a major legal hurdle. Even in an autonomous vehicle, the alcohol-impaired person is still the driver. The driver needs to start the vehicle, enter a destination in the navigation system and press "go." This process still legally constitutes "driving," so if you're impaired by alcohol, you could still face a DUI charge.
So the hope lies in getting wine tour operators to transition to the use of electric vehicles. With the imminent installation of a Tesla Supercharging station in 2016 at the west end of wine country, enterprising folks like Tesla Model S owner Jason Guanzon of car sharing company EcoRides.com, are likely to see their businesses really take off.
For a complete photo album of the days events: https://plus.google.com/photos/117513002959794349050/albums/619455184367...