A Global Opportunity at Hand for PacWest Wineries

At a time when trade agreements and threats dominate headlines, the President of the Washington State Wine Commission has a simple message for the B.C., Oregon and Washington wine industries.


Steve Warner, who has led the Washington State Wine Commission since 2012, will be bringing his perspective on the opportunities and challenges for the wine industries of Washington, Oregon and B.C. to Penticton on June 18, as part of the Wine Talks series presented by Liquidity Winery and Okanagan College.

There are challenges enough for each of the individual region’s industries – interprovincial trade barriers for B.C. wineries are just one example – but there are opportunities abroad to establish the reputation for the entire Pacific Northwest wine region that should be seized upon, says Warner. “We live the quality of our wines every day,” says Warner, “but we need to demonstrate that in the global market. The Pacific Northwest has a growing reputation that we need to work together to build.”

That will help reinforce the message of quality that drives domestic consumption but will also open doors for a growing export industry.”

He and 14 wineries from Washington are on their way to Hong Kong for VinExpo 2018.

“Washington’s first AVA was established in 1983. That’s like being weeks old in an industry where there are wineries that date back thousands of years.”

“We (Washington, B.C. and Oregon) are more alike than we are different. We’re complementary.”

“Washington State produces less than one per cent of the world’s wine. We don’t need to compete with each other – we need to co-operate.”

Warner’s tenure at the Washington State Wine Commission came after a career in the international pharmaceutical industry. Working for Merck & Co., Inc. he served as Managing Director, General Manager and held marketing positions in Bucharest, Seoul, Bangkok and in the U.S. He has a master’s of business administration in international business and finance from Rutgers University. Before his private sector career he served in the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command, completing his career as a Lieutenant Command in U.S. Navy Special Operations.

“I guess you could say I’ve gone from guns to drugs to alcohol.”

The most recent economic analysis of Washington State’s wine industry points to an annual impact nearing $5 billion.

“Under Steve’s leadership, Washington State wines have seen tremendous sales growth particularly in the premium category,” says Ian MacDonald, owner of Liquidity Wines. “This is a unique opportunity for us to learn what they have done to position their wine region for local, national and international success.”

Tickets for the fourth instalment in the Wine Talks series, June 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Penticton Campus of Okanagan College, are $20. You can register online by visiting