Vino to go—airborne

Passengers at Grand Junction Regional Airport can now take a bottle of local wine on their next flight, a unique feature at an airport the size of Grand Junction’s.

At the far left end of the counter at the airport’s new Subway restaurant is a cashier who offers wine tastings and bottles for sale from Two Rivers Winery in Grand Junction. Fliers can buy a chilled white or a room-temperature red by the glass or bottle and sip it in the Subway dining area or take a bottle on the plane in a bag or a cardboard carrying case that holds up to three bottles.

If a person dips into the wine before boarding, someone behind the counter can reseal the bottle, and it can still go on the plane. Beer is sold at the end of the counter, too, but it needs to be consumed at the airport.

Transportation Security Administration rules don’t allow passengers to carry more than three ounces of liquid onto a plane, which means visitors touring local wineries can’t take an armful of vino through security, and locals hoping to bring a gift from home have to zip it into their checked luggage.

It’s too early to tell how popular the wine stand will be with passengers, Airport Manager Rex Tippetts said, but he believes it will catch on with time. The stand opened along with the Subway in May.

Tippetts said he talked to various local wineries before working out a deal with Two Rivers. The winery offers cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, Riesling, port and a Vintner’s Blend at the airport.

“Selling beer and wine was something we thought we had to do to make the Subway successful,” Tippetts said. “Selling wine to go on an airplane is kind of a novelty.”

Bob Witham, co-owner of Two Rivers Winery, said the company has partnered with the airport before by offering etched bottles of their wine in gift baskets given to airport business clients. When Tippetts mentioned the idea to Witham about six months ago, he was ready for a new venture.

Witham said he hasn’t heard of any customers coming to the winery’s Redlands locations because they saw the tasting room in the airport. But he has been able to steer some people to buy wine at the kiosk on their way out of town.

The airport manages the remote tasting room, one of two the winery has in Colorado (the other is at a store in Colorado Springs). The arrangement is necessary because certain clearance is needed to operate in an airport terminal, Witham said.

“It’s a unique situation,” he said.

Airports in Baltimore, Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, New York, Philadelphia, Sacramento, Calif., and Seattle allow passengers to buy wine once they get past security checkpoints and take it on a plane if the wine is corked.

But having an airport of its size offer the same service makes Grand Junction Regional Airport unique, according to Debbie Kovalik, executive director of the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau.

Kovalik said having local wine in the airport may show some out-of-towners what the area has to offer as their vacation here begins. She said she hopes the wine counter gains popularity and expands to include samples from other wineries in the future.

“I would say there’s an opportunity in the future for them to showcase a few different wineries. It depends on demand,” she said.


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