Big Fork is located in the mountains of northwestern Montana with an altitude of 2,900 feet. The town wraps around the crystal blue bay of Flathead Lake. With more than 180 miles of shoreline, Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. The charming town of Big Fork has a western setting with art galleries, fine restaurants, live theatre and of course, shopping. My cousin and her husband live two miles from the quaint little town and of course we couldn’t resist a stop in the "city" for the men in my life to pick up their quota of interesting brews. When in Montana you drink Montana brew. However, that was not the case when it came to wines. No offense to Mission Mountain Winery at Flathead, but you see – when you drink mostly Walla Walla or any Washington wine, you become rather spoiled.
When it comes to wine distribution, wineries should be featured on the shelves where their own tourists reside. In Walla Walla, the majority of our wine tourists are coming from the Western part of the state of Washington - the Seattle area. The second largest group of tourists to hit Walla Walla reside in the neighbor-bordering state of Oregon, and in the last couple of years I have seen a growing number of wine tourists visiting Walla Walla whose homes are in Idaho and Montana. Earlier in the day, as we took count of the Walla Walla and overall Washington wines, it made sense when you consider the miles (Depending on location from MT to WA: two to seven hours in the car with a time change. It's five hours from Seattle to Walla2), that Washington wines would be and should be well represented in this popular town of Montana. It seems like a great marketing strategy to me to saturate a neighboring state, like Montana where your visiting customers are hailing from, before you even market your wine in a mid-west state say like Oklahoma, a northern state like Rhode Island or even the large state of Texas. In Walla Walla we are seeing more visiting wine tourists from Idaho and Montana and following right behind Oregon and certainly not a growing number from Oklahoma, Rhode Island and even a large state like Texas. Besides, all the wine-loving Texans I know do not believe that Washington State is the second largest wine producing state in the nation, let alone that other states in the nation exists. My Texas friends tell me that they are the only ones that produce wine, as far as they are concerned. Afterall, they are known as the "Lone State." Heh. The point is that your largest population of well-cultivated customers cannot always visit your winery, so you go to them by being convenient at their local market or wine store.