Monday, July 12, 2010

Mind the Gap

Wow. I’m just back from a long weekend in Boston where I bought an eclectic mixture of wine (8 bottles of red and white from Italy, California, France, Spain and a little winery in the Adirondacks of NY), and once again I am shocked – stunned, really – at how much selection our friends to the south have when it comes to wine (and how they purchase it!). While some Canadian provinces have privatized liquor boards, most including Ontario have government controlled boards, with strict checks and balances on what wines can be represented, bought, sold and drunk within the provincial borders. So imagine my sheer glee when I came across the Brix Wine Shop in downtown Boston – a store specializing in only wines, and mostly imports. (Brix is the new world method for measuring the amount of sugar in a grape, and thus the resulting alcohol level). I was even more pleased to find out that I was walking into this cute, cellar-like store at the perfect happy hour of 6pm, where the financial district workers were merrily trying the “vin du jour” at the daily wine sampling.

It got me thinking.

We are clearly lacking this type of retail wine experience in Ontario. While the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) has some variety in store size and layout, they have adopted the big box store concept - moving towards the self-service “point and grab” manner of shopping and away from the boutique wine experience. The majority of the stores have a department store feel, with sections for beer, wine, vintages, spirits and gifts. I’m not saying I don’t like this layout – on the contrary I actually really do! I think it serves the Ontario population with a good variety, and I will also say that the LCBO staff is always very helpful and knowledgeable - many are studying to be or are fully certified sommeliers and WSET certified. The LCBO even has the occasional wine tasting event. However, in my humble opinion we do lack that sexier, boutique experience when it comes to buying wine.

There really is something to be said about walking out of your office with your colleagues on a Thursday at 5pm and stepping into a mini tasting session, on the way to grab a drink and appetizers to close out the day. I’m not suggesting that we move to a privatized system – I don’t want to boil the ocean here! I’m talking about a clear gap in the distribution of wine in this province…. a “mini” LCBO vintages retail store, if you will. Just wines. Walk in, try some wine, learn something new, buy the wine, leave and tell all your friends. Obviously, not every city in Ontario could support this, but perhaps the Toronto, and maybe the Ottawa crew certainly could. And, perhaps it’s a model that could be adopted by other provinces, as well. I’m just putting it out there.

Oh, and I almost forgot, we’re leaning towards the name: Gilded Leaf Wine & Spirits for the agency. Variations include Gilded Vine, Gilded Barrel, but we’re liking the whole gilded = covered in gold concept! More to come soon.

If you’re interested, the wines I bought on my little Bostonian excursion included:

The Prisoner, 2007 – by Owin-Swift Cellars, Napa, California - a blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Charbono and Grenache – a true find for me as I first fell in love with this wine on my trip to Napa a few years ago!

The Dead Arm, Shiraz, 2006 – by D’Arenburg, McLaren Vale, Australia

Bernard Moreau Bourgogne Chardonnay, 2008 – by Bernard Moreau et Fils, Côte-d’Or, France

Juan Gil, Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre) 2006 – Jumilla, Spain

Quatro, 2008 – by Mont Gras, (yes, I’ve talked about and recommended this one before but the LCBO is ALL OUT, so I stocked up on a couple bottles), Colchagua Valley, Chile

Casanova di Neri Rosso di Montalcino, Sangiovese, 2007 – Tuscany, Italy

And a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Adirondack Winery in Lake George, NY – both using grapes from Napa, California.

No comments:

Post a Comment