Sunday, April 23, 2017

Coming of Age

The Fraser Valley is fast becoming one of British Columbia's most exciting wine regions. The wineries extend from Chilliwack right into the heart of the City of Vancouver. One area of the Valley is a major tourist route; extending from the Mt Lehman region near Abbotsford to the wineries of Langley Township.

During the past month, Barbara and I have visited two new wineries, Seaside Pearl Farmgate Winery in the Mt Lehman region and The Glass House Winery in Langley Township. A few days ago I dropped by one of our favourite wineries Blackwood Lane Estate Winery on my own.

I was met at the tasting room door with enthusiasm by owner and winemaker Carlos Lee.  I was aware there was patio expansion happening, which was confirmed by the noise of the tractor working behind the tasting room. Carlos showed me his plans for the new patio and viewing area.

This was very exciting as Barbara and I have enjoyed time spent on the patio in the past and will be looking forward to more good times when the upgrades are completed.

The patio offers a wonderful view of Mt Baker and the surrounding countryside where deer and horses wander freely.

The patio provides an outdoor area to enjoy wines, cheese boards and pizza in a very relaxing atmosphere. Aside from being very knowledgeable about the different wines the staff also provides excellent patio service.

But the best part about the winery is still the wines! I enjoyed a couple of hours tasting the latest vintages with Carlos and his Manager, Kim. Believe me, these are not your average wines. The quality is amazing, which is reflected in the price.

We began with the Vicuna Roja a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from their Osoyoos vineyards. The wine has a nice aroma with dancing fruit flavours on the taste buds.

Followed by a 2013 Cabernet Franc with a very smooth and light taste with flavours of strawberry, a most enjoyable wine.  The 2012 Merlot Special Addition offered up a nice sweetness.

Carlos then poured his amazing Reference, an expensive wine but one every collector will want to have in their cellar, John Schreiner (well-known wine critic) awarded it a score of 96.

The bottom line is when you tour the Fraser Valley you will not want to miss Blackwood Lane Estate Winery and all that it offers.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Hospitality It's the Attitude!

When asked the question: Who is the most important person in your business. The answer is, of course, the customer. In most cases, you are relying on the continuous support of the customer and the reference they may provide for your business. The easy part of building a successful business is to get the customer to enter your establishment the first time, the hardest part is to get them to return. If you are like the average company, up to 40% of your customers walk out the door and never come back. What's worse, the "average" business is totally oblivious to their actual churn rate—so they do nothing to correct the problem

The number one reason people fail to return to a business is related to attitude. The attitude of indifference from the individual(s) who they encounter. To repeat that the number one reason for lost customers is the attitude. A poor attitude, poor service, disinterested service is the number one reason a customer does not return. When someone is happy with the services provided by a company the chances of them telling someone are less than 10% if they are unhappy the chances of them telling someone are over 80% the chances of them telling multiple people over 65%

So if you ask your employees who the most important person in the company is; the answer is me. Me referring to each individual employee. Me because it is each personal individual attitude that determines the success of the business.

Since I spent over 25 years in the hospitality business including writing a super host training program and at one time owned two restaurants I am very critical of the standards of service I receive in any business. I have had a few bad experiences as a customer dealing with improperly trained employees and management people. I'll never eat again at Boston Pizza.

There are other ways besides direct contact with a poor attitude that can also result in a business losing customers. Included here; not responding to inquiries either by phone, email or letters or keeping customers, investors, media and stakeholders updated. Your online presence is also a key factor. Respect those who support your business.

The Wineries:

It is not often that I experience a bad or unsatisfying visit to a winery, but it does happen.
I can recall waiting twenty minutes for the winery to open after the stated time on the door.
I've been told I can't offer you more than four tasting because it's against the law. It is not.
(I spit sometimes). I've been told a wine listed on their tasting menu will not be tested because we don't want to open a new bottle. I've even been subjected to a lecture on how good German wines are. What, you're working for a BC winery, not Germany. Oh yes we have been ignored too and on a couple of occasions found the winery door open but no one around.

Perhaps what irritates me the most is when your tasting room host is paying attention to you until some else comes in, be it a regular or a friend and suddenly you are forgotten about. The host must have the ability to include everyone.

At one respected winery restaurant, our waitress seemed to disappear after the main meal was served. When she finally returned she said "Oh I forgot about you"

I do not request any special treatment when visiting a winery. In fact, I prefer just to walk in and see how good or indifferent their hospitality is on a first-time visit.

Where I have more of a concern for a lack of hospitality and a poor attitude is at major wine tasting events. Here you often find bored sales agents and hired day staff. Often these people know little about the wines and wineries they are representing and far too often their cell phone rates ahead of you. You being the person the winery wants at their table and should be impressing; why else is the winery there!

I think it's important that the winery selects the right people to be representing them, skilled at greeting and acknowledging. Skilled at pouring wines, skilled at communications and have a knowledge of the wines and winery they are representing. Do not leave it up to the hotel, the event organisers or your marketing company. It up to you to protect the interest of your business.

Robert's Report

Monday, March 27, 2017

Five Wineries to Visit in the Similkameen Valley

The beautiful  Similkameen Valley is just a 3 hour scenic drive from Vancouver and only 35 minutes from Osoyoos. There are now 18 wineries in the Valley. There is also Twisted Hills Craft Cider and numerous fruit stands.

Here are five very popular wineries in the region

Clos du Soleil  which started in 2005 opened new facilities in 2015. The name means vineyard enclosed in the sun.The winery is known for it's consistent quality. The winemaker is Ann Sperling, who came to the winery with proven experience and knowledge.

Robin Ridge was established in 1997 by owners Tim and Caroline Cottrill. They use the Geneva Double Curtain Trellis system to allow more light on the fruit in the vineyard producing greater flavours. They practice organic farming.

Orofino Vineyards was Canada's first strawbale winery. Orofino means Fine Gold. Owners John and Virgina Weber's dream began in 2001 when they purchased 6 acres in the valley. The tasting room is powered by Solar power. They have established a reputation for outstanding wines.

Upon reaching the town of Cawston you must stop in at Forbidden Fruit Winery. They have proven over the years (35) to be one of Canada's best fruit wineries. They are certified Organic, you will enjoy visiting their winery. Steve Venables and Kim Brind'Amour are the owners, their son Nathan produces Dead End grape wines.

Corcelettes Estate Winery will start the 2017 season with a brand new tasting room. The tasting room is built right up against the cliff and will provide an amazing view of the valley.  The winery has found success based on the quality of their wines.

These are only five of the wineries in this beautiful underrated wine region. One needs to spend a couple of days here discovering the valley's exceptional wines.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Life's too Short to Drink Bad Wines

Apparently not!

It may surprise you but when it comes to my e-mail the #1 question is "Why can't I find Brights ____ wine anymore"   Apparently Brights labelled wines are still a bigger seller in eastern Canada, and they are cheap! This 4000 ml sells for $35.00. The Brights wines are a Cellared in Canada product of Constellation Brands. The Brand is slowly being discontinued  with wines made under different brands.

Maria Christina  seems to be among the most popular of the Brights wines selling for $7 to  $10 depending on the province. I have never tasted the wine so it may be okay! But people do seek out cheap wines.

I will just ignore  Jesus Juice; whoever produces that is after the profit and has no passion for true wine. Schloss Laderheim is a cheaper but popular wine a little bit better in my humble opinion than Baby Duck. There is also Hochtaler and a few others first made back in 60-70s that are still around today.
Really Australia, why?  Labels like this are common in the USA seems people buy them for the label.

Okay it says Francais but no real French winemaker would do this, but it sells. So much for the idea that Life is too short to buy cheap wines.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Wine and Dine at the Family Chain Restaurant

They are everywhere, easy to find, and offer reasonable pricing  along with menu items that suit the entire family. Therefore we often find ourselves dining at White Spot, Matches, Swiss Chalet or Applebee's.

We may decide that a glass of wine will enhance the meal. The prices look okay. The question is when the menu says Jackson Triggs pinot grigio are we getting a Cellared in Canada wine or a VQA wine.

I will not order a known Cellared in Canada wine such as the one pictured above. I do not buy a Cellared in Canada wine for enjoyment at home. However, in some chain restaurants, there is often no other choice for wines listed from Canada. Restaurant chains usually do not have high-end wine lists.  In many establishments you're lucky to find any Canadian wines, but that is changing.  You can probably for $6.00 a glass, trust a name like Sumac Ridge or Jackson-Triggs to provide a good wine, even if it is their Cellared in Canada selection.

Chances of finding  wine in these restaurants or a bar like the quaility of Painted Rock is  almost zero. There are some, like Catus Club that actually have a very good wine list. What you have to do is ask the server to show you the bottle or ask if the wine is  VQA.

There are people that like and enjoy boxed wines from those early days. They are often served in small family owned restaurants. All I can say is, "I hope the food is good!" :}

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Chaberton's Estate Bacchus Bistro

Valentine's Dinner Table d'hôtes.

For the third consecutive year, Barbara and I celebrated Valentine's Day at the popular Bacchus Bistro at Chaberton Estate Winery in Langley. Last year the bistro had two settings; this year due to demand there were three settings. The Bistro offered a four-course dinner at which we thought a reasonable price of  $60.00 per person.

The first course consisted of Amuse Buche, a smoked salmon tartlet, Gougere which went very well with my glass of Reserve Bacchus wine.

The second provided a choice of four options, Barbara selected the  Lobster and Butternut Squash Bisque (with sauteed prawns) I went for a Jem Tomato and Mt. Lehman Chevre Salad. Barbara enjoyed her reserve Merlot, (one of her favourites from the winery) with its notes of dark cherry and plum.

The main course offered four selections. Barbara chose the Pan Roasted Halibut with Black Olive Tapenade. I selected one of my favourites, Braised Boneless Beef Short Ribs which did not disappoint.  Oh so tender, slow cooked in red wine with green peppercorn sauce. Barbara said she made the right choice, the halibut was cooked to perfection! One must toast the culinary skills of Chef Ashley and his staff.

Dessert completed the four courses superbly.  Barbara selected the Tahitian Vanilla Buffalo Milk Creme Brulee. I chose the Raspberry Frozen Nougat, both were amazing, we shared tastings. A shared glass of  Siegerrebe Dessert wine along with a fresh roasted cup of coffee finished off the evening beautifully.  Our server was adept at making our evening a memorable one.

Chaberton Estate Winery is located in the Fraser Valley, on 216th Street off 16th Ave