Tasting Notes UnCorked: McWatters Collection 2007 Meritage ~ $25CDN

August 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

McWatters Collection 2007 Meritage

This wine has just been released to the market in test tube full amounts… unless you are a high end restaurant in downtown Vancouver. Then.. then you can have as much as you want. Why? that is a discussion for another time.

McWatters Collection 2007 Meritage is the latest in a long line of projects started, elevated and polished by one Harry McWatters. Harry is truly one of the pioneers of the BC wine industry and was among the first to pull off producing commerical wine in BC. He is also a founding member of VQA in Canada and only recently completed some, what I suspect were hard, years at Vincor as part of the deal that saw Vincor purchase Sumac Ridge Winery from Harry. Harry is also responsible for making a wine that was a watershed wine in so many ways to the BC wine industry. Harry grew and vinted Sumac Ridge Gewurztraminer which was the wine that brought my wife and I together for a candle light nite (she was my soon to be girlfriend at the time). Regardless of that the Sumac Ridge Gewurz added credibility to the BC Wine industry that was desperate for some commercial wins. Frankly, I believe that the Sumac Ridge Gewurz established a style that became a standard to either emulate or run away from in BC. I can remember a conversation with Sandra Oldfield back in 1995 where she stated that she wanted her Gewurz to stand apart from Harry’s whereas so many wanted to copy.

Another thing you need to know about Harry. Never call a Meritage a Meritah-ge. He will jump down your throat and stomp on your innards. For Harry Meritage is pronounced Merry- tige. He believes in this so much that he either founded or was a very vocal member in an organization of Meritage maker’s (whose real name escapes me right now) that spans across North America.

So the McWatters Collection 2007 Meritage…
Here is the tech shit: Harvested in 2007 from blah blah blah blah vineyards. I have thrown that in there because it seems that every wine is grown in especially selected vineyards and is cared for as if gold from the vineyard to the winery, to the bottle to your table. To use a line I love from old black and white movies – that line is a bromide for the masses. What is really of any importance is why he chose the final blend to be 60% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc and decided to leave in barrel and bottle for as long as he did before he released it. That is what I want to read and hear as each of those elements made up the wine that I tasted.

I first tasted the wine on August 21. I opened it at about 6pm and had a glass with dinner at about 6:30. I have to say that it didn’t wow me at that point. Don’t get me wrong the wine was technically sound and enjoyable but it didn’t have that little bit of Gretzky in it to put it over a lot of others at the same price point. If I had to score it at that time I would have given in a 6.5/$1 on my bang for the buck scale. Nice fruit flavours and aromas of red and black berries, some jammy elements, some good spicy undertones and enough grip to stand up to a bold meal, but not too much to pucker your face in. On the finish there was the tiniest of noises as if I was Horton and I was hearing a Who for the first time. The Who was saying in a shrinking voice “cocoa” “fresh ground coffee”.

Since then it has been sitting on my countertop with a vaccu-pump seal. That is 9 days it should have been well on its way to Balsamic by now but man o man was I surprised. It was still quite voluptuous, full of fruit and not loss of sex at all. Those tiny voices were now big Gregory Peck type tones from To Kill Mocking Bird. The finish was delightful and begging me to get up for another glass. Now, after 9 days I would score it an easy 8.5/$1. Any wine that has that lasting power deserves room in my pocketbook and miserable excuse for a cellar.

Conclusion: Buy!!!

Traditional Food Pairing: Beef Tenderloin hot of the grill with the simplest of seasoning. Roast Beef. Stilton Cheese on a Triscuit.

Junk Food Pairing: Jack’s Links Regular Beef Jerky or you can go with the Peppered. If Popcorn is on the agenda make sure that it is Orville’s Extra Butter flavour. Cheez Whiz is pretty decent with this to.

Availability: Pretty limited which is the drawback. You will be able to find it in key restaurants in Vancouver, some private retail in Victoria (in about a week) and throughout the Okanagan.


Saratoga Speedway

August 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

It is not often that I will write about a specific business. I prefer to write about the principles within, however sometimes the principles and the business match beautifully.

We spent the last week enjoying the final days of summer in a campground named Pacific Playground which is just south of Campbell River in an area known as Saratoga Beach. One of the attractions in the area are the go-karts at the Saratoga Speedway.

They are open from noon until 4pm and once you are on the go-kart you feel like you are racing Formula 1- this part is well worth the money ($10/10 laps). The drawback is the crusty old man that operates the go-karts. This old beast seems to feel that not only is he there to ensure everyone’s enjoyment and safety but also how to raise ones children.

Our eldest is not a speed demon. She enjoys the wind in her hair but has no desire to go beyond her comfort zone for extra speed. This seemed to irk Crusty, that is what I have named him, for he decided that she was going too slow and pulled her off the track after just a few laps. As it turns out there was a problem with her engine that prevented her from going any faster. Anyway my wife, Grace’s mother, pulled over to see what the problem was and Grace said she was done. Crusty walked her across the track back to the stands. He then proceeded to tell one of our group that Mommy was “coddling her and that there was no room for that here.” “Kids need to be pushed if they are going to be able to deal with the real world.”

I’m sorry pal but I don’t know who you think you are but if I wanted child rearing advice I’m certain that I wouldn’t venture to the Saratoga Speedway to get it. In fact I believe that I will no longer support your establishment during our annual homage to the beauty of the of the Comox Valley and Miracle Beach. Furthermore I believe that people need to know that you are brimming with unwanted advice for just $10. May I suggest that instead of advertising the go-karts, that you clearly state ‘Free Applied Parenting advice in action with a bonus 10 lap go-kart race for only $10 more.”

Your role, my friend,  is to insure that we safely got a return our entertainment dollar… Period!

Here is a link to their website and telephone number… by the way the voice you hear on the voicemail is Crusty’s.



Social Media Success… let’s See

August 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m a sucker for a contest especially when comes to being able to talk about what Social Media has meant to my business.

Before attending Social Media Camp 2010 I had built a bit of a following on Twitter and our Facebook page was a source of a great deal of fun and engagement. What I took away from SMCV10 was that these platforms were more than simply and new way to communicate, they were nothing more that telephone lines into our business that were operating 24/7 and all we had to do was to answer them.

After having some fun with this we did the big ROI analysis. I can remember quite clearly Scott Stratten almost blowing a gasket when speaking of ROI – “do you question your telephone on its ROI? Of course not your moron!” Although very impassioned I was about to make a pitch to a number of people whose concept of social media was that it was a diversion from real stuff. My pitch was going to be simple – put the money we spend on Traditional media into to two things – 1) the in-store experience and 2) social media.

To make a long story short I was given the green light and the switch was made in January 2011. By the switch I mean that we were re-directing $70,000. So what was the result?

A retailer measures success in two ways 1) the bottom line and 2) the ‘flavour’ it provides its customers. To see if my game plan was working we needed to be able to see it in gross margins and an increase the number of customers visiting our stores each week. After 4 weeks there was reason to be confident, however it was still to early to tell as we needed to see loyalty from our new customers.

As I write this  it has been 8 full months since the switch and this is what we have seen.

Advertising Spend $7250 vs $70,000

Gross Margins +5% over same period the year before.

Average Weekly Customer Count +9% over the same period the year before.

I don’t know about you, but that is a success to us. Thank you SMCV10

TWO CENTS: Jimmy Pattison Buys Everything Wine

August 10, 2011 § 2 Comments

Here is my two cents about why the deal was done and what it means to the industry in BC as a whole.

For starters I see this as a total vertical integration play. Everything Wine has what is called a Private Wine Shop (PWS) license which gives them a 30% discount from LDB retail prices on imports and a 15% discount on domestics. The limitation is that they can not carry beer or spirits. The real value for Jimmy however is in what is not being talked about; the ability to act as their own importer.

Save On Foods has its own bonded warehouse, in-house freight forwarding and customs brokerage. They also have hundreds of containers a week coming in from all over the world including all wine regions. The costly portion of transportation is when you can not fill out a full container. If you wait to fill a container you often are left out of stock on the shelf and that means lost sales. They could easily add a palate or two of wine to fill a container and drop their transportation costs by 25%. Add in the savings of having in-house freight forwarding, warehousing and customs brokerage and you have saved yourself 35% on your shipping cost. That 35% just turned your base retail margin into 50% vs 30%. That is a significant jump.

You may be saying ‘why would a supplier sign to them being their own importer? Isn’t that limiting?” Not really. Add in their Alberta retail segment and all of a sudden you are negotiating thousands of cases with a supplier and not just 10’s or hundreds.

As for any changes in the industry, I think they more than anyone now, want stability and certainty and therefore I believe that if they lobby the BC government it will only be to keep things the way they are.


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