E.D. Corner: March 2024

Good Day,

Trish and I had an event at one of the wineries we are members of and headed down to Niagara.  The event itself was really cool.   We were presented five blind tastings of Pinot Noir and had to deduce (in my case blindly guess) whether the wine came from:

  • The old world or the new world
  • The country of the world that we chose
  • The region within the country

I guessed one of the five wines correctly and mostly because I had enjoyed a few glasses of the exact same wine the night before.   Other than that one, everyone else typically picked the exact opposite of me and were right more often than not.  It was a fun, engaging event that lasted about an hour.  Because it takes just over an hour for us to get to the winery, Trish and I decided to meander home, grab some lunch and visit a few more wineries.  One of the first places we came across was a winery we hadn’t visited in years.  Several of their wines are now available in the LCBO, so they typically aren’t on our list when we head to Niagara.  We remember loving the vibe and thought it would be great to revisit one of the wineries that got us started on our love for the burgeoning Ontario Wine industry.

Well, they had grown.  The building was now huge and they have added a restaurant, giant patio and firepits while also expanding the tasting room and wine shop.  It looked amazingly slick and was busy, but not over-crowded.  We decided to have lunch with them and were promptly seated.  Karen, our server, provided us with menus both for food and their wines.  The wine Trish wanted was described as “unconventional” because that intrigued her.  She asked Karen what made the wine “unconventional” and, unfortunately Karen didn’t know.  As it turned out, they were sold out of that wine anyway, so Trish picked something different and we never found out what was unconventional about that particular vintage.  The lunch came out quick and was delicious.

After the meal was over, we headed to the tasting room.  We always choose samples of things that we haven’t had before or that aren’t readily available at the LCBO.  Our white supply is pretty good at the moment, but we are short on reds.  It was a three-sample flight and, unfortunately, we had tried all but two of the reds.  We asked our tasting server if there was another red that she could recommend but she said she was only allowed to serve what was on the tasting menu.  We chose a white as a substitute and as she was pouring each of the samples asked her thoughts on the wines and to provide any tasting notes.  Her response was that we should start with the white, followed by the first red and then the second.  She then walked away.  We tried the wines, picked up a few bottles of the ones we liked and headed on our way.

We then stumbled across a tiny winery that we had never visited and pulled into the driveway.  There were four other cars in the parking lot, which filled it so we parked along the lane.  One person was working the tiny tasting bar while also tending to the guests that were sitting and sampling at the three high-top tables that filled the rest of the room.  The gentleman was helping a couple determine their first choice of a flight, but quickly welcomed us and provided us with the tasting menu.  He was talking about one of the wines on the menu to the couple and when he noticed that not only Trish and I were listening but one of the couples at a table, he increased his volume so we could all hear about what it was that he loved about the wine and what we should expect when we tasted it.  When the couple chose their first wine, he turned to us to walk us through how to choose the four samples that came with the tasting.  He also let us know that the tasting fee ($20) was waived if we bought four bottles.  The tasting menu was arranged by the order you were supposed to drink them in, if they came all at once.  I noticed that at the bottom of the list was an orange wine and a white baco noir which I had never seen before.  I asked why they were below the richer reds on the list.  He spent time explaining that those two types of wines, because they are extremely late harvest, have higher acidity which then throws off the taste of the other wines you wanted to sample.  I thought that was really neat and the white baco was really good!

There was another wine on the list that interested us because it did not have a vintage (year) on it.   He got really excited when he talked about it being a type of multi-year blend wine that only one or two wineries do in Ontario.  We asked him about the tasting note and he said that he was more curious to know how we would describe it because, he said, depending on a person’s palette, certainly flavours will be more forward.  I thought it smelled a bit like a port, it wasn’t at all sweet.  It was crazy-smooth, had a berry or fruit taste although I couldn’t for the life of me identify it, and was really dry.  When I told him all of that, he said that the smell and the flavour of the wine don’t match and that when he tastes it, the fruit is like a plum.  Trish thought it had a blueberry-esque finish.  He took it all in and talked more about how the vintner loved to try these not readily available styles of wine.  We ended up spending close to 45 minutes with him and the other guests, learning about each of the wines that are made from the grapes on the 12 acres they own.

As we added the four bottles of wine, and six cans of a lime lager that was also delicious, into the case we had on the go, we started talking about the differences between the two experiences.  We originally fell in love with the wine from the winery we had lunch at because they were as small as the one we were just leaving.  The owners and their families were pouring the tastings and talking about their passion for what they produced.  I have no doubt that this made them successful, and they continued to expand – to the point where they had the volume required to be in the LCBO.  However, through the expansion, they seem to forgotten what made them successful in the first place.  The service was professional, but not personal.  The staff didn’t have the knowledge about the products nor the passion to share it with us.  I have no doubt that they will continue to be successful because they do make a good product, and are set up to quickly and efficiently service their guests.  But Trish and I aren’t going to go back.

All of this got me thinking about my own business and all of your businesses that we keep encouraging to grow.  You can grow without losing what it is that made you successful in the first place.  You just need to know a) why people love your business so much, and b) make sure there are processes in place that provide those same experiences if you have two, three, or even ten times the visitation as you once did.  There is another winery in Niagara that we visited when they first opened.  It was probably not much bigger than the second one we visited today.  They had two copper labs that our boys loved playing with as we chatted with staff while sampling and purchasing their products.  Nowadays, they are a much bigger player, but haven’t lost the personal touches that made us love them the first time.  The owners are still active with consumer operations and they have instilled in their staff the same passion as they have for their wines.  Staff take as much time as needed with each of the customers and they offer suggestions that aren’t on the tasting menu.  If you have been going there as long as we have, you feel just as important now as you did then.

What we are doing at GlowZone 360 is creating processes and procedures that will be standard across all locations, no matter how many we grow to.  We will ensure that all staff understand our expectations through online and in-person training and workshops – all of which talk about why the process/procedure is important to our guests, the overall success of the organization and their enjoyment of the job.  It is going to take a lot of time and energy to put this all together, test it and tweak it before finally rolling it out.  But, for us – and any businesses with multi-locations – it is extremely important to ensure that the experience a guest has at one location is as good as it is at any other location.

As much as we want to watch you grow in success, we don’t want it to be at the expense of what makes your business special in the first place.  We are here to help you through these growing pains and can provide learning opportunities and tools to help you navigate.  The next big day is coming up quickly – our 2024 Tourism Symposium on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, presented by Destination Markham Corporation. If you missed out and would like to attend, contact Adriana Barbary, our Director of Industry Development, at abarbary@centralcounties.ca, to see if we can still squeeze you in. The Symposium a perfect opportunity to network with your peers while learning about new technologies that can help you grow.

I hope to see you next week, but if you can’t make it, remember I am always only an email away.  cthibeault@centralcounties.ca.

Have a great day!



Central Counties is located North of Toronto


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Chuck Thibeault

Executive Director, Chuck Thibeault