A Word from Bill — September 2016

Hereʼs hoping that you had a great summer and had some time in wine regions near and far. Locally we have a maturing wine industry as well as growing Spirit and Craft Beer industry that we can take advantage of. There are an increasing number of producers that are making a commitment to local quality. Further afield there is a similar boom in Prince Edward County and Niagara as well as New Yorkʼs Finger Lakes. I would encourage you to share your experiences with us on Twitter. Please follow us at @SOMMguildYOW and let us know what youʼre up to.

Again, a sure sign that weʼre headed into fall is the call for volunteers for the Ottawa Wine and Food Festival. We are meeting with Joan Culliton, Festival owner, over the next few weeks and we will have more details on this yearʼs program including dates and times. The Guild will again play a prominent part in the show so if you are interested in volunteering this year please reach out to me at bill.ellis@sommelierguild.com.

Just before we broke for the summer, the Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held on June 9, 2016, in the Algonquin College Hospitality Amphitheater. Below is a detailed summary for those that were unable to attend.

The meeting was called to order at 7:03 p.m. by Bill Ellis, President.
Andrew Travill acted as Secretary for the meeting.

An overview of the successful events conducted in 2015 was provided as well as a general overview of the Guildʼs activities over the past year. We advised the Guild membership that events over the past year included those tried and true events that members have demonstrated they have enjoyed in the past, with some new and diverse events as well. For the most part, Guild events have been well attended, which the Board has taken to indicate general satisfaction by membrs with regard to Guild offerings. It is the intent of the Board of Directors to continue with an event tempo which averages two events per month.

Typically the Guild has held one LCBO Vintages Pre-Release (VPR) each month. Experience indicated, however, that there is little demand for this type of event in January and during the summer months. Where the VPR offering is perceived to be of little interest to the members, the Board of Directors has sought to provide two alternate events during those month. The Board continues to consider the requests and advice of members in developing events, and relies on attendance at events as an indicator of member preference.

The Board of Directors would like to recognize the dedication and hard work of the Guildʼs volunteers, specifically Dawn Harvie, Cynthia Mar and Dave Isaacs. Their tireless dedication to Guild support is appreciated by both the Board as well as the members.

Also recognized was Robert White. After 10 years on the Board of Directors, and having held numerous positions, Robert White is now retiring from the Board. Robert has been a driving factor behind many diverse and unique tastings, and has provided sage advice to the Board over the years. Many thanks, Robert, your assistance will be missed by both the Board and members. Robert has promised that he will continue to see us at Guild events!

The Board continues to investigate and, where appropriate, implement digital and online management tools to better service our members. Event management is now exclusively through our Eventbrite web tool and, over the next year, the Board will be investigating a membership system to better track membership and to communicate with members. Online delivery of our newsletter, on a monthly basis, continues to be a success.

The Guild continues to enjoy a strong relationship with Algonquin College. We continue to be on the advisory committee of the sommelier program and are quite active with them. For the information of members, the college has expanded its core offerings this year and now includes a WSET advanced program. The next session starts on September 14th at a cost of $1,400 but offers a $200 discount for Algonquin Sommelier Program graduates. Past Guild Director and past recipient of the Wine Person of the Year, Natale Lofaro, is instructing the course. Hereʼs the link: http:// www.algonquincollege.com/ccol/ courses/wset-level-3-award-in- wines-and-spirits/

At last yearʼs AGM, members were invited to recommend ideas and activities that they would be interested in. The President was happy to report that the Board was able to action many of these requests. Successes included:

  • A greater number of wine and food pairing events;
  • New venues for wine and food events were explored with some success;
  • A broader spectrum of beverage tastings was achieved through events at local breweries and a distillery; and
  • Relationships, possibly in the form of hosted events at or with embassies continue to be explored. An event hosted by the Japanese ambassador was in the advanced stages of development when, regrettably, it had to be terminated owing to conflicting priorities. Events with New Zealand, United States and the Swiss ambassadors/embassies offer potential opportunities and are under investigation.

The recipient of the Guild’s Wine Person of the Year Award for 2015 was winemaker Derek Barnett, in recognition for his work as a distinguished winemaker in Ontario and supporter of the wine market in the National Capital area. Derek and his wife, Judith, joined us at our Spring Wine and Food event at the NAC to receive his award.

After a one-year hiatus the Guild Gala was reinstated, and rebranded
as the ʻSpring Wine and Dineʼ. Based on previous successes the event was once again staged at the NAC on April 16, 2016. Malcolm Rose once again put forward an outstanding event, which was enjoyed by all who attended. In general terms, the wine selection and quality was very good, yet the food was not to the standard we had come to expect from the NAC. While this event has traditionally been a milestone event in our annual calendar, it has come to represent a major organizational and financial commitment for the Guild. Given the feedback from some of those members who have attended in the past and the Board’s ongoing commitment to providing quality events for our members and events that make sense, we are reviewing the desirability of continuing the practice of holding a major spring event in the future.

Upon conclusion of the Presidentʼs Annual Report, the floor was opened to questions. A member from the floor requested an explanation regarding the size of typical Guild events, what was the purpose of the event waiting list, and why were some events listed as members only?

Typically, Guild events are sized at 22 to 24 participants, including the director/host but not including wait staff. Experience has demonstrated that this is both a manageable number for most venues, and provides an appropriate pour size for participants. When events are under-subscribed, it is the policy of the Board, on a case-by-case basis, to evaluate the relative merits of continuing or canceling an event. Cancellations are a joint decision of the Board, and are typically made if there is little expectation of achieving greater than two thirds of the planned event capacity. Members should be aware that if an event is less than fully subscribed, and the Board decision is to continue with the event, the quality and variety of the offering will proceed unchanged. It is not our policy to shortchange those who subscribe to an event based on reduced attendance. Occasionally this leads to events that achieve less than financial break even. These losses are accepted based on our mandate to provide quality tastings and are managed on an annual basis as part of our budget process.

Owing to the venues we typically use, when an event is fully subscribed, our ability to expand that event is usually limited based on seating and our ability to effectively manage the event. Under these circumstances a waiting list is established to allow others to participate should cancellations cause additional seats to become available.
Some events are open to members only. This is based upon their perceived desirability and likely attendance demand. It is the Board’s view that when a unique offering or small venue situation arises, it should be members and not guests that should have the opportunity to attend.

New Business

Events: Any member wishing to run an event is encouraged to do so. A member of the Board of Directors will work with you to aid with event mechanics and in keeping with the Guildʼs risk mitigation and liability policies.

Interest was expressed in investigating local winemakers. It was requested that the Directors investigate a variety of options including bus tours and owner/ maker evening events. Further afield, members would be interested in exploring New York winemakers and wines by British Columbia producers.
Communications: Marie-France Champagne provided a brief tour of the Guild’s Twitter presence. It was emphasized that success in the Twitter-verse, and with social media in general, is predicated on activity. Members were encouraged to tweet and re-tweet Guild events.

Century Club: The Guild took the opportunity of the AGM to recognize the achievements of Andreya Cooke and Lynne Berlinguette as the most recent recipients of the Guild’s Century Cub with the presentation of certificates. Congratulations!
There being no further questions the meeting was concluded and all in attendance enjoyed a social hour of food and wine!

Looking forward to seeing you at an upcoming event!

Bill Ellis, President bill.ellis@sommelierguild.com