A Wine Lover’s Diary, part 435: Insight Conference

Monday, March 4: Finished writing the speech I’m to deliver tomorrow at Insight 2013 in Niagara. My theme is “Doing it right and doing it wrong – How to engage consumers at home and abroad.”

In the afternoon drove down to Niagara to spend the night at the Shaw Club, a boutique hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The conference speakers were invited to a dinner at Jackson Triggs. Ran into my old friend Steve Burns from California, who’s speaking on industry collaboration. After a glass of Jackson-Triggs Entourage Brut we went down to the wine cellar for the meal prepared by Chef Tim Mackiddie:

Cucumber Fresh Roll, Green Tea, Sorrel, Mint, Pickled Lily, with Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Erie Pickerell Bouillabaisse, Fennel, Rouille, PEI Mussels, Saffron Tomato Broth, with Le Clos Jordanne Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Chardonnay 2009

JT Fireplace Pork Loin, Le Douanier & Heirloom Beet Risotto, Hedgehog Mushroom, Parsnips, Roasted Garlic, with Jackson-Triggs Delaine Vineyard Syrah 2010

Dessert upstairs in the Estate Lounge: White Chocolate Fudge, Banana, Peanut; Sparkling Lemon Curd, Vanilla Meringue; Pine River Cheddar, Shortbread, Compressed Apple, with Inniskillin Riesling Icewine 2008, Inniskillin Vidal Icewine 2008, Inniskillin Oak-Aged Vidal Icewine 2011

Tuesday, March 5: Spent the night at White Oaks in Niagara. The conference, “Insight – Envisioning the Future of the Ontario Grape and Wine Industry,” was held at the Community Centre in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Ron Morris, an accountant, spoke on the economic impact study for the grape and wine industry in Canada and Ontario. He said there are 476 wineries nationally producing $6.8 billion. There are 31,370 jobs in the wine industry, wages $1.91 billion. Ontario is responsible for just about half of the economic impact, at $3.34 billion. BC’s economic impact: $2.01 billion. Nova Scotia: $196 million. Quebec: $805 million.

Shari Mogk-Edwards and Pamela Lawson of the LCBO spoke on recent sales trends at the LCBO and specific trends for Ontario wines and VQA and Ontario wine consumers – who are they and how the shop.

Shari: LCBO sales $4.7 billion. Beer and cider up 8%. Vintages is a growth engine for the LCBO. ICB (International Canadian Blends) and VQA are showing the fastest growth in New World wine categories. Wines up 6.3%. Organic wines up 27%. Sparkling wines up 5%. Icewines flat. Pinot Grigio up 15%. Under $8 category is in decline but there is 1.5% growth in ICBs. “New brands drive growth,” she said. Ontario white blends up 10%. Vintages puts out 5,000 products a year.

Pamela: The average VQA shopper spends $73 a year. 40% of customers come in and buy the same wine time after time.

Then me. For my controversial speech, see “The Ontario Wine Industry: Doing it right and doing it wrong – How to engage consumers at home and abroad.”

Lunch, and then Andrew Kamphuis of Vin65 spoke on “Keys to Selling More Direct to Consumer.” He told the audience that it takes the sale of six bottles of wine a day to fund a salesperson in the tasting room (Napa statistic). Also that there has been a 15% growth in wine clubs in the US.

Angela Slade, Regional Director North America for Wine Australia – Australia: a case study in the power of collaboration and marketing lessons learned. How do you tell the fine wine story of Australian wine in the face of value-driven labels like Yellow Tail and Little Penguin?

Steve Burns (O’Donnell Lane LLC) – Industry collaboration – a short cut to success in building a world-class wine region.

Bought a Subway sandwich and came back to my hotel room at White Oaks in Niagara on the Lake.

Wednesday, March 6: Worked in my room until I as picked up by Magdalena Kaiser-Smit from the Wine Council and driven to Inniskillin Hall at Brock University to begin tasting wines that had been submitted for the tasting in London at Canada House on May 16th. Janet Dorozynsky, David Lawrason and I tasted through the following flights of Ontario and BC wines: 7 Gamay, 43 Chardonnay, 8 Merlot, 9 Cabernet Sauvignon, 13 Cabernet Franc and 10 Meritage.

Dinner at Play in the hotel. Joined by Rhys Pender, who arrived from Vancouver to participate in tomorrow’s tasting.

Thursday, March 7: Konrad Ejbich and John Szabo had driven in from Toronto and were already in the tasting room at Inniskillin Hall when we arrived at 9 am. Tasted 8 Riesling, 15 Cabernet Franc, 10 Riesling, 18 Syrah, 13 Pinot Noir, 10 Meritage, 13 Chardonnay, 33 Pinot Noir, 10 Icewine and 6 sparkling wines. Exhausted by the end of it, but with discussion we chose wines that will do Canada proud in London.

Friday, March 8: A Vintages tasting and, in the evening (after a nap), dinner at our friends Natasha and Roger.

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