The Canada court ruling by a New Brunswick judge that restrictions on bringing alcohol into the province were unconstitutional was in many ways, precedent setting. Gerard Comeau was charged when he brought 14 cases of beer and 3 bottles of liquor into New Brunswick (an amount over the allowable limit set out by the New Brunswick Liquor Control Act of 1 bottle of wine or alcohol, or 12 pints of beer) but ultimately pardoned of those charges when Provincial Court Judge Ronald LeBlanc ruled the Fathers of Confederation intended for all Canadians to imbibe freely of their neighbour's barrel (er, interprovincial free trade of all goods, including alcohol).
Okay. So what the heck does any of this mean? How does this impact you if you’re wanting to buy wine from outside of Ontario? What’s the significance of this ruling on wine delivery within province? What’s the history of these laws and where are we headed for the future of wine e-commerce?
Here’s the skinny:
In brief, although wine e-commerce within Canada is still somewhat of a complicated political issue, wine consumers can still access a great amount of Canadian goods through a growing number of online, home delivery options.
After his charge was lifted, Mr. Comeau was quoted as saying “After three years, I’m thirsty.” Thankfully, with all of these online options and a political future moving towards the free trade of alcohol between provinces, we won’t have to be.
We live in a marvelous age for e-commerce. Books, clothes, even our groceries can be ordered, purchased and delivered to our homes with just a few clicks of a button. But what about the home delivery of wine? Is it legal to buy wine online in Ontario? Can you, from the comfort of home, access a large and diverse online assortment of quality and vintage wines? The answer to all of the above is: absolutely.
Although home delivery within Ontario is not yet available through the LCBO, there are many alternative wine clubs and subscription services that offer wines from over 200 world class Ontario vineyards. What’s more, ordering direct through a wine subscription service can be a fantastic way to discover new wines not available through the LCBO or other provincial liquor control boards.
kwäf, a Toronto-based wine e-commerce site, offers its members a plethora of home delivery options including exclusive flash wine sales (you literally can’t get these selections anywhere else) and a subscription wine club service that brings 6 new wines to your doorstep every 3 months.
If you are a Canadian resident (with a few provincial exceptions) you can in a matter of moments sign yourself up for some great wines, or somebody else if you're in an altruistic type of mood. Delivery times may vary (kwäf includes estimated delivery dates on their website) and in matters of the home delivery of wine, waiting, as they say, will be the hardest part.
Over the past week, we’ve been sharing all the ways that team kwäf uses their ClubK (from kitchen inspiration, to learning more about wine, to enjoying the perfect pairing of wine and music), and how it’s about more than just great wine delivered to your door.
ClubK is about how great wine can play a role in all the moments of your life—great or small.
In our final installment, we introduce you to kwäf co-founder, Justyn, who tells us how he uses the six killer wines in his ClubK:
"It’s all about the party. Whatever makes entertaining more fun, and less work, I’m all over it. That’s ClubK, it really is a party in a box—and that’s what I was looking for when I came up with the idea for ClubK. Wine wise, I know I’ve got the evening covered from start to end with interesting wines my guests likely haven’t tried. And, the pairing notes from the Taste Buds provide inspiration for some delicious food to support our quaffing. It’s the perfect excuse to put out an invite for dinner and drinks at ours." -Justyn, kwäf co-founder
Are you ready to get the party started? Order your ClubK by June 16 and get the Summer box in time for the Canada Day long weekend. Now that’s a reason to celebrate.
This season just wouldn’t be what it is without the classic Summer Jam—from Beach Boys’ golden oldies to the latest singles from Drake or Tegan and Sara.
And whether you’re kicking back after a long day at the office or revving up for a good ol’ dock-rocker, ClubK has the wine and music covered with six killer wines and a specially curated Spotify playlist.
The playlists are a relatively new ClubK (Summer box ships June 20!) feature our own Chief kwäffer, Andrew, particularly enjoys when he’s catching up on emails on the front porch:
"On a recent Friday evening my wife and kids were away and I had some work to do, so pulled one of my ClubK wines out of the fridge. While taking a look at the write up to read about the wine, I came across the Spotify music list, downloaded it and turned it up a bit… and then got back to replying to e-mails from the front porch with a second (arguably a third) glass."
Get your ultimate summer wine and music setlist in time for the Canada Day long weekend when you order ClubK by June 15 »
Want to know how to sabre a bottle of bubbly?
Or maybe you just want to impress your guests by serving the perfect wine with mushroom risotto. There's a lot to learn about wine and it can be a little overwhelming.
That’s how Maxie, kwäf’s Happiness & Marketing Coordinator, felt when she first joined the team:
"The only thing I knew about wine before I got my ClubK subscription was that I liked to drink it. Since joining kwäf, and after two shipments of ClubK, I can confidently say that I can tell a long finish from a short; I can pick out the aromas in the tasting notes; and I understand why pairing an off-dry white with a spicy curry is a match made in heaven. Not that i’m bragging, or anything ;)"
ClubK makes discovering new favourites and growing your arsenal of fun wine facts (they make great party tricks and conversation-starters!) super easy.
Just a few clicks and you’re set to receive endless wine (6 new bottles every 3 months) without lifting another finger! You’ll get tasting notes and tips from our Sommelier experts for every bottle, and each box is always backed by our 100% Happiness Guarantee.
Ready to level up your wine game?
Whether you’re a Master Chef or a serial delivery dialler (or somewhere in between), having a glass of wine by your side while you prep and sit down to a meal is one of life’s true pleasures.
And the best way to know you’ll always have a great wine on hand for any day of the week is with a box of six killer wines from our ClubK packs. (Next box ships June 20!)
For kwäf’s own Marketing Manager, Jessica, this is a daily ritual she takes (somewhat) seriously:
"I love to take the time to cook a good meal when I can. And knowing I’ve got a selection of great wines—with all the food pairing and tasting tips from the Taste Buds—from my ClubK, makes the whole process that much more enjoyable. Pouring myself a glass while I contemplate the contents of the fridge inspires me to get creative. Or sometimes it helps me just kick back and wait for the pizza to arrive…"
So what are you waiting for?
Get your box of dinner muses delivered right to your door for just $119 all in when you subscribe today!
Or, try out a one-time shipment for $122.
Either way, Meatloaf Monday just got a whole lot more exciting!
We know wine gifting can be overwhelming at the best of times, never mind over the holidays. Want a perfect, sommelier approved hostess gift that won’t break the bank? Looking to have your present stand out on the boss’ holiday gift table? Need some quality wine of your own to not just survive the holiday bustle but, dare we say, enjoy it?
kwäf is here and we’re taking the guesswork out of wine selection to help you breathe a little easier (and drink a little classier) this holiday season. We’ve also peppered in a few things that are on our own wine wish lists here at kwäf, so pour yourself a glass of your favourite vintage and cozy up to our 2015 holiday gift guide.
kwäf Holiday Gift Box
Avoid lineups and snow-filled parking lots whilst crossing off every wine lover on your list (so, everyone?) with this beautiful box of wines. Starting at just $59, a kwäf holiday gift box includes three bottles of sommelier selected wines, a booklet of tasting notes and food pairings, and a personalized handwritten note. You choose your box level—Great, Outstanding or Statement—and we’ll take care of the rest.
Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine (kwäf wish list)
This new book by the authors of the award-winning website, Wine Folly, is being heralded as “the best introductory book on wine to come along in years” and we agree! Full of beautiful and easy to understand infographics (pictures!) this book is for anyone looking to gain a deeper understanding of wine in a fun and approachable way.
Give the gift that keeps on giving with a ClubK subscription. kwäf’s signature, 6-bottle specially selected seasonal pack will ship directly to your gift recipient's home, spreading holiday cheer long after the tree has been tossed to the curb. Our professional sommeliers taste hundreds of wines (tough job, we know) and narrow it down to these top 6, each from a different Ontario winery, to ensure you only get the best of the best this holiday season and beyond.
This is the perfect hostess gift. Specially selected, limited availability wines in our kwäf Exclusive lineups are as important to bring to your holiday parties as glad tidings and good cheer. Pick up our current offer, the Tawse 2012 Grower’s Blend Cabernet Franc; perfect for combatting the winter chills and sharing (or not) with good friends and family.
Bicycle Wine Rack (kwäf wish list)
Who doesn’t love wine and sustainable transportation? Now you can marry the two with this über stylish, Montreal-made, leather bicycle wine rack. Unless you’re giving to a renegade winter cyclist, this gift will have to wait for warmer weather to have its first outing but who doesn’t like to be reminded of summer? And drinking outdoors?
Decisions are hard, we know. Give a kwäf gift card and let the recipient pick their wines! Choose your denomination and you'll be sent a kwäf gift card straight to your inbox. You can forward it on via email, or print it out and include with your own card. Shopping for free AND receiving high quality wines to their door? Sounds like two gifts in one to us.
Missed the cut-off date for holiday wine delivery (December 15 in Ontario, December 10 elsewhere); we’re here to help. Our kwäf taste buds have selected some great wines available from the LCBO that will carry you through our office closing hours until we’re back again in the New Year, ready to dazzle with our 2016 kwäf lineup.
We'll be popping up at the Union Station Holiday Market starting on Monday morning and running all next week (Dec. 1 to 7) in the Great Hall. (That's the main hall of Union, with the massive soaring ceilings and big clock; but we're not sure exactly where we'll be yet.) Check out the Holiday Market website for all the details—we're there 7 am to 7:30 pm on Monday; then 10 am to 7:30 pm the rest of the week; 10 am to 6 pm on Satuday, then Sunday (final day) 10 to 5.
This is pretty exciting, because we'll have some of our wines on display—though we can't provide samples, sadly—and we'll also announce our new wine-of-the-month club. It's called The Goods, because we source good wine from local wineries (not the stuff you see at the LCBO), get our sommeliers to give it their nod of approval (a grueling tasting process!), and then we pack it up with love and fun stuff in a box.
The Goods is the perfect way to give wine for Christmas (or any occasion, really). We do all the work, and your loved ones (or clients) get killer wine delivered right to their home or office. You'll be able to order The Goods right on the spot, or later from the comfort of your own computer. We'll deliver your wines in time for Christmas.
This is the first year for the Holiday Market at Union Station, and we're looking forward to meeting and chatting with hoardes of people. Organizers are expecting 100,000 people to visit the market vendors over the week. Doznes of great pop-up shops will be there, including some of favourite foodie joints like The Spice Trader and Nadege. There's lots of other good stuff too (the non-edible kind).
The market will be in the Great Hall, main floor level. We'll be there all day, every day, with some of our pals and Taste Buds. Come by and say hi to sommelier Zoltan Szabo and find out why he's so "unbelievable"! We'll be live Tweeting and sending out tips on holiday wines. Follow @kwafwine for all the fun.
By Dick Snyder, CityBites
“There must be a better way...”
No, that’s not the sotto voce musings of a frustrated commuter waiting for a streetcar, it’s the exhortation of an increasingly vocal community of Ontario wine lovers who know they’re getting the short end of the cork and are fed up with it. Meanwhile, the LCBO is in the courts, on the news, in the papers and all over social media this week—and it’s not a pretty sight. Consumers want their wine and they want it now, and when the LCBO can’t or won’t give it to them, where can they turn?
Well, nowhere really. And that’s the point. But there may be some light at the end of the bottle. Revolution is in the air—though it’s likely to be a very polite, Canadian-style evolution that’ll take several years of apologizing and “excuse me’s” before anything tangible happens. Still, any ray of hope is welcome. Must remain positive.
The CTV’s Paul Bliss broke a story last week week in which he coaxed Premier Kathleen Wynne to concede that she is open to “loosening” the LCBO’s monopoly, though she appeared a bit trepidatious when she said it (on camera, on a train). (And I bet she got an earful from LCBO honchos the next day.) The gist of the story is that Ontario winemakers are forced into being too reliant on the LCBO to sell their wares, and when the LCBO says “no” to stocking their wine, the winemakers have few alternatives. Actually, they have no other retail alternative at all. In the CTV spot, Coyote’s Run winery owner Jeff Aubry said the liquor laws in Ontario have created one of the most repressive alcohol distribution regimes in the Western World.” Weighty words, even among fellow comrades. Problem is, most wine buyers have no idea how green the grass can be, and remain blissful in their ignorance. For unless you’ve traveled—even to Buffalo—you’d have no idea how good, progressive and fun the wine-buying experience can be.
I stood in an LCBO last week, chatting wines with a fellow customer in front of the Vintages wall. She said a visiting guest from Germany stormed out of another LCBO in a huff and refused to buy any wines during his stay in Ontario. He found the wine-buying experience not only terrible, but the prices astronomical.
Many years ago I stumbled into the Burgundy Wine Co. in New York City and found customers and staff tasting wines, talking, joking and inviting everyone to join in. They sell wines made from the Burgundian grapes of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as Champagne. Imagine the power of such focus—the depth of knowledge, the variety (at all price points), the opportunities to discover new wines with a flavour profile that you really love.
Last year in Austin I hit The Whip Inn roadhouse for a bite and some raucous Texas blues and—surprise!—found a beautifully stocked grocery store and wine shop, along with the requisite dance floor, bar, patio and puppet show (that’s another story). And get this: you have to walk in front of the band to get to the shelves of wine. You pluck a bottle and either take it to the cashier and go home, or take it to your table and drink it. Imagine! Even better, they had bins of great wine at half off. I got a few bottles of Patricia Green Cellar’s Pinot Noir from Oregon for $18—it normally sells for upwards of $40 (and you’ll never see it on the LCBO shelves anyway, so forget about it).
Yes, there is a better way. There are lots of better ways. I like this story from the New York Times entitled “New Wine Shops in New York Put Patrons at Ease.” I like the title, because it telegraphs that “old” wine shops are not about ease, but rather anxiety. (Hello, LCBO!) There’s a photo of the hipster owners of Alphabet City Wine Company on the Lower East Side hanging around in what looks like a den with retro stereo gear, low lighting, junky furniture, etc. But this is in fact a wine shop contained within the atmosphere of a dive bar.
I like this story because it’s three-years old. Both the Times and the Wall Street Journal (and lots of other U.S. media, I’m sure) covered the hipster wine shop craze to death in the late 2000s, and now it’s pretty much accepted that there’s a whole new generation of wine drinkers that relate to wine—and the purchasing of wine—in a completely different way. Think: a shelf of staff picks, open bottles to sample, walls of wines themed by mood, Top 10 lists, wines organized by terroir, etc. Sounds like a bookstore or record store, doesn’t it?
The story is over in the United States; but it’s not even a pipe dream in Ontario. I image Premier Wynne would break out in a cold sweat if you put her in a shop like that and suggested, even humorously, that such a thing be allowed in Ontario. No, no, we mustn’t mix vinyl records and alcohol. Could lead to trouble, truancy and loitering. Imagine a wine store with comfy chairs, great reading material, a washroom. You know, to make you feel like a valued customer, to enhance your experience, to help you learn something about wine.
The Wall Street Journal ran a story called “Wine Stores with Schtick” in 2007, which identified the new trend of “Y stores” named for the generation of wine lovers they’re aiming to please. And they’re doing it with merchandising gimmicks and—gasp!—plain ol’ good customer service. Like rewarding regular customers with tasting points they can redeem for samples of wine. The story mentions stores that organize wines by categories like fresh, soft, smooth and luscious. Stores where the greeters ask every customer “what are you having for dinner tonight?” Stores that are hyper-focused, like the one in Hawaii that only sells cheese and wine. Or the one that only stocks Spanish wines, 115 of them, plus a lot of sherries. (That shop, New York’s Tinto Fino, closed in May after seven years; not all concepts are the right ones.)
Last year Wine Country Ontario, a marketing and lobbying association of wine producers, launched a campaign at MyWineShop.ca challenging consumers to design and describe their ideal “local, privately-owned” wine shop. The goal is to educate wine lovers that there is, indeed, a better way, and the site’s FAQ site does a nice job of explaining some of the salient points. This point is to illustrate how some private wine stores can complement the LCBO’s mass-market approach by filing in the gaps with more esoteric, small-batch or just plain niche-market products. The site has a nice mechanism for emailing your local MPP and the premier a semi-customized note outlining the benefits of privatization. (It’s easy to do, so do it!)
Wine writer Rick van Sickle did a nice job this week of wrapping up the current state of affairs with his post “Set the Ontario Wine Industry Free.” He writes critically and with insight that the LCBO’s recent move to open three VQA wine boutiques, one each in Niagara Falls, St. Catharines and Windsor, are little more than token gestures. “Only a fool would believe that all of this renewed interest from the LCBO for local wine isn’t being partially driven by the growing calls for privatization and modernization of the antiquated monopoly,” he wrote. But, he scoffs, the LCBO’s apparent self-satisfaction that they’ve got it right is cold comfort for the rest of us. Vin Sickle cites a Toronto Star article from two weeks ago, and writes: “The [LCBO’s] strategic plan for 2013 to 2016 calls for 34 new stores, ‘after determining through customer research that shoppers like the lighting and design of the new facilities,’ the Star story says. Really? They like the lighting, so let’s build some more stores! Imagine if the real world worked like that?”
So where to next? For now, it’s about keeping the pressure on, and spreading the good word. Wine lovers need to understand that a better way is within reach. Until then, and with apologies to Joe Strummer: “I’m all lost in the supermarket. I can no longer shop happily.”
Have you enjoyed a super wine-buying experience? Please tell us about it. Together, we may even effect change.
This story was originally published in CityBites magazine on September 30, 2013. It has been re-posted here with permission from the publisher.