Phew! It’s been a while. Calvin and I have been super busy trying to get enough structure in place that we could deal with the flood of people who joined The Great Canadian Wine Challenge. Seeing as it has been a while and a lot of things have happened, we figured it was time for another Q&A!
Q1: You’ve now passed the 2nd official join date of September 30th. How many folks have you signed up?
Calvin: We have about 10 or 15 TIMES the number of people that we expected back when we decided to open it up to others; at last count 150 participants in TGCWC. Heck, we have more SPONSORS than the number of PARTICIPANTS we expected!
Shawn: Mommy?! Let’s just say that Calvin and I were not expecting anything like this to happen and it kind of caught us off-guard. With wives, kids, day-jobs, and other hobbies/activities, we were not expecting anywhere the amount of work that managing this challenge has turned into.
Q2: You did a “formal launch” in Picton last weekend. What was that and why did you choose Picton for it?
Shawn: We asked around for a venue. We had some great offers from Domus Cafe in Ottawa, and wineries like Coyote’s Run, Casa Dea, Lacey Estates, and Karlo Estates. We were trying to be as non-partisan as possible (within reasonable travel time from Ottawa). We were really looking to do something fun and maybe a bit silly. When we realized “Taste: Community Grown” (a great wine and food event) was on that weekend, we thought we could combine the two and maybe get to enjoy some wine at the same time. The Taste organizers in PEC were super helpful, as was Sherry Martin of Karlo Estates, so it made the decision easy.
Calvin: The “formal launch” wasn’t what we pictured it would be. [Really, nothing about The Great Canadian Wine Challenge is what we pictured it would be!] Shawn and I attended a Prince Edward County annual event called Taste: Community Grown, and had a display space to promote the Challenge. We chose that venue for several reasons, including that we wanted to celebrate #TGCWC and have some fun and knew that Taste would provide a perfect setting for doing that.
Q3: We heard there were barrels and grapes involved. How did the grape stomp go?
Calvin: You’ll have to ask Shawn as I wasn’t there when it happened (I may have been drinking some Canadian wine at the time!). All I know is I expect that there will be wine!
Shawn: You’ll have to ask Calvin. How about we just say grapes got crushed and they are apparently fermenting somewhere. There was a silly idea to make a port with them until someone realized how much brandy (or vodka) was needed to kill the ferment.
Q4: Did you guys stay in Picton for the weekend and visit any wineries?
Calvin: My family came down with me so we made a weekend out of it. Sherry and Richard at Karlo Estates very generously hosted Shawn, my family, and me for dinner Friday night. Sherry was a very magnanimous host and poured the Karlo Estates portfolio for us. There were too many to mention them all, but the Lake on the Mountain Riesling is a stunning expression of how good an Ontario Riesling can be, the Malbec is a monster, and the Van Alstine red port is spectacular. After Taste on Saturday, we went to Hinterland Winery. If you’ve never been, you should know that there is no such thing as a quick visit with Vickie and Jonas – they are such people people and so much fun! We tasted the current releases (love – LOVE – the Blanc de Blanc!!) and sniffed and sampled from the tanks. I will never forget the incredible aromas coming from the tank of Muscat destined to become part of Whitecap! I can’t wait to get some Ancestral in November; it’s fun stuff!! We finished the evening on the patio at Norman Hardie with some of his team and friends. Mmmmm, pizza! Part of why I love Prince Edward County is the sense of community. Friday evening while at Hinterland we watched some Pinot Gris being crushed for Norman Hardie. Then Saturday when we were back at Hinterland, Battista from Hubbs Creek came by to say “Hi” to Jonas and Vickie, and later that evening a few winemakers were over at Norman Hardie for pizza. So cool!!
Shawn: I had to travel solo as my wife decided to sleep on the 401 instead (long story involving a tractor trailer accident)! I just stayed on the Friday night and was lucky enough to score the “Wine Lair” and Karlo Estates, a “sweet suite” overlooking the vineyards. I did manage to get some cool shots of the vineyard at sunrise. In my short window there I did manage to shop extensively at Karlo Estates and make quick refill stops at Hubbs Creek and Hinterland. As Calvin points out, there is such a sense of community that is so obvious in the County…no wonder everyone who visits dreams of moving there!
Q5: What’s your next big activity in The Great Canadian Wine Challenge?
Shawn: NOTHING (hopefully). Actually Calvin and I have already met once since the launch and are trying to tie up a few loose ends. We’re thinking that we should continue to raise awareness of the challenge and figure out some way for us to let others join in throughout the year (but maybe not partake in the grand prize draws…more on this to come).
Calvin: The big activity for the next while will be catching-up to sign-ups, weekly reporting, and all the other administrivia involved. In terms of events, we are looking into having a presence at the Ottawa and Wine Food Festival during the Halloween weekend. I think he should go as Captain Canuck. He wants us to go as wine-drinking beavers. Oy vey!
Shawn: Beavers?!! What the heck?
Q6: Has anyone quit the challenge yet? If so, why?
Calvin: Yes, two people have said, “I’m out!” They are both in the restaurant trade, and they both didn’t last very long, which makes me wonder about “staying power”….
Shawn: Two folks “with very good personal reasons” I would say. I think we might have lost a few who can’t keep up with the reporting but we’ll see if it smooths out now that everyone knows how it works.
Q7: Some folks have complained about the weekly reporting saying it is too onerous.
Calvin: What do you say to them? We want participants to help build a Canadian Wine Culture so we have always had a requirement to provide a weekly update. We recently simplified the reporting by providing an easy template that everyone can fill out. It now only takes a couple of minutes once a week, and if needed, you can edit your response after you have submitted it. We figured this was easier for everyone than trying to post on a blog, or FaceBook, or trying to make one 140-character Tweet that could cover an entire week of wine! Also, this way people can provide feedback, suggestions, ask questions, etc. Some fantastic comments are being posted in the weekly updates and we will respond to them starting this week. We still encourage everyone to use Twitter with the #TGCWC hashtag to engage in a year-long conversation about Canadian wine!
Q8: Do you think many will make it through until August 31st, 2014?
Shawn: If Calvin and I can do it, I think anyone can! Conversely if they all drop like flies, does that mean that we get to keep all the prizes for ourselves?
Calvin: I am confident that the vast majority of participants in The Great Canadian Wine Challenge will remain committed to buying and serving only Canadian wine for a year.
Q9: Will you guys still be friends by that time?
Shawn: I’m not sure. After all, Calvin has ordered the same sandwich twice now at TGCWC World Headquarters (officially known as The Flying Banzini). In only three visits!! If he doesn’t try something else soon, we could be finished.
Calvin: Why wouldn’t we be?
Q10: What about the T-Shirts?
Shawn: I’m working with some suppliers, trying to get the price to a reasonable point. I should have something ready by the end of the month.
Q11: I heard rumours that there will be another TGCWC starting September 1st next year. Any truth to that?
Calvin: None whatsoever.
Shawn: <books appointment with psychiatrist>