News From the Vardo

A simple act of consideration, or lack thereof

Being new at the whole rental thing, I imagine we'll go through a learning curve when it comes to dealing with bookings. We are thrilled when someone thinks of us as a place to hold a reception. We love to share in your event in any way we can. However, even the best plans can go awry and we get that. So when we spoke to a bride back in April about holding their reception at our winery, we were thrilled. When I called today to confirm the last minute details, I was told they had found another location instead. Not even an "I'm sorry." Fortunately, no other events were displaced for this one. Maybe it's because there was no contract or deposit. Either way, I was a bit dissappointed. I see it as a lesson in what we need to do when talking to people about booking the winery, especially if we close down for the day (which was not an issue this time). My message to those folks is this: We really appreciate that you think of us when choosing a place for your venue and yes, things happen, but should you need to cancel, please give us a call as soon as possible. I know that you may be busy, but finding out that you've decided to cancel when I'm calling to confirm last minute details is, in my mind, a tad inconsiderate on your part. When dealing with venues, please remember that often, these are little places that have to jump through a few hoops to meet your needs. Please try to give as much notice to everyone involved if your plans should change. For our part, I am going to be instituting a contract & deposit policy from this point forward because: a) It makes good business sense; and b) It gives everyone something tangible to work with in terms of expectations. To the bride and groom, we send our best wishes for a fantastic day and many many years of happiness. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Louis Gaal is the winemaker (and spouse of the ever patient Claire Faguy) at Blue Gypsy Wines in Oxford Mills, Ontario Canada, 45 minutes south of Ottawa. You can find this raving lunatic using the BlueGypsyWines Facebook or Twitter account. Visit them on the web as well at www.BlueGypsyWines.com
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When is a winery more than a winery?

When it's a set for a photoshoot. A friend of mine called yesterday asking if we were open to his using the winery tasting room as a set for a photo shoot sometime in the future. Then he asked me if I wanted to include the winery name/logo in the shots. Well... yes and YES! Actually, I was pretty flattered that he would consider the place for a shoot. I was thrilled about the possibility of some wide-spread publicity too. My ultimate hope is that one day, we can get a few more photographers and possibly a small budget movie or two in there. It might be a stretch, but those who know me also know I think big and never pass up an opportunity to put Blue Gypsy on the map. ;-) Honestly, I'm just looking forward to seeing how it all turns out. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Louis Gaal is the winemaker (and spouse of the ever patient Claire Faguy) at Blue Gypsy Wines in Oxford Mills, Ontario Canada, 45 minutes south of Ottawa. You can find this raving lunatic using the BlueGypsyWines Facebook or Twitter account. Visit them on the web as well at www.BlueGypsyWines.com
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Making the most of an itty bitty advertising budget

At Blue Gypsy Wines, we live by the adage: "You can't be cheap AND lazy." So, we like to think of ourselves as frugal instead. We could not have finished the building in time without the help of several friends who gave up a day here and there to help build the ribs that would form the building. It was hard work, but the fact was we simply didn't have the money to pay someone to do it for us. Almost everything you see when you walk into the building was done by us, except for the spray insulation. We made the most of the money we had (and didn't), but the result is actually quite nice, if I say so myself. We made the most of our skillsets; everything I learned building houses with my parents, the summer jobs painting and renovating, etc. The same principle applies to our marketing efforts. As a business analyst with 20 years in the field, I use what I learned in college and combine it with real world experiences to promote the heck out of the winery. Claire and I are becoming master networkers, visiting every wine show we can afford, appearing on TV (Daytime Ottawa has been wonderful to us), writing press releases, finding journalists who want material for their next article, and so on. Our Facebook page (BlueGypsyWines) and twitter feed (@BlueGYpsyWines) have been positively smoking. It helps that we have a wonderful set of products and some very enthusiastic clients. I can't keep enough business cards on the counter. Wine clubs and associations have been instrumental in passing the word around. Folks like yourself who so kindly re-tweet and repost our blog links and articles. All this makes up a big part of the way we promote the winery. We also believe that the way we treat people is important as well. We try to provide a relaxed atmosphere where people can visit, taste at their leisure, then decide if they want to buy. I hate sales pressure, so I try not to bring that to the tasting counter. All this is to say that even though your advertising budget is small, it shouldn't stop you from moving ahead and putting the word out. It also means that if you lack the budget for large-scale advertising, you need to work that much harder and creatively. To make the most of a small budget, be prepared to plan and pound the virtual pavement. You also have to share. Mention other area businesses in your efforts and where practical, pool your advertising dollars. When you mention other area businesses, they often return the favour. For example, if I mention the Brigadoon Restaurant in Oxford Mills, Butler's Victorian Pantry in Kemptville and the Branch Restaurant (also in Kemptville), they may likely return the favour. What that means is that for the cost of 1 promotional exercise, I could potentially garner 3 mentions in return. I have effectively multiplied my effort by 4. Find ways to multiply your reach. The amazing thing is that by paying it forward, you create the possibility of a wave of advertising. Just remember that every way needs a refresh now and then, so ALWAYS mention others when the opportunity is right. It comes down to PLANNING! I made this point in my spot on Triune Productions' business series "Mind Your Own Business" which airs on COGECO in the Ottawa/Brockville area http://brocknews.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=10691%3Anew-seires-qmind-your-own-businessq-now-airing-on-bntv&catid=181%3Abntv&Itemid=230 . If you want to make the most of limited resources, you need to plan every promotional opportunity, and then create 3 backup plans. Spend money on a well-constructed website. People appreciate a well-conceived website that flows. Ours was put together by graduates from Algonquin College and it rocks. We needed a website and they needed a final project. It was a perfect marriage of needs. To summarize, you need to: 1. plan; 2. be creative; 3. be tenacious; 4. be generous with your work; and 5. be genuine. One last thing; always remember to promote the COMMUNITY. Let's face it, if you can draw people into the community to walk around and buy, EVERYONE benefits. Pay it forward and reap the collective benefits. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Louis Gaal is the winemaker (and spouse of the ever patient Claire Faguy) at Blue Gypsy Wines in Oxford Mills, Ontario Canada, 45 minutes south of Ottawa. You can find this raving lunatic using the BlueGypsyWines Facebook or Twitter account. Visit them on the web as well at www.BlueGypsyWines.com
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Build it and they will buy

As mentioned in earlier posts, our strawberry wine is our lowest sales volume product. We really don't know why, but one of the things we do is suggest that it serves as an excellent base for sangria. Despite this advice, people keep passing it over. Well. We finally decided to see what the react would be if WE pre-mixed the sangria and sold it as a just-add-soda-or-ice product. The results were impressive. In one weekend, we sold more bottles of sangria mix than we have strawberry wine in 2012. The convenience factor, coupled with the ability to taste the end product drove the sales. The peachy colour resulting from the dilution of the strawberry wine with cranberry, orange and lemonade. The alcohol level settles nicely at 10% thanks to the addition of rum and triple sec (less if you add soda or ice). Icing sugar rounds out the drink by adding a touch of sweetness. Amazing how the package appealed to so many people in the first weekend of sales. The recipe is no secret, so if you would like it, please drop us a note at info@bluegypsywines.com with the subject: "Sangria Recipe". We're happy to send it to you by email at no charge. Otherwise, you can drop by the farm in Oxford Mills, Ontario on Saturday 11-6 or Sunday 12-5 and pick up a bottle or 3 of sangria mix. Also available online for shipment to all points in Canada. Details at www.BlueGypsyWines.com and browse the store. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Louis Gaal is the winemaker (and spouse of the ever patient Claire Faguy) at Blue Gypsy Wines in Oxford Mills, Ontario Canada, 45 minutes south of Ottawa. You can find this raving lunatic using the BlueGypsyWines Facebook or Twitter account. Visit them on the web as well at www.BlueGypsyWines.com
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Metal buildings in the summer... some surprises

When we chose the metal building for our winery, we knew it would look like a barrel half buried in the ground. We also knew that (counter-intuitively) it would be cooler in the summer. We were told that when insulated, the steel would reflect 85% of the radiant heat from sunlight. Part-way through the construction, we became very aware of this fact as every day I spent putting in one of the 10000 odd bolts that hold the beast together meant a night home with another sunburn. Now, I should mention that I do not tan... I incinerate. I blame my mother who was born in Transylvania. I was quite certain that one day, Claire would find my clothes filled with dust on deck of the scissor lift. Close to a year later, I am very thankful for that decision. The past few weeks have been very hot here in Eastern Ontario. With June temperatures outside running in the high 30s (90s for my American friends) it was a relief to see that investment pay off as the building is about 10 degrees cooler than the outside temperature. Sure, it's still warm-ish inside, but nothing like the outdoor temperature. The addition of a screen door promotes a breeze and keeps it tolerable... a far cry from last November when we needed multiple layers to keep the blood from gelling in our veins. Now that all the exterior walls are insulated, it really is quite nice... although, I probably need to put a portable A/C unit in the cold room. All I am missing now is the tan, but that's normal. Good thing the wine is on ice! ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Louis Gaal is the winemaker (and spouse of the ever patient Claire Faguy) at Blue Gypsy Wines in Oxford Mills, Ontario Canada, 45 minutes south of Ottawa. You can find this raving lunatic using the BlueGypsyWines Facebook or Twitter account. Visit them on the web as well at www.BlueGypsyWines.com
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It's not time management that's the issue...

...it's the lack of time to do everything that needs to be done. At least, that is what it feels like some days. Like many in the wine business, we hold 'real jobs' to pay the bills. That generally means that we work 8-hour days, then head over to the winery for a couple of hours to catch up with chores. I'm not complaining. We knew it would be like this. I'm just glad the sun sets around 9 in the summer. I often gets calls about tours of the 'vineyard'. I would love to show people around, but the fields really need some TLC. Unfortunately, when the laundry list includes things like: blend and bottle wine for the next weekend, finish the production area, set up the cold room, etc., mowing just doesn't rank as high. It all comes down to the annoying reality that we actually need to sleep some time. What I need to do is hire someone do some of these tasks for us, but let's face it, the margins are slim and the focus is to get the winery to pay for itself. Maybe one day, wineries will actually be allowed to keep more of their revenue they generate so that they can invest in people and time-saving equipment. ...or I'll win the lottery jackpot. Seriously, our goal is to get to a point where the winery is generating enough income so that they can concentrate on the daily tasks (and pay all the bills) in season and maybe... work for someone else in the off-season. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Louis Gaal is the winemaker (and spouse of the ever patient Claire Faguy) at Blue Gypsy Wines in Oxford Mills, Ontario Canada, 45 minutes south of Ottawa. You can find this raving lunatic using the BlueGypsyWines Facebook or Twitter account. Visit them on the web as well at www.BlueGypsyWines.com It's all the more reason why we promote ourselves as much as we do. We know we have a great line of products and the more we sell, the more likely it is that we can continue making them. In the meantime, we'll get by on 5 or 6 hours of sleep and working the dream. Excuse me, I need to get back to the production area... I have a wall to finish. ;-)
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Marketing is SO important

We've had a couple of months worth of sales this year and it's ben pointing our some trends. The one that stands out is how the strawberry wine is selling less than we expected. This is completely puzzling because it really is so versatile as a base for spritzers, sangrias, etc. We decided to try a couple of things that would raise the profile of this wine. Our 'Buy the Glass' add-on to our sales license gives us a fair degree of flexibility. The first approach was to offer 8 oz spritzers for $3. Though we made next to no money on these, the hope was that people would be inspired to buy the wine and make spritzers at home. Sales, however, were tepid at best. Time for Plan B. Claire and I sat down one afternoon and started researching sangria recipes. After a couple of hours of taste testing (yes, our job sucks, but we will persevere) we hit on what we think is the perfect balance that registered 10% alc/vol. After crunching the numbers (not as easy as you would think after an afternoon of testing), we came up with the price point of $11 for 750ml. We'll start with 10 cases and see how it goes. It's a little extra work, but I think if we put in the time, we'll eventually get people to realize how awesome the strawberry really is. Never stop experimenting. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Louis Gaal is the winemaker (and spouse of the ever patient Claire Faguy) at Blue Gypsy Wines in Oxford Mills, Ontario Canada, 45 minutes south of Ottawa. You can find this raving lunatic using the BlueGypsyWines Facebook or Twitter account. Visit them on the web as well at www.BlueGypsyWines.com
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Long weekend options for imbuement

Im – bue (transitive verb) To soak something with something For those of us gearing up for the first OFFICIAL holiday of the summer, namely Canada Day, thoughts of deck chairs and umbrella drinks come to mind. I what will no doubt sound like blatant self-promotion, I offer the following suggestion for a wonderful deck drink. This is the recipe for our spritzers Mix 2 Oz (60 ml) Blue Gypsy strawberry wine (see, I told you it was self-promotion) with 4 Oz (120 ml) of your favourite carbonated lemon-lime drink. (I’d mention a couple, but they refuse to sponsor anything.) You could also substitute the lemon-lime for a raspberry flavoured carbonated drink instead. Self-serving as it might be, I want to point out that his blend takes a wonderful bottle of wine, triples the yield (you get over 2 litres this way) and drops the alcohol content from 11% to 3.6%. Since we leave out the sulfites, it means that you won’t necessarily experience ‘wine headaches’. If you drink too much though without the requisite amount of water, you’re on your own in the headache department… One last, but VERY IMPORTANT thing: alcohol is alcohol and no matter how you dilute it, it still affects you. PLEASE, please don’t drive if you‘ve had too many drinks. Stay where you are, pitch a tent, call a cab or have the host drive you to a hotel. There is no excuse for risking your life or the lives of others. Period. We’ll be at the winery to greet you this Saturday from 11 to 6, Sunday from noon to 5 and Monday from 12 to 3. Have a safe, long weekend. Happy 145th Canada. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Louis Gaal is the winemaker (and spouse of the ever patient Claire Faguy) at Blue Gypsy Wines in Oxford Mills, Ontario Canada, 45 minutes south of Ottawa. You can find this raving lunatic using the BlueGypsyWines Facebook or Twitter account. Visit them on the web as well at www.BlueGypsyWines.com
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Dabbling in Destination Journalism

A few weeks ago, a friend of ours, Laura P, wrote an article for the Daytrippers feature of Ottawa Citizen where she described her visit to Oxford Mills. The response to the article was incredible. People were making the trip from Ottawa to visit our little village and loving it. I decided to dabble in this medium, purely for self-promotional purposes, and write a similar article for the Kemptville EMC. My goal started out to be a vehicle to toot our horn, a piece to support the banner advert we had just placed. The result, I'm happy to say, was something very different. Instead of producing a self-serving piece of drivel, I ended up writing a short piece that dedicated about a paragraph to several businesses in the area. I gave a shout out to the Brigadoon Restaurant, Maplewood Community Centre, The Branch restaurant, Butler's Victorian Pantry, Oxford Mills General Store and of course, Blue Gypsy Wines. It's not Hemmingway, but it should be enough to let people know about some of the small businesses in the area. I am a big proponent of the idea that when you build up the identity of a community, it becomes stronger. In turn, stronger communities attract interest, especially those look to take short day trips. Let's face facts. Gas prices are killing the idea of travelling long distances. To make the most of our (and I include myself here) travel dollars, I prefer to spend less getting there and more once I arrive. With that, I hope to see the article in the Kemptville EMC on July 5. If the editors REALLY like it, there is a small chance it will be distributed to a wider audience. We'll see how that works out. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Louis Gaal is the winemaker (and spouse of the ever patient Claire Faguy) at Blue Gypsy Wines in Oxford Mills, Ontario Canada, 45 minutes south of Ottawa. You can find this raving lunatic using the BlueGypsyWines Facebook or Twitter account. Visit them on the web as well at www.BlueGypsyWines.com
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Cheering the new World Trade Center tower

It's not wine related, but... I just wanted to give a shout out to my New York brothers and sisters as construction workers raise the last framing beam on the new tower at the World Trade Center site. Most don't know it, but we spent close to 8 years in New York, some of those years working in Manhattan. I was working in White Plains, NY, 40 miles from the towers, when they were attacked. It's a time I will never forget. Living in Poughkeepsie, the wineries of the Hudson Valley served as our inspiration to start Blue Gypsy. I still miss it to this day, especially Baldwin Wines. If you've never been to NYC, you need to go. The energy of Times Square at midnight, any day of the week, is amazing. From the diners to the Salsa or Jazz clubs, it's the place to be. The people are amazing. Never mind what you see on TV; it's a lie. New Yorkers are warm, compasionate people who LOVE their city. I saw it on 9/11 and many times prior and since. Hats off to you all. I look forward to visiting the new tower in 2013. Dedicated to Christine Olender RIP http://www.legacy.com/Sept11/Story.aspx?PersonID=106921
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