“Every bottle of wine is touched by many hands, figuratively and literally. That’s why, for me, exploring wine is about meeting the people devoted to making it—getting to know the personalities that are poured into the final product.”
ACCREDITATION & AWARDS
Accredited Sommelier, Algonquin College – Ottawa
Smart Serve certified
Bachelor of Arts, University of Western Ontario – London
Executive Masters of Business Administration, Queen’s University – Kingston
Business Achievement Award, Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, 2006
Ottawa Business Journal ‘Forty Under 40’, 2007 Professional Services of the Year
Entrepreneurial Business Woman of the Year Award Finalist 2010, Ottawa
Question: From technology to ‘terroir’—how does a software sales and marketing director end up a wine-industry entrepreneur?
I traveled a lot when I worked in high tech, often to Europe. I’d entertain clients at dinner, always with a bit of guesswork because I never knew whether I was choosing a good wine or not. I’d play it safe and opt for the house selection. Realizing that I was leaving so many wines undiscovered, I was thirsty to learn more. So I enrolled in the Sommelier program at Algonquin College in Ottawa and completed the professional accreditation. Insatiably curious and more fascinated about the world of wine, I committed to learning about the business behind each glass. During the Queen’s University Executive MBA program, it was there when all my interests came together: wine, marketing, business. That’s really where the whole Savvy concept was born.
Question: What is the most essential ingredient to Savvy’s success?
Actually, there are three: creativity, learning and fun. We build all of these into each Savvy experience. We design every activity to have a special ‘aha’ moment for our participants. It could be the introduction to a wine they’d never tried before; it could be a unique pairing of food and wine. It could be talking all things wine with a winemaker over dinner. It is these ‘aha’ moments that often begins the journey of discovery.
Question: How far has your curiosity taken you?
To wine regions across Canada and around the world. Wine is global: there’s always someplace waiting to be explored. My curiosity has taken me beyond the sipping and swirling of a wine glass into the vineyards. I think it is important to get dirty! Planting and pruning the vines; picking the grapes at harvest; using the sorting and crushing equipment; and even helping in the bottling line. Working alongside winemakers at each step of the process is fascinating. Harvesting for two weeks in historic Tuscany, spending a freezing-cold night picking icewine grapes in Niagara, inaugurating the grape harvest at a new winery in Prince Edward County—those hands-on experiences have made me appreciate the labour and the love that go into a bottle of fine wine.
Question: What makes the Savvy approach distinct?
It really is the way we involve the winemakers. We like to bring out the personality of the wines by showcasing the people behind the wines. These men and women are passionate about what they do. They cultivate their land, they create a unique style with their winemaking techniques, and they craft premium wines with each year’s harvest. Their stories are inspiring, their knowledge is fascinating, and these people are down to earth – literally! Our approach is to bring the people who make the wine closer to the consumer who enjoy the wine. This builds a personal relationship every time a bottle is uncorked. I think there’s something special about knowing the person who the wine you’re serving to your friends at a dinner party.
Question: What’s ahead for the Savvy team?
New things, always. Every member of the team is encouraged to pursue her or his personal interests, to never stop learning, exploring and growing—and most importantly, to never stop sharing our discoveries. We’re just getting started. Who can say where the road will lead?
Debbie’s Wine Tips
Greet your guests with a glass of sparkling wine – always.
Dark chocolate cake and Californian red Zinfandel. One word: heavenly.
Don’t appreciate a wine just for where it comes from. Enjoy it for where it takes you.
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