A: Bottom line, we don’t give samples because it’s illegal. No U-Brew, U-Vin, or ferment-on-premise establishment in B.C. is allowed to give samples – so that should be the end of the story, right? Unfortunately, we still get asked this question so often, that it obviously needs further explanation.

tasting

Here’s what the Liquor Licensing Branch of British Columbia has to say about Public Sampling:
“Because [U-Vin operators] are not licensed liquor manufacturers, they may not provide samples of finished product to the public either within their establishment or elsewhere.”
“The first offense of the No Consumption Contravention shall result in a 1-3 day suspension and a $1000-$3000 fine. Subsequent contraventions shall serve a 6-9 day suspension of license and a $3000 fine”

Conner’s Wine Cellar is family run, and it is our sole source of income. A single infraction would most certainly put us out of business, so for us, it’s a no brainer. We don’t and won’t give samples. You’d think that would be enough of a deterrent for most operators, but apparently it is not.

I recently had a telephone query regarding whether we had samples and when I explained the law, the young lady on the phone said “My mother told me NEVER to trust a UBrew that won’t let you try the product first!” I explained that any product in our store that is even close to ready, is owned by another customer, and not by me. And that even if I was okay with breaking the law, I am certainly not okay with stealing from my paying customers. If some other establishment is giving you samples, then they’re not only willing to commit a federal offense, but they’re also willing to steal from the people that have entrusted their wine to them.”
I summarized by saying “If you’d rather do business with someone that is proving to you that they are a crook and a theif, over someone that is willing to lose a sale to prove their integrity, then that’s your prerogative – but I believe that Conner’s Wine Cellar is one of the fastest growing U-Vin’s in the province and has been voted Chilliwack’s Best U-Vin 3 years in a row not just because of the amazing quality of product we produce, but also in no small part because of our integrity and ethic. We have a 100% satisfaction guarantee. We will work with you to find a wine kit that you will LOVE, or it’s free. There’s no risk on your part, and I really hope that knowing this, you will chose to do business with us.”
She simply replied “Well, that’s not at all what I’ve been told before.” and hung up. Obviously you can’t win them all, but as frustrating as that response was, I still feel great about losing that sale with our core values intact and hung high for everyone to see.

Why we would almost never give samples even if it were someday legal to do so

If someday the law were changed, and providing samples became legal, we still would rarely give samples for two very important reasons;

1.) All of the customer owned product in our store is “in progress”. There’s not a single finished product. It’s actually illegal for us to have so much as a single bottle of finished product on site (subject to the same penalties as described above), but for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that law got changed too. The #1 reason I wouldn’t want to serve young, green, under attenuated, room temperature samples to a prospective customer is that it would be an absolutely HORRIBLE example of the quality of product that can be produced on our premise. The sample might be finished fermenting, but 80-90%% of the complexity and depth is developed in the bottle during the aging process – I would rather lose a sale than to leave a customer thinking that a wine that’s almost ready for bottling is representative of the quality we’re so proud of and have won more than 50 medals and awards for.

2.) We have over 500 different wine kits to chose from.   Let’s pretend for a minute that sampling was legal and that having finished product on site was also legal.  In this make believe land, I could now make batches of wine, age them to perfection and then proudly pour a sample of something truly amazing for a prospective customer. We would surely get the sale, because I know that our product can be THAT GOOD. Except, there’s one small hitch … to have a sample ready to go for every wine that a customer might want to try, means that I had to make 500 batches, at 30 bottles per batch, that’s over 15000 bottles. My cellar at home holds 1200-1400 bottles and consumes an entire room, but hey, let’s just pretend I have an extra ~3000 sq/ft to dedicate to the project, and everything has now been perfectly aged for 12-18 months.  The kits alone set me back about $45,000 (my cost) and I had 3200 extra hours to kill,  so making all that wine was no problem at all.   Another $17,400 for bottles, corks, labels, shrink tops and we’re all ready to go.

I build an impressive wine rack in the store for the reds and setup a huge wine cooler for the whites.  I bring in one of every 500 AMAZING wines to proudly display. The first customer comes in and says “I’d love to try a sample of the CCWS Super Tuscan, as well as the GCI Washington Merlot.”   I proudly open the bottles, decant for an hour and/or pour through a venturi (depending on how long the customer is willing to wait), the customer is amazed and purchases the amazing CCWS Super Tuscan kit, to be made in-store, for $200.  Triumph!   All the toil and expense was worth it!  I made a sale!

Of course, now I’ve got two open bottles of wine that will be completely oxidized and undrinkable within 48 hours, and what are the odds of another 22 customers coming in in the next 2 days and asking to try those exact two wines? Well, since I only serve product that’s I’m proud of, I guess I have to toss those two bottles and bring in a couple fresh ones to fill the holes in the rack… good thing I made that sale though, this temporary up-front expense will totally pay for itself someday, right? Why yes, absolutely. If every single new prospective customer that I gave a pristine sample to decided to purchase a premium batch of wine, I’d be in the black after selling a mere 4800 kits, and that break even point could be optimistically be reached in 5 years! (We are of course going to be drastically increasing our sales because of this practice, right?) Hmmm… except that all the kits I had made would be completely over the hill and undrinkable by then, whether I gave samples or not – so naturally I would have to repeat the whole process and make another 500 kits…  get it yet?  It’s not practical, economical, or rational, and it still wouldn’t please everyone.

Okay, so that was a bit ridiculous, I get it. But given the number of times I’ve had to answer this same question, I wanted to make sure there’s no misunderstanding this time.

If you read this far, I’m impressed! Thanks for indulging me.

And by the way, how do you know you’ll like the wines you make at Conner’s Wine Cellar if we won’t give you samples?
Our 100% no-questions-asked complete satisfaction guarantee. That’s how.
We might have 500 wines to chose from, but we pride ourselves at being able to pick a wine for you that you will LOVE, just by asking a few simple questions about the kinds of wines you’ve enjoyed in the past. If we don’t set you up with a kit that is perfect for you, we view that as a failing on our part and will be more than happy to replace the kit with something else that you will surely enjoy. There is no risk on your part, we want you to be 100% happy with every aspect of our service, product, and consumer experience.

This is our promise to you!

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