A couple of days ago I met with the two senior LCBO managers responsible for wine clubs and other special services to determine how best to keep the flow of yummy wines coming to our loyal imbibers. It was a productive session. While it was apparent that these gentlemen were not responsible for the LCBO’s reactions to Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian’s ruling (Feb. 27, 2013 - that the LCBO must end their practice of collecting personal information from wine club members) and were not in a position to discuss them, they were clearly interested in helping us find the most practical way to continue operations.
The LCBO’s revised wine club regulations simply won’t work for us. These new rules dictate that wine club members must pick up their wine at one of a small number of designated LCBO outlets throughout Ontario. As an example, our members in Port Hope would have to go to Belleville or some other city. Even more inconveniently, our members in Toronto (to whom we personally deliver) would have to pick up their wine at the LCBO loading docks at 33 Freeland Street (a harrowing exercise at the best of times) between the hours of 8:00 AM and 4:00 PM, weekdays only! Further, wine club members will be subjected to additional fees and charges if they don’t pick up their wine within three weeks of being notified that their wine has been released and on its way to the designated LCBO outlet. Our experience shows that it frequently takes more than three weeks for wine just to get to the outlying LCBO stores from the LCBO Toronto warehouse!
Fortunately there is a viable, if imperfect solution called Private Orders. Private Orders do not fall under the new wine club procedures. We can still deliver locally and direct the LCBO to send wine to the most convenient LCBO store for those outside Toronto. But, it means that we must submit a separate, personally signed LCBO order for each and every individual request (before we were able to summarize your requests and submit a single order to the LCBO). We cannot sign on your behalves (for some bewildering, unexplained reason). You will order in the usual way. Then we will complete the LCBO order form and send it to you by email. You will then sign it and send it back to us by email, fax or mail (email being the preferred method). We have done it this way for the last three offerings and it worked out pretty well. The biggest problem is we have to wait for the last member’s order to arrive before we can submit all of the orders to the LCBO. We are going to have to beseech our members to get their orders to us quickly so that we can place everyone’s orders on a timely basis. We usually provide a two week window from the time we announce a new winery to the time we close the orders.
There is a silver lining to all this hassle and additional administration. The ‘Private Order’ process provides you with the ability to waive the LCBO’s laboratory analyses. The LCBO subjects each and every wine (by brand and vintage - every twelve months even if it has been previously tested) to a laboratory analysis and examination. Over the past seven years, we have had more than one thousand different bottles tested and not a single one has ever been found lacking by this procedure. Yet, it costs $200 for each analysis performed. Further, it routinely delays delivery by a month and results in several bottles of each order being lost or destroyed in the testing process. All of our wines come from top rate producers in France and Italy – hardly third world countries when it comes to the regulation and control of their vinous products. By employing Private Orders we will be able to eliminate all of this needless time and cost from your orders.
So there you have it. We will continue to operate as a wine club, but submit Private Orders to the LCBO. Hélène and I are off to Bordeaux and the Dordogne for the next couple of weeks to visit wineries and prepare for her tour there this fall (work, work, work). As soon as we return, we’ll announce the latest offering of great wines from Charles Pacaud’s Domaine La Croix Chaptal (well worth the fuss and wait I assure you!).
Many thanks to everyone for your patience and good humour through this most interesting (think Chinese curse) experience.
Jim & Hélène