Phoebe Fung is proprietor of Vin Room, a Calgary-based wine bar. She spoke with Calgary’s Business about the industry in the city.
Calgary’s Business: How sophisticated has the Calgary consumer become when it comes to wine?
Fung: It’s been exciting to see the evolution in Calgary’s taste in wine. When I first opened Vin Room, all everyone wanted to drink was Malbec. Today, people are interested in different varietals and even learning more about organic wines. Netflix put out a documentary called Somm that really tweaked a nerve in wine enthusiasts and allowed for us to have a more in-depth dialogue with our guests. We’re happy to have such a knowledgeable team who can provide that extra layer of experience in the industry that can help continue to fuel the interest our customers have in us.
CB: Did the recession years of 2015 and 2016 impact your business in any way or have a lingering effect on your business?
Fung: We certainly saw a change in spending habits. Happy hour pricing was expanded to twice daily, there was an increase in sales of small plates and we also brought in a few more wines priced under $50 a bottle. We saw more people coming in to enjoy dinner or a movie and cocktails, rather than dinner and a movie.
CB: There are lots of wine establishments out there. What would you say are some of the key ways you differentiate yourself?
Fung: I think our biggest differentiator is that we build beautiful spaces made for gathering. Our properties are spacious and well lit. You can enjoy great wine and have private conversations with friends versus small, loud, dark spaces where you feel like you’re on the date with the people sitting at the table next to you. We offer the largest selection of wines by the glass in Canada. We’re really mindful of value so we’ve curated our offering to include a wide range of pricing so guests can try new wines without breaking the bank. I’m also very proud to be the first in Calgary to offer dog-friendly patios at our three locations. We’re a very dog-friendly organization – most guests are familiar with my Pomeranian Dom, who is a mainstay at our retail shop VR Wines – and provide treats made in-house for our guests to take home to their fur babies after a night out with us at Vin Room, all year round.
CB: How has the location at the airport worked out and do you have plans to open any more in Calgary?
Fung: Our location at the YYC International Airport has given Vin Room the opportunity to be recognized for providing great scratch-made food, which isn’t easy to find in airports, alongside an extensive wine list available by the glass. Vin Room YYC has also been recognized in Restaurant Design and Development Magazine with a lot of guests really loving the comfort and accessibility to travel necessities like power outlets, comfortable seating and luggage storage. I would love the opportunity to open airport locations all over North America.
CB: What’s your favourite wine and why?
Fung: I love champagne and am so excited bubbles aren’t only for special occasions anymore. Nothing brings me more joy than seeing guests enjoy a flute of champagne just because. While Pavlov’s dog likes the sound of bells, my dog Dom loves the sound of a bottle popping! To me, champagne is best served chilled and with friends.
– Mario Toneguzzi
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.