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Gargoyle Wine Club's Scott Zebarth turns wine into water

Gargoyle Wine Club co-founder Scott Zebarth speaks about their partnership with Water.org, plus their unpretentious wine bar at Bloor and Ossington.

Gargoyle Wine Club wines

On removing the pretension from wine clubs

"We didn't want to be the kind of club that is just trying to get some of their own product out the door. Some make their own wine at a very low price and just stick it in their club, and you're none the wiser because you can't look up the price of wine. That was very important for us — we wanted to be as transparent as possible. The notes are written by our team, so it's not really a traditional sommelier note, which I think everybody would lose their mind over like, ‘medium plus acid with a long, satisfying finish’. I think a lot of people don't get that so we try to just say why we love the wine, some information about it and great food that you can have with it — but things that you actually might make, instead of like, poached deer hearts."

"We wanted to be as transparent as possible"

On the importance of personalization

"Gargoyle, our wine subscription-based service, was up and running for about two years before the pandemic. Then Will [Predhomme, co-founder] and I thought, what happens if you like what we’re doing, but you only like pinot noir? You're getting four bottles a month, and maybe one of them you love and the others are just not for you. That's why we wanted to have the concierge program. We have somebody on our team that you can contact and they will just talk with you one-on-one, see what you like and ask the right questions. They'll work with whatever budget you want. We've had people that actually ask 'can I still have a subscription, but just stuff I like?’ Yes, you can. I think that level of personalization was important for people."

On opening Praise Bottle Shop

"Gargoyle is all about curation. So what we wanted to do with Praise Bottle Shop was to have a little bit of an extension to the club, just in a brick-and-mortar capacity. But it's not just a bar with snacks and great wine — there are 25 to 40 bottles only at any given time. People can come in and actually experience some of the bottles that were in the wine club, find more things that they really like — plus we've got a small whisky program as well."

On creating the perfect wine bar vibe

"You could get a small taste of really expensive wine so that you can sit there by yourself and go 'oh, that's nice.' But that's not what wine is about — it's about having a shared experience.

The intangibles are always really important to me. You can get great wine at lots of places, but it's how you feel in a space that really differentiates. We've tried to make people feel comfortable so they can have a little escape, a nice bite of something and leave realizing that every single item they've purchased has given another year of water for somebody."

Gargoyle Wine Club co-founder Scott Zebarth

Scott Zebarth, Gargoyle Wine Club co-founder

On the importance of finding a charitable partner for Gargoyle

"Often, help never gets to the right spot. So it was very important for [Gargoyle Wine Club] to find a partner that was going to be transparent. After a little bit of vetting, we decided to approach Water.org. This might sound silly, especially being in the middle of COVID, but lack of water is probably the world's biggest crisis. And the part of it that is a little heartbreaking is that it is kind of solvable; it's just a matter of capital.

What we really wanted to do was to work with Water.org and have a very clear understanding of what an impact would mean, not like 'a percentage of our sales goes to' or whatever. We can honestly say that every bottle you receive from Gargoyle, whether it's whisky or wine, gives one person a full year of access to clean, safe water. We just passed 170,000 people."

Head to gargoylewineclub.com and praisebottleshop.com to learn more.

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