The Drink Toronto Story (spoiler alert: we’re not married)
Last June Dick and I were getting our photos done for the website. Dolled up in a red dress (me) and navy sports coat (him), we took to Queen Street West with our intrepid photographer Rick O’Brien directing us to tilt our heads… chin down … nope chin up … ahhhh, just a touch back down — there!
As we were strutting, preening and posing, cars would whiz by and honk, passengers flashing big smiles and enthusiastic thumbs up. It took a few beep-beeps to realize they weren’t trying to throw us off our carefully composed poses — they thought we were lovebirds in the middle of an engagement shoot! I don’t see it. What do you think?
And just for the record … this is more accurately what we typically look like on any given day:
Anyway, it seems it’s not just strangers in the street who assume we’re a couple; tour takers have gingerly broached the question, too. Just last week, while I was waiting with a group outside the last stop of our West End Wine Discovery, and Dick was still to come out, someone nonchalantly ventured, “Sooooo…. uhhhhh… are… what’s your story? Are you guys… ummmm… dating…? married…?”
No and no. We’re friends and business partners, but Dick’s happily married with a lovely nuclear family that includes two kids, a cat, a dog and picket fence. Me? I am hopelessly devoted to Stella, the wine cat. She’s really demanding.
So how did two colleagues/friends decide to start a new business together? Well, I’m glad you asked.
In the fall of 2016 a group of wine writers, which included Dick, my sister Courtney, and me, were invited on a trip to Rioja, the major wine region of Spain. Courtney and I decided to tack on an extra five days in Madrid for a bit of a holiday (that’s us, above, wandering the streets of Madrid like a boss). We like to get as immersed in local cultures as we can when travelling: we rent apartments, figure out where the locals hang and do our best to speak the language. Being that we had such a short stay in Madrid we didn’t want to make a major tourist trap misstep, and being that I had never been to the city before I was anxious to get to the heart of the matter — fast.
We found a terrific food tour that took us through the Huertas district, the bohemian chic neighbourhood where we were staying. It was perfect! The tour showed us the best spots to eat and drink, shed light on subtle Madrid customs, and gave us a handle on directions so afterwards we could walk with certainty in any direction and not look like a lost tourist.
Half way through the tour, my sister turned to me and said, “This is exactly what Toronto needs.”
She wasn’t interested in starting a drink tour business with me, so I set out in search of someone else. Enter Dick. He’s been writing about wine, food and travel for eons. He owned and ran CityBites magazine for 10 years and is a co-founder of the online wine company kwäf. He really knows his way around the city’s restaurants, bars and good spots for eats and drinks.
Dick and I started planning Drink Toronto in December 2016 and launched our first tour in July of 2017. We have four Toronto tours currently on offer: the West End Wine Discovery, Craft Beer Experience, Parkdale Cocktail Stroll and Neighbourhood Mixer. And we’re hard at work planning our winter tours, which include something very, very cool the city has never seen and we just can’t wait to announce!
And that’s the quick sip on the fast and wild ride of Drink Toronto so far. We’ve been asked if we plan to open in other cities, and the answer is yes! But first, we need to make sure Toronto, our first baby, is on solid ground, so it’ll be a little while yet before we make an appearance anywhere else.
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