“I love knowing that the work I do has meaning and is directly helpful to local wineries.”

Wine and Career Tips from Astrid Brummer, Product Manager of Ontario Wines for the LCBO

Astrid Brummer is the LCBO’s resident Ontario Wines expert. As the product manager for Ontario wines, she mixes business with pleasure and determines what makes it to the shelves. Below, she shares her career tips and, of course, tells us which wines should be filling our glasses this fall. 

SDTC: Tell us about your job: What does your day-to-day look like?

Astrid Brummer:  At the LCBO, the Product Manager’s job has two facets: buying-related tasks like looking for wines, reviewing submissions, evaluating wines, and analyzing sales; and promotion-related tasks—determining which products to promote and by what means, forecasting performance, reviewing promotional performance and participating in marketing initiatives as needed.

On any given day I might be meeting with wine agents to discuss issues related to their wines, evaluating up to 100 wines in our sensory evaluation lab, compiling or reviewing sales data, visiting Ontario wineries to learn about current trends and new opportunities or meeting with LCBO teams to plan programs and promotions.

SDTC: How did you get here? What education, work or mentoring experiences led you in this direction?

AB: The best preparation has been the eight years I spent as an in-store product expert—an LCBO Product Consultant. This gave me lots of direct experience with customers and with the experience we create if we are doing our jobs well as retailers. My education has included courses with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) as well as courses in the Oenology and Viticulture program  at Brock University.

SDTC: What aspects of your job are you most passionate about?

AB: I am responsible for wines produced in Ontario and I am a passionate enthusiast for my category! I love the concept of authenticity and expressing the unique characteristics of a particular place. I feel honoured to be working on behalf of local producers and helping them, and the province of Ontario, reach personal and sales goals. I love knowing that the work I do has meaning and is directly helpful to local wineries.

SDTC: What advice would you give to young women hoping to get a foot in the door in your industry?

AB: Be open to new experiences and challenges and don’t be afraid to ask questions and learn more. Some of my best results have come from slightly scary projects that rewarded risk with new knowledge. Also, sometimes it is critical to move on when you find yourself doing an unpleasant or boring job, but at other times there is value in sticking with something if you can find a way to view the experience as “building your expertise” rather than “spinning your wheels.”

SDTC: What does a product manager do and what skills are the most important in your job?

AB: The most important skills, in my opinion, are analytical skills, listening skills, the ability to communicate ideas in writing as well as verbally, and a level of comfort with decision making, especially when judgment is needed before all potential information is available.

SDTC: Tell us a few of the Ontario wines that should be filling our glasses this fall.

AB: If we want to be right “on trend,” we will be enjoying juicy red blends, ripe and rounded Cabernet Francs and fresh Riesling, both dry or slightly sweet. (Tip: Try Wildass Red 2011, or Megalomaniac Homegrown Riesling.)

If we want to be trend setters we will be discovering Ontario’s sparkling wines and pairing them with casual meals and every-day celebrations. (Tip: Look for Jackson Triggs Entourage Sparkling Brut 2009)

SDTC: What’s your favourite wine to pair with a quiet meal at home? 

AB: Ontario Cabernet Franc – vibrant and fruity. Typically Pelee Island Lighthouse Cabernet Franc.

SDTC: What do you choose when toasting an accomplishment? 

AB: I love sparkling rosé and will use any occasion as a reason to celebrate. My go-to favorite is Henry of Pelham’s Cuvée Catharine Rosé. http://lcbo.com/lcbo-ear/lcbo/product/details.do?itemNumber=217505

SDTC: What’s a bottle you always feel good about giving as a gift? 

AB: This is a tough question because I love tailoring the gift to the specific interests and tastes of my recipients, but in general, I always keep sparkling wine in mind. Since there are so many great ones available from a wide range of price points and styles, it is usually possible to find the perfect match. One that I have given recently is Whitecap Sparkling from Hinterland – fresh and crisp with a really well-dressed package.

SDTC: Tell us about the Shine {ON} promotion. What can avid wine-lovers expect to discover at the LCBO this fall? 

AB: SHINE {ON} is a celebration of Ontario. It encourages consumers to share in the pride of what’s truly ours and showcase Ontario’s quality local wine, food and talent.  SHINE {ON} runs in 521 stores from September 15 – October 12, 2013 and provides LCBO customers with an opportunity to discover Ontario VQA wines, made from 100 per cent Ontario-grown grapes.  While LCBO supports the Ontario wine industry year-round,  SHINE {ON} allows customers to experience more Ontario wines at the time of year when winemaking is at its peak.  SHINE {ON} highlights 167products from 55 Ontario wineries.

Additionally, wine lovers will find a great selection of locally made wines. Many stores will have Ontario wine displays organized by “wine style,” our new classification system. This makes it super easy to find a type of wine that will like (e.g. light & crisp vs. full-bodied & rich) and to discover new wines with confidence.

An exciting VINTAGES collection released on Sept. 14th provides great examples of the styles that Ontario does so well, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay (Tip: Try Lighthall Vineyards Chardonnay from Prince Edward County), red blends, Riesling, sparkling and Icewine.

We’ll also be opening Our Wine Country Boutique stores!  Three stores in Windsor, Niagara Falls and St. Catharines will open new Ontario wine sections this fall featuring the best assortment and selection of local wines. These stores will be a unique destination for people looking to discover and experience Ontario wines.

And finally, there will be lots of events across Ontario during the promotion time where consumers can learn more about Ontario wine and food – two things that really make Ontario shine{ON}!  Starting September 14, visit lcboourwinecountry.com and vintages.com for more information on various event details.

1 Comment

  1. Brian
    June 23, 2015

    Hi Astrid

    You recommended an Ontario Cab recently and I can’t remember the name.

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