By David MacDonald
For John Garcia, owner of Wineracking Depot in Brampton, Ontario, it’s all about the layout. “When customers come into the showroom, they always like my layout. That’s why they’re there, to get design ideas fortheir own layout,” he said. Garcia’s 600 square feet showroom profiles, in what can only be described as an orderly eclectic fashion, 19 models of wine racks, coolers, and cabinets. From the beautiful 96 bottle Red Rack made from All Heart California Redwood – arguably the finest grade of Redwood – to the 900 cubic feet wine and pantry KoolR with a 53-64 degree Fahrenheit range, it’s a feast for the senses. And everything is stocked. The Red Rack, the digitally controlled 240 bottle Wine KoolR, all of it. It’s enough to turn an unwavering teetotaller into a thirsty oenophile.
I’m no wine expert. In fact, had it not been for an old episode of Frasier I saw recently, I wouldn’t even have known that an oenophile is a connoisseur of wines. What I did know prior to speaking with Garcia could be described as half-knowledge. I knew, for instance, that red wines and white wines are supposed to be stored at different temperatures – red warmer than white. “The red wine has to be at 57 degrees and the white wine is usually between 53 and 54 degrees,” Garcia told me with expert specificity commanding his inflection. I knew that wine and the sun should have a bookend relationship: When it’s a grape and when it’s in a glass. “We recommend storing your wine in a basement, away from large windows and any significant sunlight or heat,” he said with an almost paternal concern.
These were not the affectations of a salesman. Garcia’s not an aficionado with a paycheque. He grew up in Wine Country. “I’ve lived my whole life in Southern Ontario,” he said. “My family is here, the wineries, the machineries of the whole industry are here. It’s home.”
According to the Wine Country Ontario Media Centre,17.5 million litres of locally grown Vintner’s Quality Alliance (VQA) wines were sold in 2014 to the tune of $395 million CAD. These internationally recognized wines, grown on the Niagara Peninsula, Prince Edward County and Lake Erie North Shore, lend a lot of clout to Wineracking Depot.The Huff Estates 2013 Pinot Noir or the Jackson-Triggs 2012 Delaine Syrah both come to mind.
It is a sense of culture as much as it is a sense of business that drives Wine Racking Depot. “I know that people who love beautiful wines love beautiful wine cabinets and racks. But not all wine lovers have spacious basements, or basements at all,” he conceded. “While we recommend basement-like environments, a sophisticated wine room doesn’t have to be down a set of stairs in a rustic cellar.”
Wineracking Depot carries KoolR brand wine cabinets that range from 120 bottles to 500 bottles.These cabinets are not only temperature specific to meet all wine storage needs, they also advertise their contents. “They’re the perfect accent to living rooms, kitchens, or anywhere in your home,” Garcia insisted. “Some wine lovers belong to wine clubs and collect very specific vintages. For these customers, a bottle of wine can be like a trophy on a mantel. Well, we provide the best mantelpieces, I think.”
For collectors whose needs may go beyond the KoolR cabinet capacity – they do in fact produce an 800 bottle, three door, double deep cabinet that Garcia will happily special order – there are four easy answers: the KoolR Magnum, the NUVO upgrade, the WineKoolR upgrade, and the Magnum upgrade. These easy-to-install coolers are energy efficient solutions to basements with their own unique climates or to the room in your house that you’ve christened. Available in 120 Volt/60 Hertz and 220 Volt/50 Hertz configurations, these whisper quiet units are ideal for spaces up to 900 cubic feet and add a discreet modern accent to an ancient practice.
“Customers who buy coolers,” Garcia explained, “are usually interested in our racking – these are modular systems.” When used in tandem, the 48 and 32 inch high Redwood racks are as close to custom as it gets. “Private customers, home owners, restaurateurs, they all have needs and specifications and we’re able to make theRedRack system work for them. They’re affordable; they’re luxurious; they’re stackable and expandable; and they’re easy to install.”
Affordable might be understating things. Wineracking Depot provides the lowest prices in the industry in Southern Ontario as well as competitive rates at their American and Chinese locations. “We can do this because of workforce productivity. Everything we assemble is generic, so my need for a particularly skilled or large staff just isn’t what it is at a custom manufacturer.”
Garcia prefers the blank slate to the dilettante when it comes to bringing someone on board at the Wineracking Depot. “The only skill I look for is trainability,” he said. “I’ve hired a lot of people over the years and I’ve come to learn that honesty is the trait to look for. I want someone who honestly wants to absorb the day-to-day of this industry. Family people. Team players. These are the people who know what it is to work as a group and that’s what I look for.”
With a warehouse that measures more than 6,000 square feet and a showroom that sees daily impromptu tours, communication and teamwork are essential. But it’s not just the size and duality of Wineracking Depot – which is slated for an expansion in 2017 – that makes collaboration key: It’s also Garcia’s same-day shipping guarantee. “It’s no longer next-day shipping or ship within three business days. If a customer orders their entire layout in the morning, then it’s going to be packed up and shipped out in the afternoon,” Garcia explained.
In 23 years of business, Garcia says Wineracking Depot has grown by approximately 35%, but he feels like it’s due time for a growth spurt. “I spent the last eight years flying back and forth between Canada and China to grow the brand and during that time I’ve put a lot of thought into expanding our focus to finished wine rooms. That’s where we’re headed.”