Why a Tasting Bar?
After more than 20 years of providing Comox Valley residents with expert winemaking experiences, Signature Wine’s co-owners, Sigrid Lees and Lisa Whitmore, wanted to expand their business.
While they still do wine making, this new addition to Signature’s product line is proving to be a welcome complement to the North Island culinary scene. Customers are raving about the selection, high quality and value of their oils and balsamic vinegars. Adding the tasting room has turned out to be a perfect marriage for Signature’s business model. It has also proven to be a boost for businesses in the Valley in general. Despite the fact that it just opened in February 2014, the tasting room is already on the map as a ‘must see and experience’ destination with local tourism operators like Island Gourmet Trails culinary tours and Island Joy Rides Cycle Tours.
Before they renovated and set up the tasting bar, the business partners did their research and sampled plenty of extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) and vinegars themselves. It was important for them to ensure that they fully understood the industry and that they secured the best possible products.
“We were looking to add something that would compliment our wine making services,” says Lees, who opened Signature Wines more than 21 years ago. “We learned of the ever-increasing popularity of olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting bars in the USA and some of the larger cities in Canada. We conducted extensive research into the product and the concept. Both of us already knew about the health benefits of olive oil and loved to cook with it. We felt that many others would share our enthusiasm.
“Over a period of three months we traveled to various facilities and researched the products. We ultimately decided to work with a family-owned and operated business in Oakland, California, to be our primary supplier and mentors. They have been in the olive oil business since 1914, so they certainly know what they are talking about.”
Signature Oil & Vinegar opened its Comox tasting bar in February 2014, and then another in Campbell River in November 2014.