Wines are their passion and business

Keon and Michelle Howard during a visit to a vineyard

With a mission to be the best place for wine enthusiasts to purchase wine in Georgetown, “Wine Days” has big plans for wine importation and distribution in Guyana.

Owned and managed by the Canadian-based Guyanese couple, Keon and Michelle Howard, who are currently on a one-year sabbatical in Guyana,  Wine days was birthed out of their profound love of wine.

In a recent interview with Stabroek News, the couple, who consider themselves to be wine aficionados, not only shared their plans for their business, but also how wine brought them together.

According to Michelle, she, unlike her husband, left here as a child. She noted that in their early stages of dating she not only got to learn about Guyanese culture through her husband, but that they usually spent hours conversing over bottles of wine.

It was so much so, that Keon, who was initially not a fan of wine, eventually acquired a taste for wine.

“We love wines; in our dating stage we played around with a lot of wines, wine tasting and when he came to visit he would bring a bottle and we would converse over a glass of wine…It was a good mesh, getting to learn about my culture via him. I would take him to do wine tasting up at Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, and every chance we got we bought wine and sat down and talked and eventually he was, ‘oh, I like it’,” Michelle shared.

Commenting on the business aspects of things, Keon shared his experience with finding good wine in Guyana, which he said served as motivation to establish their own wine distribution and importation business in Guyana.

“I would come to Guyana a lot, and with me liking wine, am not a clubby person, I like bars so when I would go to the bar for some reason I could not get a good glass of wine, when I go various bars. So I would go back to Canada and I would say to her, we should get a wine bar where we can import these wines,” he related.

However, Michelle noted that due to the responsibility that comes with running a bar, coupled with them being parents to young children, it was not something they were looking to do.

Regarding their current selection of wines, Michelle said, “We try to keep it small, but I like variety. We have a Bottega which is Italian Moscato, and I think it’s the yummiest; we have a variety of red wines, some of which are organic, some are extremely dry and some of them are ones in the sugar content. ”

An important part of their business is having their prospective clients understand that wine is for everyone and should not been seen as an “elitist” drink.

“One of our slogans is Wine for everyone…I think that people have this snotty idea that wine is Shih-poo and it isn’t, it’s for everybody. The average person who had a hard day, you want to come home and have an amazing glass of red wine sitting on your verandah, it’s for everyone, it’s not just for one subsection of society. We want people to know that it’s relaxing, it’s healthy, some of our wine suppliers ask us where we are located and we tell them Guyana they are like, ‘oh y’all like rum and beers,’ and we’re left to say, ‘oh no not everybody does’,” Michelle added.

At present, Wine Days has in stock varieties that range from dessert wines to those that cater to “beginner wine drinkers,” and even offers free delivery of chilled wine around Georgetown.

Meanwhile, one unique aspect of their business is the fact that they only stock wines that they have tried, which according to the couple makes their business more personable since they are able to better interact with their clients.

“We only order wines that we love. I think there is nothing worse than you importing something and never taste it. So, everything we purchase, we have tasted; we are not experts by no means, but we know a lot but at the same time when we are purchasing wines we want to say oh this is tasty and that a customer would want it,” Michelle said.

Additionally, they have a preference for importing wines from boutique wineries since they have great admiration for the craftsmanship that goes into making the wine.

“Clients would call sometimes asking for Yellow Tail or Barefoot, but we primarily deal with boutique wineries which produce maybe a thousand bottles or under per grape varietal, and sometimes they only have one grape and would only do a Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. So we only seek out places like that because we think the craftsmanship that goes into making the wine is exceptional, and we also choose companies that have biodynamic and sustainable organic,” Michelle explained.

“We want stuff from our backyard like Peru, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Argentina, these are places that are producing world class wines and we want to spotlight them. Another reason why we are interested in those kinds of wineries is that they are more approachable, per se Yellow Tail, and to me, over here we have a tendency where if we have tried it, we try nothing else and we just go back to it, over and over. But a part of becoming a wine drinker is that you are going to explore. Some of them you aren’t going to like and some of them you are going to like and that’s why we are choosing those small boutique wineries,” she added, before noting that they also stock craft ciders and mixers.

Another noteworthy aspect of their business model is having a vehicle that they have customized to be utilised as a mobile wine bar which they rent for various events.

“If you had a backyard or a front yard or garden, we pop up with the vehicle that is a full functioning bar only dealing with wines… If you want the bar to be at an event we have special packages available. The wines are there, we can be your DJ, you can take photos inside the vehicle,” Keon shared.

Additionally, there are plans to do gift baskets and customizable labels and even a wine subscription.

“If you want to send someone a wine basket we will include gourmet snacks, plans for a wine subscription. We have lots of plans, it’s just that things move a little slow over here; we are trying to meet everyone in some way but not to do too much…If someone is to ask us what’s our ideal ambition for the business it’s to supply all the hotels, it’s to supply the bars, it’s to supply the clubs, the Ministries that have functions, the diplomats, the people who are seeking the oil, the average person who wants to sit down and have a glass of wine,” Michelle explained.

“Also, I would love to have a bottling plant where Guyanese can come and bottle their own wine. We can source grapes that are made in Guyana or Brazil or Argentina that couples can come and bottle their own wine. I think that the approach for the customer to come in and make their own wine and even customize their own labels is cool,” she added.

The Howards noted that though have been in operation for just under two months, they have received fairly good reviews thus far.

“I think for a business that is just under two months functioning, it’s been really good. People are talking back to you. From having people reaching out to you which is a good thing,” Keon shared.

“As much as we can we do ads; we reach out to people as much as we can….it’s been pretty good I can’t complain,” Michelle added.

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