WARNING: There are passionate, opinionated oenophiles on the premises! We may come from a diversity of backgrounds but one thing we all share in common is an unyielding interest and passion for wines , beer and spirits. So, let us introduce ourselves and share with you, our most memorable wine/whiskey experience (so far!).
After 13 years working for KWM, first as a delivery driver and then as the store’s resident Scotch and whisky expert I purchased the business April 1 2015. In my time here I helped put KWM on the international map as one of the World’s top whisky shops. In March of 2015 Whisky Magazine awarded us “Highly Commended” or 2nd place for “Whisky Retailer of the Year – Single Outlet”. I’ve also built a reputation as one of Canada's most trusted whisky experts. On April 11th, 2011 I was inducted into the Keepers of the Quaich, the first Canadian retail expert to be so honored. I used to operate my own whisky tour company, www.fergusonwhiskytours.com, taking customers on whisky tours in Scotland, Japan and Kentucky. I am also the President of a Calgary whisky club, The Companions of the Quaich, Calgary Chapter. A native of Calgary, I studied Military History at the University of Calgary. I spend much of my free time outdoors, and I am especially fond of skiing, hockey, mountain biking and triathlon. In October 2010 & 2011, I qualified for and competed in the Xterra (off road triathlon) World Championships in Maui!
Best whisky experience: Sampling the White Bowmore 1964 ($4300) in the No.1 Vaults at the Bowmore Distillery on the Isle of Islay. The No. 1 Vaults are located below sea level along the shore of Loch Indaal, and are prone to flooding. More than 200 years of accumulated whisky fungus and salt stains give this earthen-floored warehouse the feel of catacombs, and when combined with the scent of maturing whisky casks, many over 40 years of age the atmosphere is spiritually intense. The No. 1 Vaults at Bowmore are possibly the most holy place in the world of whisky. And to have sampled the White Bowmore there was the experience of a lifetime!
I have worked at KWM for several years wearing many hats, but mostly in the back office filling Web orders.
Best experience: Too many to pick just one. Wine, Whisky and Bourbon. Whatever Evan brings me to try- it's all an experience.
I have been working at KWM now for 6 years behind the scenes as the assistant for web orders & corporate gifting. In that time I have learned a lot. I definitely know that I love a good white blend and can even appreciate red wine now. I must admit though, that I am pretty partial to Aussie wine having lived there for 20 years of my life. I still have not embraced the scotch side of things though! I enjoy the theatre, a good puzzle, good friends and travel.
My best beer experience: Attending Oktoberfest in Munich in my earlier years, being invited on stage to direct the German Oompah band and experiencing my first stein of beer! That very heavy stein made it all the way through Europe and back to Canada with me!! Now that was perseverance!
Geoff brings over 30 years of experience as a wine merchant and wine journalist to KWM. He has served (and continues to serve) as a wine columnist at the Calgary Herald for over 20 years and taught cooking classes that focused on food and wine pairings at the Cookbook Company for 20-plus years as well. He has travelled the world extensively as a wine journalist and was awarded a fellowship at Napa Valley’s prestigious Symposium for Professional Wine Writers based on columns that appeared in the Calgary Herald and City Palate Magazine. He hosts a radio show every Friday from 4 PM to 6 PM on CJSW 90.9 FM (the Road Pops) and feels that music, food and wine are all inextricably linked. As such he might recommend some Joni Mitchell to go with your Pinot Noir.
Marnie Harfield has been in the industry both as a seller of bottles and as a WSET instructor. She is also a yoga instructor. She found the secret to doing all three at the same time by arranging her life around a 36-hour day cycle, as opposed to the paltry 24-hour routine that the rest of us lazy simpletons live by. She enjoys the meditation and mindfulness that wine provides and the inebriation yoga leads to. Marnie is currently researching a way to combine both essential skills into one and also stretch into a 42-hour day cycle which would allow her the freedom to take on a fourth profession.
She got into teaching wine when she was simply asked if she wanted to. That it was a real job, seemed fantastical. It has proven to be quite real and one of the reasons for extending her time continuum. In that space, she has also found time to travel for both wine and yoga. The highlight of her travels was, not surprisingly, Champagne. She's a bubbly sort of gal...
Let’s talk about my passion for wine! What started in Tuscany (see below) has propelled me into a journey of exploration. Trips to the Okanagan, which always involved learning about wine through tours and tastings, stirred in me a deeper desire to expand my knowledge about this complex and wonderful world. After three decades of managing and leading organizations, I left the corporate world and I am following this path to its conclusion. I started working on the retail side of wine in 2021, possibly making me the oldest "rookie" on the team. My intention, since completing WSET 3, is to continue my wine knowledge journey by completing the two-year Diploma program, while helping serve you at Kensington Wine Market. My pleasure is to help you have the best experience when selecting your wine! Cheers!
My favourite wine experience: My wife and I travelled to Tuscany to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. We stayed in Florence for a few nights and planned to rent a car and explore the region. I knew nothing of wine at the time, so the notion of driving through Siena, on our way to Montalcino was completely random tourist luck. Once in the village, we sat in a castle and enjoyed a flight of Brunello di Montalcino along with other tasty reds. I consider this experience my first wine-tasting event, my first wine buzz (grew up in a restrictive culture), and a revelation of "terrior".
I often hear people say don’t bring work home but when you live with the boss is that ever really an option? Whether it was collecting ribbons and stickers as a kid, building whisky calendar inserts, dusting, or filling water glasses at festivals, I have always kind of been around. My time in the industry officially (and legally) began in 2018 in a boutique wine store in Lethbridge. I needed a part-time job while attending University and decided to give it a shot. Plus, after 16 years of non-stop whisky propaganda from the Scotch Guy, it was practically destiny. Around this time, I also began picking up shifts at KWM when I came home to visit. Between KWM and my job in Lethbridge, I learned so much about both wine and spirits. While I have acquired a reputation for my love of peated whisky (specifically Ardbeg), I quickly became quite fond of wine and the history of viticulture. In 2019, I started working casually for an agent that I had been introduced to through the shop. This was an exciting chapter in my industry journey as I got to learn new things through a different perspective.
With my education continuing primarily online following Covid, I was able to spend more time at the shop. Over the past two years, I have helped fill many roles on the wine team but have more recently shifted my focus to coordinating and creating content for KWM’s social media. In December 2022, I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Lethbridge. I majored in Political Science, with a minor in Anthropology. When I am not working, I have many hobbies and enjoy being outside as much as possible. Some of my favourite things to do include skiing, paddle boarding, spending time with friends and family, and going for long walks. I also really enjoy baking and am known to bring at least one baked good a week to fatten up my coworkers.
Best Wine Experience: While working in Lethbridge, I had the opportunity to try a Riesling that had been sitting forgotten about in a warehouse for 20 years. At the time, this was the oldest wine I had ever tried, it was delicate and begun to crystalize inside the bottle. I am not the fondest of Riesling but this will forever be one of my top 5 wines.
Around 2002, I realized how bored I was with what was always advertised as "premium" beer. Every adjunct lager tasted the same and I wasn't enjoying drinking them. A friend and I decided that twice a week we would each buy two interesting-looking beers that we'd never had before. Over time we grew to know the styles, develop preferences, pick out flavours that none of our friends could taste, and really I just grew to love these small-scale, hand-crafted beers. Craft beer has been a large part of my life for 12 years now. My love for it has driven me to travel around, expand my palate with wine and spirits, explore the world of cooking, and even brew numerous batches of both beer and mead myself. My strong background in chemistry allows me to dive into the world of fermentation with an in-depth understanding and appreciation. Seeing the immense creativity of the world's best brewers fills me with inspiration for crafts and projects all of my own, and fuels me with an eagerness to share it all with anyone and everyone.
Best beer experience: Wandering around in the old part of Bamberg Germany in 2003, my companion and I happened upon an old brewpub. We asked for their house beer, and it turned out to be a smoked Urbock, and (unknown to us) they happened to be the brewery that pioneered that style. It was my first time even hearing of a smoked beer and it had a greasy, bacon-like taste. I could barely finish the pint, but it was a planted seed that grew into a major love for the style and the admiration of lesser-known regional styles.
I was first bitten by the Whisky bug at the ripe old age of 22. Years - nay, decades - have passed since. I now am permanently 29 and my enjoyment of the spirit shows no signs of letting up. Back then I was a young wanna-be Bartender. I was introduced to Single Malt Scotch by the manager at my first restaurant job. At first sip, I was hooked. My newly sparked interest lead me to read books, scour the internet for more information, and most importantly visit shops such as Kensington Wine Market to see what was available as well as go to tastings to learn more. I spent nearly a decade working at the great Calgary Petroleum Club and during my time there I also attended as many Scotch tastings as I could manage. Eventually, I ended up pouring Whisky for a variety of vendors at festivals and that soon lead me to where I am now. Even though I do make whisky my main port of call I still make excursions into wine and beer from time to time.
Most memorable whisky experience: It is exciting to be in a position to meet some of the great personalities of the whisky world such as George Grant from Glenfarclas, Richard Urquhart from Gordan & MacPhail and the now-retired (?) Jim McEwan of Bruichladdich. Dealing with whisky day in and day out seems to make these people - as well as all of the whisky lovers I have been lucky enough to meet - a very personable bunch!
After spending many years doing IT work for an accounting software company, and before that doing academic research work, I have worked at KWM since December 2005. I have learned a lot about wine, scotch and beer in the course of selling great products to our customers. Since December 2011, I have been the "Beer Guy" for the market, so I now concentrate on improving our extensive beer selection. Alberta is an excellent marketplace for beer variety, and many new products arrive monthly. One of my main challenges is to decide how to fit as big a variety of products as possible into a small space. Of course, rigorous product testing is required to improve product knowledge. Working at KWM also provides me with inspirations for future vacations, with possibilities of tasting local beer, wine and whiskies influencing where I decide to go.
Best wine experience: One memorable recent experience came while doing a hiking trip in the Douro valley in Portugal. After a long day walking up and down the steep valleys and through vineyards, we ended the day at a beautiful manor house with little guesthouses around a pool. In our guesthouse was a carafe of rich ruby port to help wind down the day and relax before having dinner.