Introducing the wine agency Rogers & Company, GFR’s newest Good Food Fighter.
This month, Jamie and I are very pleased to welcome Rogers & Company, a well-known agency that imports premium wines to Ontario, into our family of Good Food Fighters. To celebrate this new connection, and to introduce Rogers & Company to our readership, I recently sat down with owner and managing director Harris Davidson to chat about what his importing agency does and why. Here’s some of what I took away.
Like some of the best wineries, Rogers & Company is a family business. Miriam Rogers, Harris’ mother, founded Rogers & Company in the 1980’s. From Miriam’s love of cooking grew an appreciation for wine, but she became quickly frustrated by the lack of choice in Ontario. She had reached a point in her professional career where she was not only ready for a change, but also a challenge. She began small, basing the business out of her basement and quickly discovered that there were many like-minded people in Ontario; keen to have access to a more interesting and broader selection of quality wines. She began by importing wines from the Loire Valley, but soon built a portfolio of renowned wineries from California, the rest of France, Italy, and beyond. Rogers & Company’s portfolio retains many wines that were changing the game and gaining a following in that era, like Domaine Leflaive, Ridge Vineyards and Chateau Montelena. These are legendary wines that continue to raise the bar and impress collectors today. Under Miriam, the agency adopted its strategy: To become the Ontario ambassador for what Harris calls the “benchmarks of each wine region”.
Harris Davidson joined Rogers & Company about ten years ago, acquiring the agency and growing the business through its two main channels of distribution: On-premise (or direct-to-restaurant) sales, and retail sales through the LCBO, while maintaining strong ties to collectors of some of the world’s most famous labels. Harris sees an interaction between on-premise and retail sales; ideally, consumers recognize producers both on wine lists and on store shelves. On the restaurant side, he values sommeliers, who are the gatekeepers of knowledge, encouraging wine-lovers to find their next favourite bottle. On the retail side, he seeks to grow the sales of the producers he represents “without commoditizing the wines”. It’s all about balance.
Harris calls Rogers & Company a “little big guy” agency: They represent some of the world’s most esteemed labels, but they are rooted in a boutique, small-company culture. It’s an office where a client’s call or question can easily turn into a full-fledged discussion about wine styles, regions and wine-making philosophies. Two words he used repeatedly in our meeting were “authenticity” and “relationships”, specifically with regards to the three types of clients the agency serves:
- Rogers & Company’s producers, who they help navigate through the LCBO system;
- Rogers & Company’s restaurant clients, for whom they’ll find products that meet their business needs, like great value wines by the glass; and
- Rogers & Company’s direct-order and LCBO retail customers, whether they’re in the market for a $250 Napa Cabernet, a $30 Etna Rosso, or a $20 New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Harris describes the portfolio Rogers & Company is continuing to build as a mixture of “fairy dust and workhorses”. By example, he cites a $400 Vin Santo and a $20 Rioja they have just secured for the Ontario market. Each has a strong identity and sense of place. In a volatile industry and evolving market, Harris and his team are proud to work with in excess of 120 producers, many of whom have been with Rogers and Company since the early days. That being said, he is equally excited for the future. When we spoke, he was about to leave to meet new producers in Rioja and Priorat, on his way to VinExpo in Bordeaux to check in with existing producers and prospect for new opportunities. At the end of the day, he explained, he has to believe in the wines: “It’s the product that leads. Our job is to let the wines shine.”
Watch GFR to see what new things are happening at Rogers & Company in the weeks to come.