“We were a family of eight, and I negotiated early in life to get out of doing dishes by cooking,” says Peggy Perry.
photo by Ingrid Kuenzel
Raised humbly in Prince Edward Island, Perry’s parents encouraged her love of wine and food as cooking was her passion, and she was also the family cook. But on graduating from UPEI in 1982 with a business degree in marketing and finance, her father, who had no formal education, asked her to reconsider being a cook – and she listened.
As travel was also a passion, an education degree with a French major followed. First stop was Alberta, her new husband’s home, where he was a ski coach and she taught job search skills to high schools students, but after spending a year in Alsace while studying, Perry wanted to return to Europe.
“It was exceptionally good advice that my dad gave me, as it forced me to really think and evaluate my own skill set and what my goals were,” Perry says. “And I figured out that I wanted to work in the wine business, but there was no wine business in 1984 in Canada, so back I went to Europe”. Her husband was hired as a coach by the national ski team, and Perry spent the year visiting wineries, and working harvests in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Champagne.
In Bordeaux she was hired temporarily by Seagrams, and lived at Chateau Magnol, until talking Peter Sichel into hiring her. He didn’t want to hire her, but said that if even one ounce of her passion would rub off on one of his five sons, it would be a good investment – and they’re all in it today. Perry even worked their stand at VinExpo in 1987, but then Calgary called – the Olympics were coming and it was important for the couple to be based here.
She worked with Janet Webb for a year to open a store, before returning to Mount Royal College to launch the co-operative education program. “It got me back into the educational environment, and more of a social conscience for giving back to the community, and that’s been a very big part of my role here at Willow (Park Wines & Spirits),” she says.
Perry spent a couple of years trying for her own liquor store, but was 8½ months pregnant the day she had her hearing! At home with her children, she spent a lucrative three years as consultant to the new wine boutiques, but watched the ALCB store that would become Willow Park Wines and Spirits, from the day it was built in ’87. She contacted them and was hired over the phone, saying that she could give them 14 hours a week – and here she is, Vice-President, Purchasing and Marketing. As Perry says, “It’s a lot easier than teaching French”
So what bottle is Perry saving for a special occasion?
“When I was working at Magnol, they discovered a bunker of wines that had been sealed up to prevent the Germans from accessing them in 1944, and I got to go through the bunker with the master tasters. I also helped organise the newly acquired wines from the ‘50s and ‘60s.” Perry explains, “So one day when we were sorting through a pile of wine, we came across d’Yquem “Y”, and this one was in impeccable shape so they gave it to me when I left as it was my birth year.”
And when is she planning to open the bottle?
“I’ve always had the 1960 in my cellar,” says Perry, “and of course it’s the dry white wine. I love this wine – and this is what I’m going to drink on my 60th birthday!” Perry embraces the exciting challenges that each decade brings, so we think there’ll probably be a big celebration in July 2020!