Jerry Gain’s passion-fueled wine journey

Retired Air Canada veteran Jerry Gain turns his love for wine and travel into thriving businesses with A Perfect Tour and Riverdale Wines, offering immersive wine-focused tours and a curated selection of exquisite wines

Turning a passion into a paying gig is something most (read: all) of us only dream about. But if you’re Jerome (“Jerry”) Gain, you’re actually living the dream – in an extremely enviable way.

As owner of both A Perfect Tour and Riverdale Wines Inc, Gain has channeled his passion for both travel and wine into the kind of business venture that really does make work something to look forward to.

“I spent 31 years with Air Canada in various departments and started doing tours for fellow employees to Greece, Italy, and France, in that order of amount of times up to today’s numbers,” Gain reveals. (In case you’re curious, he’s seen Greece 52 times, Italy 36 times and France 25 times. Don’t hate him, he really is a nice guy).

Even before he retired, he obtained a TICO (Travel Industry Council of Ontario) license, enabling him to coordinate tours for the general public and corporations. Most of his tours started as cultural/classical tours, but before you could pop a cork, wine tours were added. “We visited many vineyards and wineries starting in Italy and France, which saw me developing an interest in the wines of these regions. Greece was always the most visited, but only over the past decade has the Greek wine tours and agency evolved.”

A Perfect Tour came into being in 1998, with Riverdale Wines launching in 2010. Since its inception, the focus of A Perfect Tour expeditions has shifted from visits to the usual tourist meccas, but gradually shifted to wine-focused tours –- a shift that coincided with the growth of Riverdale Wines. While Riverdale Wines today boosts one of the best Greek portfolios in the country, it was Italy that provided Gain’s first “ah-ha” moments when it came to his love of wine.

“Tuscany was my first wine “ah-ha” moment concerning wine,” Gain admits. “We stayed in beautiful villas. Some had wineries. An introduction to a top-notch Brunello piqued my interest. That wine is still in our portfolio today.”

Gain cites Barolo as another memorable moment that also led to a business partnership.

“During the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin I was asked by Hockey Canada to provide a solution for the families of the Canadian Women’s Hockey Team. They had booked all of their airfares but had no accommodation reserved in Turin – and there was a 3,000-room shortage.” Gain came up with a novel solution.

“I put 62 family members of the women’s hockey team in eight villas in the Barolo wine area, and I brought my guides from Florence to Turin with late model sprinter vans to provide transportation to and from the Barolo villas to the arena for the games. This was the largest tour I’ve conducted, and as much as it was a great success I prefer to have my tours in the eight to 16-person range so more attention can be given to individual to personal experience.”

Needless to say, a firm grasp of logistics is pretty much a requirement if you want to succeed as a wine agent in Ontario. After that experience, Gain added a pair of great Barolos to the Riverdale portfolio, along with a Nebbiolo and Dolcetto from the same producer.

As much as Italy features in Gain’s heart and wine selection, Greece – and the wines thereof – are arguably his true love. His focus on Greece and its wines came through an interesting encounter with a Greek neighbor who happened to have an extensive background in the hospitality industry and serviced several major Canadian accounts. When he heard Gain was branching into wine tourism and had a growing portfolio of Greek wines through Riverdale Wines, he immediately lent his personal and professional support to broaden the Greek connection further.

This same neighbor was also instrumental in introducing Gain to an important bank manager located in northern Greece who eventually became Gain’s wine broker for all his Greek offerings. These days he also assists Gain in organizing his Greek tours.

“Connecting with people is really the passion that drives this for me and both businesses.” – Jerry Gain

Today, Riverdale’s Greek wine selection encompasses over a dozen top-tier wines represented by a half dozen of the country’s best producers – many of which will be visited during A Perfect Tour’s upcoming luxury Greek wine excursion.

All this underscores what lies at the heart of A Perfect Tour and Riverdale Wines (and what lies at the heart of Gain’s personal and professional philosophy): the importance of connecting with like-minded people and establishing strong, lasting relationships.

“My strength – and really my gift – is being a great networker. Connecting with people is really the passion that drives this for me and both businesses. Doing so allows everyone to tell their story and relate on a level that basically transcends just business.”

Jerry looks forward to personally interacting with the adventurous food and wine lovers that will be accompanying him on A Perfect Tour’s upcoming luxury trip to Greece. In the meantime, here are a few of the wines you are likely to taste – and wineries you’ll be visiting – on what will no doubt prove to be a most memorable gastronomic “trip of a lifetime.”

The following are some of the wineries you’ll visit (and wines you’ll taste) on A Perfect Tour’s luxury wine tour of Greece.

Red Wines
Barafakas Winery Apocalypsis Agiorgitiko PDO

Apocalypsis Agiorgitiko PDO is medium-bodied in the mouth, velvety with an oily feel and soft, refined tannins that complement its refreshing long acidity. Aromatic condensation with multiple alternations of notes of pomegranate, white pepper and forest fruits. Good structure impresses from the first moment. Sweet tannins, oiliness and very good durability in the mouth unfold successively with purity. It’s both fruity and spicy, with notes of tart cassis, pit of sour cherry, black pepper and sage. Long and lasting aromatic return. ($31)

Helexo Wines – Apanta Xinomavro PDO Naoussa

This 100% Xinomavro carries many of the typical aromas and flavours of the variety. It is a product of biodynamic farming and after fermentation and complete malolactic fermentation, the wine is placed in oak barrels for 12 months. ($29)

Kokkinos Winery Xinomavro PDO Naoussa

Long ageing potential for this magnificent Xinomavro, with medium density and without Naoussa’s strict formality. Spices and intense aromas of dried fruits and warmth in the nose. Full body and rich with overbearing but not aggressive tannins. With district presence in a balanced combination with the special touches of the barrel. Time spent on the barrel:12 months. ($31)

White Wines

Kakoulidis Winery Assyrtiko PGI

This Assyrtiko from Kakoulidis winery has a complex floral aroma which also brings to mind fresh stone fruits such as apple and pear. The wine is carefully blended to bring out the best qualities of our Assyrtiko grapes, with the final result being a fresh and citrusy wine that’s perfect for drinking with company or at meals. For the latter, it pairs beautifully with grilled white fish, prawns and other shellfish with its balanced acidity providing a perfect contrast for saltier dishes. ($31)

Helexo Wines Apeiron White Assyrtiko Sauvignon PGI

Combining Assyrtiko, the famous white indigenous Greek grape variety, with the international diva, Sauvignon Blanc. A lovely floral wine in the nose, with nice crisp, fresh acidity in the mouth. ($29)

Kanakaris Winery Malagouzia 10³ High Altitude PGI

The mountainous Malagouzia 10³ comes from vineyards of the upper altitudes of the Protected Geographical Indication zone of the Slopes of Aigialeia at 1,000 meters. The mountainous Malagouzia 10³ is a modern white wine with rich aromas of herbs from the Greek nature, citrus fruits, and exotic fruits. Full-bodied and complex in the mouth, with refreshing acidity. ($29)

Article published by – Tod Stewart is a contributing editor with VineRoutes