The Whiff of Grape was founded in 1964 in Montréal by a group of gentlemen who wanted to meet once a month to enjoy each other's company, good food and wine together with a lively and entertaining speaker. Special attention was made to invite speakers with controversial topics...
The origin of the name "Whiff of Grape" goes back to the French Revolution when Napoléon ordered his troops to fire over the heads of peasants storming the gates of Paris, yelling "give them a whiff of grape"! Hence our logo of the cannon spewing grapeshot. It signifies firing non-lethal, but effective questions at our speaker whose views may not be similar to our own. The meetings are "in camera" so as to allow the speaker to state his mind without worrying about his remarks being repeated in the public domain.
One of the more memorable speakers was René Lévesque. Subsequently, while speaking in Toronto, he referred to a meeting he had attended in Montreal where a "moneyed group" called The Whiff of Grape did not believe that Québec could survive on its own. "For the sake of their health, they should leave Québec," he was quoted as saying.
During this period of political unrest, a number of Montréal Whiffers did in fact leave Québec, but for economic not health reasons. These expatriates from Québec missed the camaraderie of the Whiff and formed new chapters in Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Pittsburgh. In 1982 Nick LeMoine, Jim McLennan, John McLernon and Jeff Black founded the Vancouver chapter. All were previous members of the Montréal Whiff of Grape.
How we operate
The governance of the Whiff rests in the hands of a five or six member, all-powerful "junta." It is re-elected each year at the September annual meeting. With no guest speaker, the membership can direct their own "grapeshot" at the Junta before they leave office if they have not done their jobs to perfection. Brandy and cigar smoking have been known to have increased the caliber of grapeshot being directed at the Junta.
Another annual event is "Ladies Night" which is enjoyed by all. Special attention is paid to inviting a speaker that will appeal to both sexes. It is also an occasion where members frequently hear stories about their fellow members that they have never heard before.
The Whiff of Grape owes its success to having a membership of individuals who are well informed, highly educated and enjoy a good sense of humor and camaraderie. Their varied backgrounds and professions have resulted in their being able to call upon leading figures in the country to be guest speakers.
Listed below are some of the Whiff's more notable past speakers, which provides a sense of the caliber of presenters attracted to the Club:
- Kevin McCort President/CEO, Vancouver Foundation
- Daniel Firth City Transportation Planner
- Sam Wadsworth Chief Scientific Officer & Co-Founder Aspect Biosystems
- Sarah Weddell, NPA
- Tricia Smith, President Canadian Olympic Committee
- Andy Yan, Director, City Program, SF
- Stephanie Simmon, Assistant Professor, Silicon Quantum Technology Lab, SFU
- Greg Mackie, Assistant Professor, UBC
- Dr. Pittman Potter, Professor of Law, UBC
- Dr. Neil Cashman, Professor of Medicine, UBC
- Robin Silvester, President/CEO, Port Metro Vancouver
- Gregor Robertson
- Kim Campbell
- Jim Chu
- David Emerson
- Etienne van Eck, former bodyguard of Nelson Mandela
- Geoff Plant
- Janet Holder
- Tony Gallagher
- Colin Hansen
- David Baines
- Bob Rennie
- Larry Campbell
- John Winter, CEO of BC Chamber of Commerce
- Gordon Campbell
- Gordon Wilson
- Wendy Grant, First Nations Chief
- Christopher Gaze
- Dr. Max Cynader, Brain Research Center at UBC
- Mike Harcourt
- Preston Manning
- Lloyd Axworthy
- Jim Green, DERA
- Ken Georgetti
- Jack Monroe
- and many more....