Local wineries to benefit from $2.25 million government investment

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Windsor Star/Mary Caton

Getting the word out about the world-class wines being produced in Ontario is the goal of a new $2.25-million initiative by the provincial government.

“It’s a great piece of news,” said Stephen Mitchell, president of the local winery association and president of Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery.

“The bulk of the funding is for a major drive towards promoting and creating a love for VQA wines.”

Recognition as a Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) wine means the product was made from 100 per cent Ontario grown grapes and passed strict protocols for quality assurance.

A multi-media advertising campaign will aim at exposing a wider audience to the products offered by 200 Ontario wineries, including 17 in Essex County.

The provincial investment was launched in conjunction with the arrival of the 2016 Wine Country Ontario Travel guide, an annual publication that offers tourists a brief run down of participating wineries.

Eleven wineries belonging to Erie Pelee Island Coast (EPIC) are featured in the travel guide.

“It’s one of the best marketing vehicles for selling Ontario wines,” Mitchell said. “It’s such an important tool because of its huge distribution.”
The guide is distributed as an insert in the Toronto Star and with the summer issue of the LCBO’s Food & Drink magazine which hit stores Wednesday.

Tom O’Brien, owner of Cooper’s Hawk Vineyards, says market studies have shown the general public still doesn’t appreciate the quality of wines produced in their own back yard.

One study showed $40 million worth of wine is sold in Essex County yet Ontario wines make up just five per cent of that total.

“We need to market and educate about Ontario wines,” O’Brien said. “This is great news because now they’re going to spend money, so let’s educate the consumer.”

A portion of the government’s multimillion-dollar investment will be earmarked for local initiatives.

Mitchell said officials with EPIC will meet soon to discuss a marketing strategy that targets the Detroit area.

Exactly how much they’ll receive from the Ministry of Agriculture’s latest investment has yet to be determined.