The Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Ontario Wines

The Lieutenant Governor stands with the winning wine awards recipients

Wine symposium
In June 2019, George Brown College’s Centre for Hospitality & Culinary Arts hosted their second annual Wine Symposium—a gathering that brings together leaders from various sectors to explore Ontario’s wine industry. Guest speakers provided their insights on sustainability, digital innovation, and the evolving customer experience. Keynote speaker, Steven Spurrier, an award-winning British wine expert, spoke about storytelling as central to making wines successful, saying “Fifty per cent of selling wine is having a story about it…”

The Lieutenant Governor offers remarks at the 2018 wine awards

Wine awards
The Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Ontario Wines has been showcasing the best of Ontario’s viticulture and winemaking for a decade. Since 2016, the awards have been delivered thanks to the pioneering efforts of Dan Paterson at Niagara College and the Ontario Wine Awards (OWA) and are set up to be a best-in-show of their VQA varietal quality winners. In 2019 there were a record number of OWA entries with 542 submissions from 78 wineries. There are now more than 150 wineries across the Niagara, Prince Edward County, and Lake Erie North Shore wine regions, as well as other emerging regions across Ontario. At the ceremony OWA founder Tony Aspler commented, “The team at the Ontario Wine Awards is privileged to have witnessed the incredible growth of the Ontario wine industry over the past 25 years”.

Teaching winery
The stories of the wines are each compelling and the story of a student-crafted, barrel-fermented Chardonnay submitted by the Niagara College Teaching Winery, one of 11 winning wines at the 2019 Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Ontario Wines, is no exception. Located at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus, the Teaching Winery is the first in the country and includes a 40-acre vineyard and state-of-the-art facilities. The applied learning techniques that go into creating the student-led winning wine is proof of the success of this unique approach to education and creation. Teacher Gavin Robertson, was also a graduate of the Teaching Winery, as were winemakers involved with many of the other award-winning wines celebrated that evening.

A Sustainable Industry
Wine producers see themselves as stewards of their land and are increasingly committed to sustainable practices. From soil to shelf, they embrace traditional methods as well as new technologies to integrate both sustainability and innovation into their businesses. Wine tourism in Ontario is thriving. Along with wine tastings, wineries host experiences like discovery hikes, outdoor concerts, picnics, and dining al fresco, as enthusiasts learn about the land, the grapes, and the process. It is an exciting time for the winemaking world in Ontario. No doubt, aficionados are hearing many interesting wine stories as they tour, taste, and toast.

The Lieutenant Governor poses with the LG Wine Awards 2016 recipients

Each year, it is a delight to witness the growth, changes, and new discoveries at the Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Ontario Wines. The wine industry is a great Ontario success story—gastronomically, economically, agriculturally, and in terms of sustainability.

Environmentally, wine is quite literally an expression of the health of the soil and the water; the sensitive way that winemakers work with them is helping ensure good health for future generations. What’s more, as climate change creates instability, the wine industry must adapt and learn how to become resilient.

When it comes to prosperity and inclusion, at a time when people are leaving agricultural areas for urban centres, the industry leaders, students, and visitors are giving farmers a reason to stay. In 2019, it was especially wonderful to see the Niagara College Teaching Winery in the winners’ circle. Not only are they pioneers of education in the field of winemaking in Ontario, but the students are already making good on their potential.

People around the globe are now asking for Ontario wines; the innovative application of traditional techniques show just how our province is learning from, and contributing to, the rest of the world. This is in large part thanks to the Grape Growers of Ontario, the Wine Council of Ontario, the Winery & Grower Alliance of Ontario, and VQA Ontario who support the awards and encourage the production of the amazing wines that win them.

Their achievement bodes well for the whole industry and the commitment to sustainability and innovation continues to keep Ontario on the cutting edge.