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Newsletter #252 - Ontario at the Crossroad (part 5): Own Your Market

16 Apr 2015

MichaelPinkusWineReview Newsletter #252

            April 2015

  • WineReview: Ontario at the Crossroad (part 5): Own Your Market

  • Grape Guy’s Picks of the Bunch: New and Noteworthy Wine

  • Weekly Wine Video Series:  A Recap of This Week's Videos

  • Bi-Weekly OWR Updates:  Additional Articles and more

  • Wine Event Spotlight:  See What's Going on in Wine Country

WineReview:  Ontario at the Crossroad (part 5): Own Your Market

I love the title of this newsletter, “Own Your Market” – it sounds so easy.  Own the market, be the one on everyone’s lips, like Chap-Stick, Kleenex, Coke, Q-Tips, or Xerox … you could probably name a dozen products that own their market in name alone.  The word McDonald’s has become synonymous with fast food; Aspirin is any pain killer; an iPhone is just what’s assumed that you’re carrying with you … own your market.

It’s not easy, but it’s doable as these multi-national corporations have shown:  Find a niche.  Fix a problem.  Become indispensable.  Voila – you own the market.  Is the wine business any different?  There have been brands and regions that have owned the market … New Zealand pretty much owns Sauvignon Blanc these days and Yellow Label, Yellow Tail and FuZion have owned the market at one time or another.
But what do you do if your market is being flooded with foreign product by an entity that doesn’t care about anything other than turning a profit – or at least showing that it does?  (The profitability of our Crown Corporation is very much in question – profit should not be confused with tax collecting and remission)

And what if the flooder has a means to stop your every effort to own the market:  what if they not only controlled the retail but regulate the competition as well?  Now that would be a difficult market to penetrate.  

And what if that retailer/regulator decided to compete directly?  But instead of coming out and saying that, calling it “help” or “coming to the aid” of the industry – in the form of boutique stores – selling your product right in your own backyard (ie: in Niagara, St. Catharines, Windsor and Belleville). Now that would make it doubly hard.  

What if that retailer/regulator/competitor had access to your sales figures, data and any other number that helped keep your business afloat and (hopefully) competitive?  Why that would make it downright impossible, wouldn’t it?

And finally, what if that retailer/regulator/competitor/governor and over-seer also controlled your access to market, limiting it to just one outlet, while they opened their own stores on a whim anywhere and anytime they felt like it.  Now you’re talking beyond impossible – we’re talking impenetrable.

Well that’s the type of uphill battle each and every small winery in Ontario faces.  It’s a Sisyphean labour full of potholes and ruts on a slippery slope of ice.

“Own your market”, it sounds so easy, but with so many roadblocks in the way I can’t imagine why anyone gets into, let alone stays, in the wine business … in Ontario anyway.  And until the populous of Ontario realizes that this is not the way civilized countries sell wine, and support an industry, we’re destined to drink and be the dumping ground for offshore product the rest of our lives.

And really, how can you own your market when you don’t even have autonomous control of it, a market where every other country (especially the one to the south of us) wants to sue every time we want to make a change that might benefit our local industry.  There has got to be another way.  A better way.

For a wine producing region the numbers are staggeringly low:  between 2007 and 2012 the numbers have remained relatively stagnant for VQA wine sales in the province, sitting between 12.8% in 2007 to a high of 15.3% in 2009 … considering the choice people have in this province and the ease of which foreign wine being so readily available.  In other wine producing regions of the world the selection from other countries is relatively small and sometimes almost non-existent.

Does the answer lie in the opening of the market to supermarket sales, corner stores, private stores?  It might be a start, but those stores are going to have to want to stock Ontario wines … and if you were a large chain supermarket who wants to cater to your customers, who are already trained to buy wines from Yellow Tail, Kim Crawford, Apothic Red, FuZion and any number of currently popular foreign brands - what do you think you are likely to stock?  It’s a tough call … as Ontarians we should be buying our brand, but we have been brain-washed into believing what we have is not as good as what we can get from elsewhere.  

Own your market indeed – it’s an uphill climb but with the market seemingly set to open (or so they say) – maybe wineries can find a toehold.  The question is, can Ontario do it?  Given the chance only time will tell … but they have to be given the chance, and that is all they are asking for.


Grape Guy’s Picks of the Bunch:  New and Noteworthy Wines

16 Mile Cellar 2012 Chardonnay, “Civility” - $24.95 (W)
Here we have the 16 Mile Cellar hot vintage, best barrel (5 in total) offering of their top tier Chardonnay … with 20% new oak.  This is a very brash Chardonnay with plenty of Chard-character without going over the top.  Aromas are buttery, vanilla, spice dominant along with baked apple and poached pear – simply a lovely sniffing Chardonnay.  Palate gives off a creamy sensation yet is spicy at the same time:  vanilla cream and spiced apple take charge and fight it out on the tongue from beginning to end.  This full-bodied (14%) wine is rich and luscious as the vintage dictates it should be.  Release is scheduled for May 2015, get in line now.  Price: $24.95 – Rating: **** ½

Henry of Pelham 2013 Vidal, Special Select Late Harvest - $19.95 / 375ml (W)
I’m a sucker for these Special Select Late Harvest-type wines, prices are excellent and the balance between the sweetness and acidity is usually spot on … Henry of Pelham hits the mark with this one.  Aromas are gentle apple, apricot, and honeyed pear ... just a great smell all-day-edness to it.  Palate is delicate and appealing with pear and apricot notes followed up with apple and a nice balancing acidity.  This one is a pure pleasure with great lingering finish.  Price: $19.95 / 375ml - Rating: ****+

Southbrook 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Triomphe - $22.95 (W, L)
2012 was kind to many Ontario wineries, weather-wise, and Ontario wineries passed the favour on by giving Ontario wine fans some pretty exciting wines, like this Southbrook Triomphe number.  The nose has the pure allure of cassis, chocolate, raspberry and damson plum – but the palate is the hook with super concentrated, rich, almost jammy flavours that follow through from the nose.  Those who follow Ontario wine religiously will have trouble believing this is from here – but in the summer of 2012 it was hard to believe you were in Ontario … the finish on this wine has a touch of herbal, but what really shows through is that staying power which is truly brilliant.  This might be sold out before you know it.  Price: $22.95 - Rating: **** ½

Thirty Bench 2012 Benchmark - $60.00 (W)
When you call a wine “Benchmark” you’d better show off something real special … and with his 2012 you will not be disappointed on that front.  Last one made was in 2010 and is a best vintage wine only, which 2012 certainly qualifies for.  51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc aged 2 years in 95% French and 5% American oak of which 45% was new … and now for the wine itself:  There is a lovely mocha component that winds its way through the wine from nose to palate adding in dark fruit and spice along the way.  Currently it’s riddled with gritty tannins while on the finish there’s a mixture of red and black berries – yet with all that comes before, and when all is said and done, it’s a silky smooth wine with ageing potential to spare.  Sit it 7+ years or decant a day ahead for maximum enjoyment.  Price: $60.00 – Rating: *****

Thirty Bench 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Small Lot - $45.00 (W)
This boutique arm of the Peller Group has always impressed me with their wines – 80-90% every year are winners from the flagship Rieslings to their line-up of reds.  In a year like 2012, I believe, they like to show off a little with their reds – like with this Cabernet aged 75/25 French/American and 55% new.  Aromas of coffee, mocha, and black fruit like blackberry and cassis mixing it up with cedar and tobacco leaf … you have to be willing to “dive” in to this wine to unlock all those great aromas.  Flavours are layered, but do follow the nose: tobacco leaf, cedar, pencil shavings, cinnamon before revealing vanilla, mocha and cassis on the finish with gritty but definitely yieldy (with time) tannins.  This is one to hold and appreciate later.  Price: $45.00 – Rating: ****+

Two Sisters 2010 Cabernet Franc - $48.00 (W)
A full one-third of the Two Sisters vineyard (20 acres) is planted to Cabernet Franc – and, as seems to be the way these days, there’s an element of American oak (20%) in this Franc, which spent 16-18 months in wood then was allowed to age gracefully in bottle another 10 months. The results are a wine of silky smoothness and ripe rounded fruit:  smoky-blackberry, black raspberry, cherry skin with wonderful grip, good tannins and great finish that ends with loads of flavour: raspberry, strawberry and cigar notes.  Price: $48.00 – Rating: **** ½

Availability legend:  W (Winery) – L (LCBO/Vintages) –  OL (On-Line).

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The Weekly Wine Video Series: Local (Ontario); National (Across Canada) and International

The Weekly Wine Videos
Just as the name suggest … every week I'll introduce you to another fabulous wine that you've just gotta try – Check out the YouTube Channel Now

Weekly Ontario Videos

Video #125 - Stanners 2012 Chardonnay
Video #126 - Between the Lines 2012 Lemberger Reserve


Weekly National & International Videos

Video #001 - Bollinger Special Cuvee (Champagne, France)
Video #002 - Laughing Stock 2012 Portfolio (British Columbia)

Subscribing to the YouTube channel by clicking here

Bi-Weekly OWR Updates Additional articles on the website and more

On the Road with the Grape Guy (blog)
(Trips, tours and tastings – join me as I review the highs, and sometimes, the lows)
Stem Wine Group Annual Tasting, 10th Anniversary

NEW - Taste it Again / Lost & Found (blog):  the two blogs have merged
(Find out what happened to some favourites and to those that never were tasted) 
Taste it Again: Hillebrand 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Clark Farm

NEW NAME - Uncorked Tonight (blog)
When it’s not an Ontario wine, here’s what I’m pulling out of the cellar
New Posts Added

Vintages Release (blog)
April 18, 2015 - Vintages Report can be found here
May 2, 2015 - coming soon

Wine Event Spotlight: See What's Going on in Wine Country

The Sake Institute of Ontario (SIO) is honoured to present the 3rd annual "Kampai Toronto", the largest sake festival in Canada. Showcasing over 120 of the best sake produced in Japan and North America. Every grade & style of sake will be presented, along with a myriad of appetizer-style foods courtesy of local Restaurant Partners.  Thursday May 29th - 6:30PM-9:00PM … The Historic Distillery District, 55 Mill Street, Toronto - Fermenting Cellar and the Thompson Landry Gallery.  More details can be found by clicking here.

The 5th annual Niagara Food & Wine Expo “serves up a world of flavour” May 1-3 at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls, Ontario.  For more information on the Niagara Food & Wine Expo, please visit

Importing Wine for Pleasure & Profit Seminar … Saturday June 6th, 2015 (9:30 a.m.-4 p.m) at The Old Mill Inn & Spa, Toronto.   C. Steven Trenholme, a 30-year veteran of the international beverage alcohol industry, gives you the details on how to import wine, spirits and beer into the Ontario marketplace for personal use or as a career.  $325.00 includes seminar, material, lunch and 30 days of online consulting. Pre-Registration Required Contact -- C.S. Trenholme & Associates, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Get Fresh in the Valley … Join the Twenty Valley wineries this April as they celebrate spring. The Get Fresh in the Valley passport entitles you to sample new vintage and aromatic wines paired with fresh spring inspired dishes at 22 Twenty Valley wineries. As an added bonus, collect a recipe card at each winery to assemble your very own Get Fresh Spring Cookbook.  For more information and pairings click here!

Summer Solstice Concert Event 2015 … Join Tawse Winery for the highlight of their summer “The Summer Solstice concert” - June 27th.  This year's entertainment features The Jim Cuddy Band, The Stampeders and Christopher Plock & Errol Fisher! Delicious food items from a host of local food vendors will be available to pair with Tawse wines! Admission ($129 + tax) includes a commemorative Tawse wine glass.  Doors open at 5 pm and entertainment commences at 5:30 pm.  Details can be found here.

Blind Tasting, Literally … To participate, guests sign up at or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Then upon arrival, visually impaired servers will escort them from a lighted lounge to their places in the dark where Carolyn Evans-Hammond conducts a structured, tutored tasting five wines. The tasting is geared to all levels of wine knowledge.
Sundays at 5 p.m. - $40 per person.  Though the wines will vary each week, the flight will always include one sparkling, two whites and two reds.

Kick off your summer at the ultimate backyard bash held over the May long weekend in Wine Country! This year at Peller Estates Winery, the 4th annual Food Truck Eats will bring together 15 Food Trucks and 5 pop-up food vendors to deliver some of the most daring, tasty and innovative street food available, alongside some award-winning VQA Peller wines.  Get your tickets here.

OntarioWineReview’s bi-weekly newsletter is devoted to the love, enjoyment and promotion of the wines of Ontario and the wineries that make them.

What can the Grape Guy do for you … Michael Pinkus (Grape Guy) provides a variety of wine related services that you might be interested in taking advantage of:  he gives lectures, leads seminars, conducts tastings, sets up tours; consults, selects and judges.  He also gives interviews, broadcasts, podcasts and writes.  Contact the Grape Guy if you require any of these services or have any questions.

Psst, Pass It On
… keep the good wine flowing. Forward this newsletter to your mom in Milton, your son in Smith Falls, or any other family member or loved one that you know needs good wine advice.

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To contact us with feedback, article ideas, comments, concerns or questions – email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. We look forward to hearing from you!

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