Hello Ontario! A mere 234 years after the first farmers’ market was established in Kingston, the Ontario government has seen fit to allow those farmers who turn their crops into wine to take part in the community. Consumers are now able to enjoy one-stop local shopping, purchasing their fresh local groceries, and sampling and taking home a local wine as well.
In December of 2013, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced, with great fanfare, that VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) wine producers would have the opportunity to offer their wares in local farmers’ markets beginning May 1st of this year. To date, this has proven to be a win-win situation for all involved.
It was truly ground breaking news when this two year pilot project was announced. Wineries who qualify for the VQA appellation are allowed to join farmers’ markets as an extension of their existing liquor licence at no extra cost, provided they have their own existing onsite store (already licensed). They are able to offer samples and to sell their products during farmers’ market hours. This means that if a winemaker participates at a market that opens at seven in the morning, they are free to offer samples of their local wines at that time and sell them as well!
This is an excellent opportunity for small (often family-run) businesses to showcase and market their products directly to those who are most likely to source out their wines. One would assume they would jump all over this prospect. To my utter amazement, there are only two wineries participating in the greater London region.
Moray Tawse and his team from Tawse Winery, which is both organic and biodynamically certified, (as was covered in depth here two issues ago), can be found in Covent Garden Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, 8 am–1 pm and at the Slow Food Perth County Market in Stratford on Sundays, 10 am–2 pm. They generally bring about six wines to each location, based on what has sold well previously. Look for the Sparkling Riesling, Sketches Rose 2012, Quarry Road Chardonnay and Limestone Ridge Riesling for white wine lovers. Those who prefer reds will enjoy the Quarry Road Pinot Noir and the Growers Blend Cabernet Franc. Their presence here in southwestern Ontario is great boost for both us and them and satisfies a growing niche for organic wine.
Quai du Vin heralds from nearby Sparta and has dived into this venture wholeheartedly. The estate is run by the Quai family, and is Elgin County’s oldest winery. Roberto Quai acted immediately upon learning about the pilot project, applying for VQA status so his family could participate. And participate they do! Quai du Vin is in 13 area markets from Waterloo to Windsor and from Goderich to Simcoe. The lovely Beth, who runs the booth at the Covent Garden Market, was happy to offer up samples for us on a chilly Thursday afternoon. We tasted the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc priced at $14.00 and the 2013 Merlot, a winner at $15.00 a bottle.
Let’s band together folks, as fellow citizens of Ontario, to show the government that we support this program. Buy local. Buy organic. Support these local vintners who have taken such a huge step to bring their local wines to you. Who knows? If all goes well, maybe in a couple of years we will be supporting our local craft breweries in the same manner!
A complete list of all the participating farmers’ markets in Ontario is available at www.agco.on.ca
Kim Miller lives in London with her spouse and two children. This is why she studies the many attributes of wine.