The 12th Annual London Wine & Food Show returns to the Metroland Media Agriplex at the Western Fair District on January 19th for three days of wine, beer, spirits and epicurean plates.
Ontario has been growing steadily as a culinary destination and this event will showcase, among others, the wineries, breweries, restaurants and chefs who support local and purchase from area farmers.
“The London Wine and Food Show is an amazing event! We have been proud to pour our wines there since the very first year,” said Jamie Quai, winemaker at Quai du Vin Estate Winery, a 22-acre vineyard and winery located 30 minutes south of London.
Quai went on to say, “My favourite thing about the show (and other vendors have said the same thing) is that the those attending are just more interested in what you are doing. You can connect with people. Some of the other shows out there (while great) don’t seem to linger as much in the minds of the guests after they’ve left. London seems different.”
The Grape Growers of Ontario selected Jamie Quai as the 2016 Grape King, an ambassador for all grape growers in Ontario. Jamie is the 61st Grape King and only the second to be named from a vineyard outside of Niagara.
“My wife, kids and I are attending events all over Ontario for the 12 months of my time as the Grape King. I’m presenting an award at Cuvée this March, bringing greetings at the Icewine Festival in January, new vintages celebrations in the spring; there is always something upcoming.”
This year the Niagara Icewine Festival falls on the same weekend as the London Wine &Food Show, so due to his commitments Jamie will not be able to attend the London show. Further Jamie’s sister, who runs the winery’s retail end, is on maternity leave.
“We decided that rather than phone it in, so to speak, we would take a year off and return refreshed in 2018. We absolutely love the show and wish we could have done it justice this year.”
Show organizers describe the London Wine & Food Show as an enticing mix of local restaurants, wineries, craft beers and spirits paired with tasting seminars, stage presentations and entertainment. There is something for everyone to sip, sample and savour!
Q & A with Jamie Quai
How did you get your start in wine making?
It’s a family business, so my start in the industry was as a child doing farm kid things like pruning, tying, trellising, and training. The way all people all should start — in the vines. My start in winemaking came as a natural extension to the growing side of the business. Helping wash tanks, slugging hoses. The first wine I can remember making substantive contributions to, as a professional, was our 2004 Baco Noir. I remember making a few tweaks to the cellar timelines that led to a really nice wine.
Who were your mentors?
My parents are the biggest influence. They founded and have run a very successful winery for almost three decades. I still turn to them for mentoring.
There are instructors from my time at CCOVI (Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute) at Brock University that I would definitely consider mentors, as well as classmates/friends who have gone on to push themselves professionally. There were several successful winemakers I’ve been fortunate enough to work for who shaped my development: Jason James (now at Stoney Ridge, in BC), Rob Powers (Creekside Estate Winery, Niagara) and Craig MacDonald (Trius Winery, Niagara).
What do you see for the future of Ontario wine?
I’m convinced that the Ontario wine industry is leaving the age of “Here’s what we are” and entering the age of “Here’s what we are not.”
New players are coming in with a drive to focus on producing the best select wines (i.e. pinot noir and chardonnay). That was almost unheard of 15 years ago. I see the next 15 years as a tightening of that regional stylistic focus, with stronger, more select portfolios.
I also think that, even with climate change, there is going to be a stylistic tightening up between vintages. As the vines mature, the variability from one year to the next will smooth out. I’m noticing in my own production that there is a consistency in quality over the last few years that only comes from older vines. I think the industry will see that overall.
What do you like most about the Ontario wine industry?
There is still an opportunity to find that great piece of land, and possibly build that really strong brand. Places like Napa or Burgundy have been thoroughly dissected and the best parts identified. Not here, not yet.
It’s not a matter of drive or ambition. It just will take time for those places to shine. I like the prospector feeling of the modern industry, and being wowed when someone really gets it right.
Quai Du Vin Estate Winery
45811 Fruitridge Line, St Thomas