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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Fruit wines of Ontario want a Fair Deal (from Jim Warren)

Sent on the letterhead of the Fruit Wines of Ontario

The Honourable Harinder Takhar,
Minister of Small Business and Consumer Services,
Suite 1306 Whitney Block,
Queen's Park,
99 Wellesley St. W.,
TORONTO, Ontario.
M7A 1W2

Dear Minister Takhar:

The following story is true to life:

A man owned a small winery in Ontario. The Provincial Wage and Hour Ministry
claimed he was not paying proper wages to his help and sent out an agent to
interview him.
"1 need a list of your employees and how much you pay them." demanded the
"Well," replied the winery owner, "there's my winery hand who's been with me
for 3 years. I pay him $400 a week plus free room and board. He continued:
"The Chef has been here for 18 months, and I pay her $300 a week plus

Then there's the half-wit. He works about 18 hours every day and does about
90% of all the work around here. He makes about $10 per week, pays his own
room and board, and I buy him a bottle of scotch every Saturday night. He
also sleeps with my wife occasionally."

"That's the guy I want to talk to...the half-wit," says the agent. "That
would be me," replied the winemaker.

Though they may not enjoy being called 'half-wits" many small Ontario winery
owners to-day are feeling like the winemaker in the story. They have come
into the industry over the last 15 years, driven by their passion to make
Ontario wine, only to discover that the playing field for wineries in this
province is not level and to face a system that often puts them at a
competitive disadvantage when selling their wines.

Everyone understands that the purpose of policies and
laws relating to Ontario wine since the early 1990's has been both to
encourage the production of quality wine and to address in some measure the
losses faced by the wine industry after the Free Trade and GATT agreements.
Most winery owners thus accept the reality of 'grand-fathered privileges'
enjoyed by established businesses and it is easy to understand and
appreciate government's on-going financial and other support for our VQA

I am writing to you to-day on behalf of the 15 members of Fruit Wines of
Ontario (FWO) and the 45 members of the Ontario Vinicultural Association
(OVA) who do not understand the inappropriate discrimination that other
wineries are facing in this province and who are now contemplating another
harvest of their 1OO% Ontario grown grapes and fruit with serious concerns.

In particular we have been advocating for some time that a change be made in
the policy (described by the AGCO as 'section 3 of the Terms and Conditions
for the on-site fruit winery retail store) that restricts a fruit winery to
making only 20% of its wine from grapes. I have met with Luisa Tomej, Maria
DiFabrizio, and Kathy Clarke to discuss the matter in depth and have written
to the Honourable Ted MeMeekin, but have yet to receive any response. This
will be a serious problem for a small Ontario winery again this Fall - -
already threatened by the AGCO with having their licence revoked - - which
is growing its own grapes that it cannot use to make into wine. There are
many problems related to this 'policy' and I would caution that ignoring a
problem like this is not a solution. It is urgent that a solution be found
before the matter becomes one of embarrassment to all concerned this

There are 3 other issues or concerns that I would like to bring to your

1. Some 3 years ago financial support was offered to VQA wines being sold
in the LCBO by your Ministry. Other producers of quality, 100% Ontario
wines, both fruit and grape, were excluded from this consideration.

2. VQA wines that are direct delivered to a licencee receive a different
financial treatment than other wines, whether 'Cellared in Canada' or
non-VQA fruit and grape wines. The return to the winery for VQA sales is
considerably higher.

No one is questionning the support being given to VQA wines but from the
point of view of many other wineries this is providing an unfair competitive
edge to VQA. All wineries in Ontario pay the same taxes and fees otherwise
and abide by the same regulations. Surely all lOO% Ontario produced wines
should be sold to the LCBO and to licencees under the same rules! In this
way all Ontario quality wine could benefit from an equality of opportunity
which is now lacking and serving as a deterrent to the growth and survival
of many small Ontario businesses.

3. It is also unfortunate that these same wineries are prohibited by the VQA
ACT from even using the word "Ontario" or any form of it as in "Ontario
grown" or "Product of Ontario" on their wine labels even though by law they
must use lOO% Ontario fruit in making their wines. To 'protect' the
credibility of the VQA appellation "VQA Ontario VQA" it is suggested that
other wineries producing fruit wines or non-VQA grape wines might somehow
confuse consumers by using the word 'Ontario' and destroy consumer
confidence in Ontario wines. The VQA has the authority to enforce this
feeling and does send 'inspectors' around to check on the wine labels of
fruit wineries and grape wine producers outside our DVAs.
I believe we are creating an unfortunate situation by denying the logical
use of the word "Ontario" by every winery and it would be better for all
concerned if some serious thought was given to making a change somewhere
along the line.

Our member wineries are asking, through your Ministry, that your government
consider the issues that are making life difficult for them and to implement
significant change that would go a long way to ensuring more equality of
opportunity among our wineries. We believe that for one Ontario winery to
have a financial competitive advantage over another as result of government
initiatives is simply wrong...and I would appreciate having the opportunity
to discuss these concerns with you at your earliest convenience.


Jim Warren

Executive Director, FWO
President, OVA

Chimo! www.deantudor.com

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