Top VQA wine promoters honoured at Experts Tasting

More than 120 wine writers, educators and industry professionals gathered at Brock University on Tuesday, June 18 for the 30th annual Experts Tasting, which promotes Ontario VQA wine and celebrates individuals who have helped grow and promote the grape and wine industry.

Organized by Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI), the 2019 tasting focused on Riesling, from sparkling to Icewine. Five flights showcased a total of 35 wines with industry experts guiding guests through the tasting.

“The Experts Tasting has been designed for the trade — primarily media, product consultants, sommeliers and wine educators who promote VQA wines,” said event organizer Barb Tatarnic, Manager of Outreach and Continuing Education at CCOVI. “This event allows guests to taste and learn alongside their peers in the industry. This tasting showcased multiple vintages and styles of Riesling and clearly showed what this variety can bring to the Ontario industry year after year.”

The event also honours outstanding achievements and contributions by presenting VQA Promoters Awards to individuals who advance the industry through promotion or education.

The Sparkling Winos — wine bloggers Jeff Graham and Michal Matyjewicz — were recognized for promoting and raising the profile of VQA wines in the promoter-at-large category.

“This is something that we do purely as a hobby. This isn’t a full-time job,” said Graham. “We invest so much of our time and effort into Sparkling Winos, so it means everything to be recognized for that from our peers and other industry professionals we admire.”

The social media influencers say they are passionate about educating people about VQA wine.

“There is so much going on in this area, so many quality wines and such a focus on quality winemaking,” said Matyjewicz. “I think that is what makes it a unique wine region and makes it a really easy sell for us to help spread the word about sparkling and other VQA wines.”

The lifetime achievement award was presented to Helen Fisher, retired viticulture research scientist from the University Guelph, who was recognized for her groundbreaking work in the vineyard and her research into wine grape selections for cool climate regions.

The 2019 VQA Promoters Award winners include:

  • Retail: Meg McGrath, Retail Manager, Hidden Bench Winery
  • Hospitality: Maribeth Mckey, Food and Beverage Manager, Inn on the Twenty
  • LCBO: Victor Borja-Sheen, Product Consultant, LCBO
  • Education: Ron Giesbrecht, Professor, Niagara College
  • Promoter-at-Large: Jeff Graham and Michal Matyjewicz, The Sparkling Winos
  • Lifetime Achievement: Helen Fisher, retired researcher, University of Guelph

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