VQA Promoters Awards

The VQA Promoters Awards are given annually at the Experts Tasting. The awards are designed to recognize individuals who have consistently promoted VQA wines through education and/or promotion in the areas of retail (LCBO Product Consultants), hospitality, media, education, retail, Non-Ontario promoter, Promoter-at-Large and Lifetime Achievement. The awards recognize the hard-working individuals who promote VQA wines in Ontario in an exemplary manner.

Mission Statement: To acknowledge those individuals that celebrate the Ontario VQA wine industry with unselfish enthusiasm, constructive input and unsolicited promotion.

Nomination Deadline: May 17, 2024

Recipients will receive their award at the Experts Tasting.

Date of the Experts Tasting: June 6, 2024

Nomination form

Recognize the hard-working individuals who promote, in an exemplary manner, VQA wines in Ontario.

Additional information


LCBO: employee who goes above and beyond in their passion to educate consumers on Ontario VQA wine.

HOSPITALITY: includes sommeliers, restaurateurs, wait staff, or chefs who present Ontario VQA wines with knowledge and enthusiasm to the dining public.

MEDIA: Any member of the media (TV, radio, print) who seeks to understand and share their knowledge of Ontario VQA wines.

EDUCATION: Teachers, in formal or informal settings who educate and inspire students about Ontario VQA wines.

RETAIL: An individual who works at a winery (cannot be a winery principal) who promotes VQA not only for their own winery’s benefit but for the greater good of the Ontario VQA wine industry. Could be a retail front-liner, marketing staff or a sales representative. Could also be someone who promotes VQA in the wine “neighbourhood” through organizing events (some examples: regional wine marketing organizations, or wine conferences.)

PROMOTER-AT-LARGE: Someone whose efforts to promote Ontario VQA don’t fit into any other category.

NON-ONTARIO VQA PROMOTER: Someone who is active outside Ontario in promoting Ontario VQA wines.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: A substantial body of work over time that has resulted in the growth in the appreciation of Ontario VQA wines.

If you’ve nominated in the past and wish to put forward that nominee again, please email ccovi@brocku.ca with your request along with any supplemental information (especially if there is anything new to further enhance your nomination).

Past recipients are eligible to win in a different category. For example, a past winner in the LCBO category may now be considered for Lifetime Achievement award.  However, to be eligible, a minimum of three years must have passed between the Nominee’s first win and subsequent nomination in another category.


Read the story about this year’s winners here

  • 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

Read the story about this year’s winners here

  • Education:  James Willwerth, CCOVI Scientist, Brock University
  • LCBO:  Brittany Gregory, Product Consultant, LCBO Store #381, Kitchener
  • Hospitality:  Sarah Scott, Manager of Dining Operations, Benchmark Restaurant
  • Retail:  Tim Coons, Estate Manager, Trius Winery and Restaurant and Wayne Gretzky Estates
  • Media:  Andre Proulx, Radio Producer and Wine Writer, Two Guys Talking Wine
  • Out-of-Ontario Promoter:  Ian d’Agata, Wine Writer and Director of the International Wine Academy
  • Promoter-at-Large:  Magdalena Kaiser, Director of Public Relations – Tourism and Marketing, Wine Marketing Association of Ontario
  • Lifetime Achievement:  Awarded posthumously to Karl Kaiser, winemaker and wine industry pioneer

Read the story about this year’s winners here

  • Education: Barb Tatarnic, manager of Continuing Education and Outreach at CCOVI, Brock University
  • LCBO: Melissa McFadden, LCBO customer service representative, Owen Sound
  • Hospitality: Mike Fish, owner of Glassroots Restaurant, London, Ont.
  • Retail: Brian Hanna, sommelier at Huff Estates Winery, Prince Edward County
  • Media: Angela Aiello, founder and editor of Toronto’s iYellowWineclub.com as well as Wine, Drinks and Cuisine Editor of Chloe magazine
  • Lifetime Achievement: Roberto Martella, owner of Grano Italian Restaurant, Toronto

Read the story about this year’s winners here

  • Education: Peter Blakeman, program co-ordinator for culinary programs, Niagara College
  • LCBO:  Nina Hofer, Product Consultant, LCBO
  • Hospitality:  Greg Elmhirst, general manager, Elmhirst Resort
  • Promoter-at-Large: Norman Hardie, owner and winemaker, Norman Hardie Wines
  • Lifetime Achievement: Peter Gamble, winemaker and consultant

Read the story about this year’s winners here.

  • Education: Evan Saviolidis, sommelier and wine educator
  • LCBO:  Ed Smith, Ottawa-Orleans, LCBO
  • Hospitality:  Darcy MacDonell, owner/operator of Farmhouse Tavern
  • Media: John Szabo, partner and principle critic at Wine Align
  • Promoter-at-Large: Kimberly Hundertmark, executive director, Niagara Grape and Wine Festival
  • Lifetime Achievement: Len Pennachetti, president and co-founder, Cave Spring Cellars
  • LCBO:  William Mancini, LCBO product consultant, Toronto
  • LCBO:  David Churchill
  • Hospitality:  Erik Peacock, Wellington Court Restaurant
  • Media:  David Lawrason, Toronto Life
  • Promoter-at-Large:  Shawn McCormick, uncorkOntario.com
  • Lifetime Achievement:  Lloyd Schmidt, Viticulturist

  • LCBO:  Charles Ronzio, LCBO product consultant, Waterloo
  • Hospitality:  James Muir, beverage manager and sommelier at the CN Tower’s 360 the Restaurant
  • Promoter-at-Large:  Harald Thiel, vigneron and proprietor of Hidden Bench Vineyards and Winery and chair of the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration
  • Media:  Rick VanSickle, wine writer

View a gallery of the award winners here.

  • LCBO:  Astrid Brummer, LCBO Ontairo Wines Product Manager
  • Hospitality:  John Maxwell, Allen’s on the Danforth
  • Promoter-at-Large:  Angelo Pavan, Vice-President and Winemaker, Cave Spring Cellars
  • Lifetime Achievement:  Ken Douglas

View a photo gallery of award winners here.

  • Media: Suresh Doss, food writer and publisher of the website Spotlight Toronto
  • LCBO: Orest Poluch, LCBO product consultant in Guelph, ON
  • Hospitality: Jeremy Day, owner of Toronto’s Café Taste
  • Education: Christopher Waters, editor of Vines Magazine and continuing education educator at Brock University
  • Promoter at Large: Bill Redelmeier, owner of Niagara-based Southbrook Vineyards
  • Lifetime Achievement: Billy Munnelly, wine writer

View a gallery of the award winners here .

  • Education: Jennifer Wilhelm
  • Media: Michael Pinkus, Wine Writer
  • Promoter at Large: Ken Burford, President of the Ontario Wine Society

View a photo gallery of award winners here.

  • Lifetime Achievement: Dr. Allan Jackson, Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery
  • Education: Peter Bodnar Rod, WSET Instructor
  • Hospitality: James Treadwell, Head Sommelier, Treadwell Farm to Table Cuisine
  • Hospitality: Stone Road Grille (from left to right in picture): Joe Rutherford, Certified Sommelier; Brett Healey, Certified Sommelier; Ryan Crawford, Chef; Charles Baker, Promoters Award presenter; Heidi Johnson, Owner and Perry Johnson, Owner
  • Media: Lynn Ogryzlo, Writer

View a photo gallery of award winners here.

  • Lifetime Achievement: Dr. Linda Bramble, Writer and Educator
  • Education: Dr. Janet Dorozynski, Wine Co-ordinator, Trade Commissioner, Canadian Wine, Spirits and Beer, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
  • Hospitality: Sylvia and John Taylor, Owners of Domus Cafe, Ottawa
  • LCBO: Michael Fagan, Product knowledge group
  • Media: Tony Aspler, Wine Writer

View a photo gallery of award winners here

  • Hospitality: Zoltan Szabo
  • Media: Konrad Ejbich
  • Retail: Carol Davies, LCBO, Fairview Mall
  • VIP: Dr. Donald Ziraldo
  • Education: Debi Pratt, Public Relations Manager, Inniskillin Winery
  • Hospitality: April Kilpatrick, Sommelier, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Toronto
  • LCBO: Stephen Blender, LCBO, Owen Sound
  • Media: Walter Sendzik, Executive Vice President and General Manager, St. Catharines Chamber of Commerce
  • VIP: Steven Page, Writer and Musician for the Barenaked Ladies