Support for Better Wine Deal

Glengarry News March 1, 2023 Written by: Steve Warburton

Craig S. MacMillan has recruited South Glengarry Township and the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry in his crusade for a better deal for small wineries.

Mr. MacMillan, who owns Stonehouse Vineyard in Lochiel and who also serves on the Ontario Artisan Wineries Association, appeared before SDG council last Tuesday morning and before South Glengarry council that evening, where he presented the same argument he made before North Glengarry council last Fall.

Mr. MacMIllan wants to sell his wine to local restaurants and other licensed establishments.  Unfortunately, because Stonehouse does not belong to the Vintner Quality Alliance (VQA) his wines are taxed at a much higher rate than VQA producers.

According to charts Mr. MacMIllan shared with both councils, non-VQA wines are subject to LCBO markups and wine levies, which seriously impact is profit margin,  If a $20 bottle of his wine is delivered to a licensee, Mr. MacMIllan will only receive 52 percent of that total while another 42 per cent will go to provincial coffers,  By contrast a VQA winery will receive 80 percent while only 14 percent goes to the province. 

Sound Glengarry Counsellor, Stephanie Jaworski asked Mr. MacMillan why he simply doesn’t become a VQA winery himself.  He replied that he doesn’t qualify to join because his grapes are cold climate varieties that were developed to withstand extreme winter conditions, something that VQA does not allow.  Besides that, he said that other fees associated with obtaining a VQA license would be cost prohibitive.  

He stressed that he is not interested in having his product in LCBO stores. “They want pallets of wine,” he said, adding that he just wants to be able to sell his wine locally.  He believes the current policy is discriminatory since his winery is using only Ontario grapes.  

Since his delegation in front of North Glengarry council, is mission has picked up steam.  Glengarry’s MPPs Stéphane Sarrazin and Nolan Quinn have supported him as has Enery Minister and Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith, Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes MPP Steve Clark, and Carleton MPP Goldie Ghamari.

Booth councils passed resolutions on Tuesday which call for the elimination of LCBO mark-ups and wine levies imposed on the province’s non-VQA wines and for the resolutions to be circulated to the province’s Minister of Finance, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Minister of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, the Minister of Economic Development, Job creation and Trade, the Minister of Red Tape Reduction, and the Minster of Tourism, Culture and Sport

Wine Law Panned in NG

Glengarry News December 7, 2022 Written by Steve Warburton

Craig S. MacMillan is getting tired of not being able to sell his wine in the local restaurants and other licensed establishments.  Now he wants North Glengarry council to go to bat for him to help change the lass that would allow him to do so. Mr. MacMillan, owner of Stonehouse Vineyard is effectively barred from selling his wines in restaurants because his establishment does not belong to the Vintner Quality Alliance (VQA).  Non-VQA vineyards are taxed at a much higher rate than VQA producers.  

At the Nov. 28 North Glengarry council meeting, he revealed that is a $20 bottle of VQA wine is delivered to a licensee, the winery will collect 80 per cent of the revenue while the revenue while provincial fees are only 14 per cent.  That same bottle of wine coming form a non-VQA winery will carry 42 per cent in provincial fees; only 52 per goes to the winery.

“When selling 100% Ontario wine directly to a licensee, teh non-VQA winery received 28 per cent less revenue and pays 28 per cent more in provincial charges, with is a serious disadvantage and unsustainable,” said Mr. MacMillan, who added that the reason for teh disparity is that non-VQA wines are subject to LCBO markups and wine levies.

He also said that a number of local licensees have approached him about selling his wine but that he had to turn them down because it wouldn’t make financial sense for him to do so.

Mr. MacMillan chairs the Ontario Artisan wineries, an organization that was incorporated the spring and represents artisan non-via wineries across that province.

“Due to the punitive charges imposed by the LCBO, Ontario Artisan wineries cannot sell 100 per cent Ontario wine to local licensees such as restaurants and event venues, with is having a significant adverse impact on not only small artisan wineries but also restricting local agri-tourism and rural areas that need economic diversification and development,” he said.

Mr MacMillan says that Stonehouse doesn’t qualify to be VQA because his grapes are cold climate varieties that were developed to withstand extreme winter conditions.  Also,the annual fee and evaluation process, which he estimates to be between $5,000 and $7,000 per year, would be cost prohibitive.

“We’re artisan wineries,” he said.  “We’re not looking to be in teh LCBO.  We’re looking to sell to tourists.”

He asked North Glengarry for its help in persuading the government to drop the additional charges imposed on non-VQA wineries.

Kenyon Councillor Jeff Manley said it wold be a great topic to bring up with teh province’s Misitry of Finance at one of the upcoming conferences.  He asked Mr. MacMIllan if he would be willing to go to Toronto to plead his case.  Mr. MacMIllan agreed to do so.

Mayor Jamie MacDonald said that “it seems ridiculous” to impose the higher fees on smaller wine producers,  He invited Mr. MacMillan to bring the discussion to the United Counties of SDG at an upcoming council meeting.  Deputy-Mayor Carma Williams agreed that gaining support from municipal councils was a good approach, though she seemed baffled by the vineyard situation. “Clearly there’s a disparity here that doesn’t make any sense to me,” she said. “Any idea what the rational is?”  Mr. MacMIllan said it seems pretty clear that LCBO is behind it.

In the end, North Glengarry chose to advocate for him.

National Exposure

Jordyn Read of The Weather Network interview Craig MacMillan, co-owner of Stonehouse Vineyard of Lochiel during a visit to Alexandria's Mill Square.
Photo courtesy of Richard Mahoney and published Glengarry News on August 10, 2022

Adventures in Space - A home eight
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Published July 25, 2022
Written by Bonnie Laing

Cold Climate Wine Awards 2022
Glengarry News April 27, 2022

On Saturday, Stonehouse Vineyard in Lochiel was the location of the first-ever cold climate wine awards for eastern Ontario.
Seven eastern Ontario cold climate wineries participated, submitting 48 wines in seven categories, including white, rose, red and fortified wines. Wines entries had to be made from 100% Ontario cold climate grapes, making it a unique competition and permitted wineries to showcase the development of cold climate wine in Ontario.
The competition was based on a double-blind tasting format so that neither the servers nor judges were aware of the identity of the wine being tasted.

The judges were Rod Phillips (well-known wine judge and academic/historian who has published several articles and books on wine), Bill Ellis (President of the National Capital Sommelier Guild and wine writer), and Marie-France Boudreault-Champagne (wine educator and Coordinator of the Sommelier Program at Algonquin College).

Medals were presented by North Glengarry Mayor, Jamie MacDonald. An important feature of the event was the ability to donate a total of 14 bottles of wine to the Glengarry Memorial Hospital Foundation to support charity activities in the coming year.

Y’Ole Faithful of Smokie Ridge Vineyards of Mountain was recognized for the Best Cold Climate Wine in 2022. Stonehouse Vineyard was recognized with eight medals, four gold, one silver and three bronze, including best overall red wine of the competition. Domaine Perrault received best overall fortified wine.
Due to the pandemic, the event was not open to the public, but given its success, the plan for next year is to expand the competition to include wineries producing 100% Ontario cold climate wines from across Ontario and further afield.

Next year’s competition will be open to the public with the ability to purchase wines from the participating wineries. As noted by Craig MacMillan and Joanne Pratt, owners of Stonehouse Vineyard, “developing the cold climate wine awards into a national and international competition is central to developing eastern Ontario as a new wine region and recognizing the incredible wine cold climate grapes can make.”

They also noted that “cold climate artisan wineries are starting to produce quality wine in small quantities from 100% Ontario grapes using traditional minimal intervention winemaking practices, which results in wines having unique characteristic that are different each vintage, making them a significant feature of the growing agri-tourism industry.” Partnering with local businesses and producers is a key component of the philosophy of cold climate artisan wineries in the area.

Glengarry News June 26, 2019

Grand opening June 8, 2019. We celebrated our Grand Opening with the inaugural A Glengarry Affair; an afternoon of pairing local wine & food. Many joined us to enjoy our wines with canapés made by La Belle Sorelle with ingredients from local producers; art and history displays, vineyard tours, music by the Ceilidh Drovers, a special appearance by the Quigley Highlander Pipes & Drums and of course, the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Our first official tasting event!

We spent the afternoon pouring four of our wines for guests at the Tastings in the Glen Event in support of the Glengarry Hospital Foundation.
The event was a great success! Excellent people, food, beer, spirits and of course wine!
Looking forward to next year's event!
Thanks to all who came out to meet us and sample our wines and support the Foundation
Photograph courtesy of Richard Mahoney and published by the Glengarry News