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One bizarre chapter ends with the sale of Coyote’s Run to Canopy Growth, and another begins

By Rick VanSickle

Niagara-on-the-Lake winery Coyote’s Run has been purchased by Canopy Growth, one of the world’s largest cannabis companies, Wines In Niagara has learned.

The Ontario-based company finally closed on the deal last week, Jordan Sinclair, Vice President — Communications & Media, confirmed Thursday.

“Canopy Growth has purchased the property. It’s a fairly new development, we closed on the purchase last week,” he said.

“We aren’t going to continue wine production at the facility ourselves but we are hoping to work in partnership with an experienced grape grower committed to cultivation in a sustainable manner,” he added.

Staff at the winery were informed of the deal, worth nearly $10 million, last week and most staff have already been let go. The website has been down all week and a Facebook page saying goodbye to the many fans of the winery was promptly taken down today.

The sale concludes one of the most bizarre chapters in Niagara wine history and continues to be shrouded in mystery.

No one is sure where the owner, Jiawei (Paul) Wang, president of ZhongSheng Global Trade (Canada) Inc., even is. He wasn’t the one who told staff of the sale. There is word he might be back in China already.

In October, 2017, Wang told staff to liquidate all the wine and some of the equipment because he had sold the winery to Tweed, which is a subsidiary of Canopy Growth and was already growing marijuana right next door to the winery.

After Wines In Niagara broke the story on this website, the owner said: “I didn’t (sell) the winery to anyone. I’m not going to (sell) the winery to anyone.” It should be noted, that Wang didn’t get back to Wines In Niagara for several days after publishing the story.

Staff at the winery were told that Tweed Marijuana Inc., a burgeoning medical marijuana greenhouse operation with properties in Smiths Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake, had purchased the winery, which in itself was sold to Wang, a Toronto businessman, not too long ago.

There were a lot of sad faces at the winery in October, 2017. All 10 employees remaining at the winery were under the impression they would be out of jobs as of Nov. 29, and all wine currently in the retail store was being sold at 50% off, and that’s after wine club members had first dibs. As well, the harvested Pinot Gris and Chardonnay was to be sold off as bulk wine to whoever wants it. No more wine was being made at Coyote’s Run when the original story was written and updated several times in 2017.

Wang wrote in followup email when I asked about the wine sell off:

“(Selling) my wine with promotion is helping me make more space (in) my warehouse and getting ready for the new wine.”

As I entered the tasting room in 2017, cases of wine were flying out the door and there was a steady stream of cars coming and going. In the winery, guests were seated, unaware of the news, for the Pinot Affair, an annual celebration of all things Pinot in Niagara.

Hospitality manager Cari-Beth Bernard could barely hold back tears as she discussed the sale of the winery.

“I’ve been here seven years,” she told me then. “I’ve made lots of great friends and family. It’s not easy.”

Bernard also noted that new owner of Coyote’s Run, who she only knew as “Paul” from Toronto, wasn’t looking to sell the winery, but wine “wasn’t his passion and the price was right.”

I have no doubt staff were fully prepared for the winery being sold in 2017, but for some reason it was called off (both sides denied the sale even took place).

When this original post was written, Sinclair sent an email about eight hours after the post first appeared, saying: “I work at Tweed and just wanted to reach out to clarify that while we are expanding at our Niagara-on-the-Lake greenhouse and a number of our other sites, we haven’t purchased Coyote Run.”

Niagara This Week, despite doing no real reporting on the situation, decided to run a story completely denying what was written in the Wines In Niagara story.

“Despite claims in an online article that has been widely circulated through social media, a spokesperson for Tweed Farms says it has not purchased Coyote’s Run, the winery next door to the soon-to-be largest legal medical marijuana facility in the world — nor does it have any plans to buy it,” the story read.

“Canopy Growth hasn’t purchased Coyote’s Run and doesn’t intend to,” Sinclair told Niagara This Week in 2017.

“That said, we’re proud of the investments we’ve made in Niagara-on-the-Lake and are committed to providing jobs and investment in the area as we expand our operations at Tweed Farms.”

In a followup email with Wines In Niagara today, Sinclair said:

“I can’t point to a single event that changed our thinking but two years is a long time. Since 2017 we’ve expanded our footprint across the country, we’ve diversified our business in a number of ways and owning the property adjacent to Tweed Farms felt like it was a good long-term decision.”

So, here we are. There’s more to come from Canopy Growth, as hinted to by Sinclair: “We aren’t going to continue wine production at the facility ourselves but we are hoping to work in partnership with an experienced grape grower committed to cultivation in a sustainable manner.”

I do not know what that means.

One bizarre chapter ends, and another one begins.

Stay tuned.