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UPDATED: Coronavirus impacting wine events in Ontario: Big conference postponed, Cuvée cancelled, wineries issuing status updates

By Rick VanSickle

The coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancellation of the Ontario Craft Wine Conference and Trade Show, Brock’s Cuvée 2020, and has prompted many wineries to issue status reports.

Ontario Craft Wine
Conference postponed

In a release today, the Ontario Craft Wineries association said: “Due to the uncertainty around the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ontario and around the world, the Ontario Craft Wine Conference Committee has taken the difficult, but necessary decision to postpone our upcoming April 2nd, 2020 conference as the health and safety of all attendees is our number one priority.

“We recognize that the contributions from our sponsors, speakers and exhibitors are vital to the success of the conference and truly believe the programming for this conference is our most effective content to date. Therefore, we are looking forward to the opportunity to a rescheduled date later in the calendar year.

“We apologize for any inconvenience and will communicate information on the new conference date in the coming month.”

The third annual Ontario Craft Wine Conference & Trade Show was set to bring together Ontario’s VQA and craft VQA wine industry leaders and professionals for a day of education, networking, and an industry trade show featuring 60+ exhibitors, 12+ educational sessions, networking, lunch and craft wine. Education topic streams include regulatory, sales & marketing, finance, operations, and technical.

The show was to feature 60+ industry suppliers in 8’x 8’ spaces to display products, equipment and services available to the craft beverage alcohol sector with 400+ attendees, including craft winery owners, operators, wine experts, professionals, industry suppliers, investors, government-industry champions. Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard fame, pictured above, was to be a featured guest speaker.

Richard Linley, president of Ontario Craft Wineries, the industry association that represents most wineries in Ontario, says his organization is closely monitoring the coronavirus situation, but it is up to each and every winery to make decisions on how to conduct their business. He said OCW will issue a host of information for wineries in a newsletter expect to be sent today to wineries.

“Everything is moving so quickly,” Linley told Wines In Niagara Thursday. 

Brock’s Cuvée cancelled

Brock issued this message earlier today:

As Brock continues to follow the advice of public health experts on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic at the regional, provincial and national level, the University announced it is suspending all events through June 1, including Cuvée 2020, which was set to take place on Saturday, April 25.

This decision was made to protect the health and safety of students, faculty and staff as well as the greater community, including guests and partners of Cuvée.

“The health and safety of our guests, valued partners and organizers is of the upmost importance and is always our first priority,” said Cuvée Manager Barb Tatarnic. “Cuvée is a celebrated showcase of our grape and wine industry that we look forward to hosting each year, and while the decision to cancel the event was difficult one, it was necessary in order to ensure the wellbeing of all members of the public.”

The Cuvée team will be reaching out to its partners and ticket holders in the coming days.

“Cuvée has become not only one of the largest and most prestigious celebrations of Ontario VQA wine, but a strong supporter of scholarships that drive important research initiatives for the local grape and wine industry,” said CCOVI Director Debbie Inglis. “We thank everyone for their continued support and look forward to raising a glass with everyone at Cuvée 2021.”

Along with the main Cuvée event, the popular Cuvée En Route program is also cancelled along with the Experts Tasting (and Promotor Awards), which may be rescheduled depending how the coronavirus progresses.

Wineries updating
status of tastings/retail

Niagara region (St. Catharines) has just recorded its first coronavirus case and the news is certain to spur more wine-related businesses to take action. Many have started to issue messages on their social media outlets. Here’s what we have found so far.

Domaine Queylus released this public message today due to coronavirus:

Dear Valued Friends of Domaine Queylus,
We care about you.
Should you wish to come to the winery to purchase, please rest assured that we are taking all safety & disinfecting measures to insure a safe environment.
Should you wish to stay home and purchase, that is no problem either. We will deliver to you without charge. Please use the promo code “care” on our website for free shipping on any order.
In the meantime, on behalf of the entire Domaine Queylus team & ownership, we wish you, your family and loved ones, safety and good health.

Yours truly, John Nadeau VP & GM Domaine Queylus

Ravine Vineyard in St. David’s also issued a public statement:

“Dear valued guests, as a company we are monitoring the COVID-19 virus closely. Our business involves tourists from many parts of the world, the elderly, locals and loved ones.

“We care deeply not only for our guests and employees but for those we come into contact day to day. Our responsibility not only lies within our business but also as citizens in our community. Here are the measures we are taking:

• We have all staff disinfecting all dining and tasting surfaces regularly. We have removed our menu folders and place settings, using recyclable paper for the menus to be disposed after each use.

• Sanitizer stations have been placed at many places across the property.

• We will do our part to remain responsible and active into helping everyone stay safe and healthy in this matter

And from KIN Vineyards in Ottawa:

“COVID-19 – What are we doing for our customers?

“We are writing to outline our response to the COVID-19 outbreak, recently designated by the World Health Organization officially as a global pandemic.

“Governments, businesses, and families are taking historic measures to keep the most vulnerable people in our communities safe. As a retail oriented business, we too are taking measures to keep our clients, staff, and families safe. While the number of cases in our region remain small and the general risk for contracting the coronavirus for Canadians is still low (, we want to take the following steps to do our part in assisting to reduce the spread of this virus.”

“We have decided on the following precautions:

• We will refrain from attending large scale events and farmers markets for the foreseeable future as we cannot ensure our staff and clients can remain within a safe “social distance”

• Our retail sales store – also known as a tasting room – will remain open for by the glass sales and bottle sales. Although our room is small, we have removed several tables to ensure our clients can retain a safe social distance. Our staff has been briefed on how to handle used glassware during this period.

• We will waive for the next 4 weeks shipping costs on any products ordered over the web and will deliver them ourselves (within the greater Ottawa region).

• Several of our products are available within the LCBO and we will continue to stock these stores as appropriate.

• For events that we are hosting in the vineyard and tasting room, such as our March Break lunch, we will ensure there is an appropriate social distance maintained and we will use disposable items to the extent possible.

“While these decisions are difficult to take, and they may seem sterile, we believe taking the right precautions now will ensure a more timely return to our normal activities.”

Shaun, Lorraine and the entire KIN team.

Note: Since this was posted, many wineries in all regions are issuing similar messages on their websites and social media outlets.

Other wine related wine events in Ontario are also quickly being cancelled. Here’s a brief rundown:

California Wine Fair

“Following increased concerns about the COVID-19 virus and the Canadian government’s encouragement to minimize large-scale public events, California Wines Canadian Office – in consultation with California Wine Institute’s San Francisco office, our winery members, trade contacts, agent networks and charity partners – has made the difficult decision to postpone our 2020 California Wine Fair Tour originally scheduled for Vancouver (March 31), Calgary (April 2), Toronto (April 6) and Montreal April (8).

“We are very disappointed but based on the information we have today, we believe this is the best way to proceed to help protect the health and safety of our communities.

“We are in the process of rescheduling the events and will announce our future plans shortly.”


“The health and wellbeing of partners, people, and customers is our top priority. The situation regarding COVID-19 is a fast moving one and our goal is to keep you as up-to-date as best as we can on actions the LCBO is taking to help support the communities in which we live and work.

“We are following the lead of multiple regulatory agencies including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada and Public Health Ontario. As you are likely well aware, there are currently no known risks to beverage alcohol products in Ontario, nor is there any known risk of COVID-19 entering Canada on parcels or packages and no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods.

“However, like many of you, we are implementing reasonable precautions and planning for any potential business implications. This includes proactive inventory planning to meet customer expectations.

“Outlined below, are the main updates – some likely expected – that relate to our work together:”

• All onsite or offsite meetings, events, and social gatherings with any vendors, suppliers and agents should move to online or teleconferencing or postponed if necessary. This restriction also applies to LCBO employees’ attendance at externally hosted trade shows and conferences.

• Trade Day will continue on the date scheduled, however, will move from an in-person event to an online streaming format. The Trade Show and Elsie Awards are being postponed until later this year. We will update you with new information as soon as it becomes available.

• All Vintages events that are scheduled to take place between now and the end of April are postponed. Customers who purchased tickets will be refunded.

• The In-Store Tasting Program, Product Consultant Training days and Store Openings celebrations are suspended until the end of April at which time we will re-evaluate.

• We are limiting access to our buildings to essential visitors only, such as our cleaning, delivery and security company personnel, so please connect with your LCBO partners as needed to work through any previously scheduled appointments.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and adjust quickly and as needed.

“As always, it is important that we support each other. While the ways in which we work together might look a little different, our ongoing partnership and collaboration remains key. Thank you for your understanding. Your LCBO contacts are here to work through any considerations over the coming weeks.”

George Soleas, President & CEO, LCBO