When WOW (World of Ontario Wine) Leader Melissa McFadden from Store 300 (Owen Sound) learned that she won a VQA Promoter of the Year Award from Brock University, she was completely shocked. The surprise isn’t just because she won, but because she had no idea she was even nominated.
“I remember a sales rep coming up to me and congratulating me,” said Melissa, who recalls asking the rep “What did I do? What did I win?!”
The honour is something to be proud of. In order to be considered, candidates have to be nominated by their peers and partners throughout the industry. Every year, Brock University hands out six VQA Awards, but only one is awarded to the LCBO. Winners must support VQA wines through promotion or education with “unselfish enthusiasm, constructive input and unsolicited promotion.”
Melissa joined the LCBO in 2008 with limited product knowledge. A WOW leader opportunity came up and she jumped at the chance to take it. Her local love grew as she toured Ontario wineries and met with winemakers face-to-face.
“When you hear their stories, how they got started, and see their passion firsthand it’s hard not to get excited,” said Melissa. “What we are doing in our own backyards is really remarkable. It’s an art and something I felt a desire to be a part of.”
Her store in Owen Sound has an “Our Wine Country Ontario” boutique. Melissa takes pride in working there, looking for new initiatives, talking with customers and sales reps, and challenging her colleagues to taste and recommend local offerings. She has also completed her WSET Award in Wines, up to level 3, on her own time and credits part of her success to having a mentor in Product Consultant Stephen Blender.
“One of the reasons I love promoting Ontario wines is what it does for the economy. Every time a VQA wine is purchased, part of it goes back into the economy. We also make fantastic wines and once customers keep an open mind and try Ontario, they tend to fall in love with it. Our industry has come a long way and we certainly have bragging rights today.”
Naturally to celebrate, Melissa raised a toast with wine from Ontario. And in case you are wondering, her favourites are Malivoire Gamay and Vineland Estates Semi Dry Riesling.