An image of Thomas Green, Jessica Wallace and Scott McGregor of Lakeview Cellars standing together amongst the vines, each holding a glass of red wine.

Local Heroes

With typical can-do spirit, these six Niagara producers have launched or lent a hand to initiatives that support communities across Ontario. 

The LCBO has always had a strong commitment to the communities we serve. Whether through partnerships with organizations like the United Way or initiatives such as the Spirit of Sustainability, we seek out ways to improve the world we share. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve supported local wineries and other small businesses with our Together for Ontario and Pair it Forward initiatives, among others. In this feature, we’re turning the spotlight on some truly fine local wines made by local producers and calling attention to some of the work they’ve been doing to support their local economy and the communities in which they operate. 

An image of Lakeview Cellars winery at dusk.

Lakeview Cellars

There are many ways that a winery can impact their community. Lakeview has purchased nearly 25 million dollars’ worth of grapes from grape growers across the Niagara Peninsula over the last five years, and they often allow smaller producers access to their lab. This year, Lakeview donated 100,000 litres of wine to Dillon’s Distillers for use in the frontline worker hand sanitizer initiative. But wineries such as Lakeview also serve as global ambassadors, raising our profile and significance on the world stage. Case in point: the Vidal Icewine 2018 was awarded a rating of 95 points at the 2020 Decanter World Wine Awards. The DWWA tasting note says it all: “Intense caramelised pineapple and mango nose, vibrant acidity. Long, powerful and rich in the mouth. Serious length and impeccable poise. Quality, nailed.”


An image of the entrance to Flat Rock Cellars winery.

Flat Rock Cellars

Since 2013, a portion of sales from Flat Rock’s Good Kharma Chardonnay have gone to support Feed Ontario (formerly the Ontario Association of Food Banks). To date, the winery has donated more than $40,000, which translates to over 120,000 meals. Proprietor Ed Madronich put it this way: “Supporting our community’s food needs has been a focus of ours for some time, but the added pressure of the pandemic makes it crucial to not only continue, but increase our support.” Founded in 1999, Flat Rock has long been a paragon for quality winemaking in Niagara, and their wines have always reflected their dedicated, premium-focused approach, impressing consumers and critics alike. Fresh, bright and tangy, the Good Kharma Chardonnay has a generous character and offers pear, butter and mineral notes with some tropical fruit accents.


An image of the vineyards at Megalomaniac winery at sunrise.

Megalomaniac

The cheekily named Narcissist Riesling is a pitch-perfect representation of the high-quality wines that can be made from this grape in Ontario. Alongside a notable sense of place, notes of apple, pear, citrus and mineral are all clearly reflected in this popular Vintages Essential. Early in the pandemic, Megalomaniac created their Much Obliged line of red and white wines to honour health care workers and support Food Banks Canada. Megalomaniac presented wines to frontline staff in over 30 health care facilities in Kitchener/ Waterloo, Toronto, Niagara, Markham and Hagersville as a gesture of thanks. The initiative also raised more than $30,000 for Food Banks Canada. A true collective effort, the initiative was made possible with the help of Brandever from Vancouver, who provided pro-bono label design; A1 Label, who offered discounted label printing with a 24-hour turnaround; Ridgepoint Wines, who labelled the bottles; and Da Vinci Cinema, who provided videography and photography services.


An image of Geoff Dillon, distiller.

Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers

In a true coming together of community, in March of 2020, Dillon’s began distilling, bottling and distributing hand sanitizer, free of charge, for use by first responders across Ontario. The effort requires 6 litres of wine or 15 litres of rye mash to produce one 750 mL bottle of sanitizer; an expensive and difficult ratio to maintain. Fortunately, a number of local companies including wineries such as Vineland, Lakeview and The Foreign Affair provided financial support or donated wine to ensure the success of this initiative. (Dillon’s hand sanitizer is also available for purchase by the public at the distillery.) The distillery’s small-batch vermouth is produced from 100% Niagara wine and incorporates a wide range of botanicals including wormwood, cinchona, bitter orange and more. All these ingredients are locally sourced, with some coming from neighbours across the road. In every sense, this is a celebration of the strength of local collaboration.


An image the outdoor restaurant at the Vineland Esates Winery, which boasts views of the vineyards from every seat.

Vineland Estates Winery

Vineland Estates has contributed to the Dillon’s Distillers hand sanitizer initiative, providing assistance and support for that excellent program. Vineland’s historical influence on the economic viability of the Niagara wine industry and the community at large has been significant. They were instrumental in defining Niagara as a prime location for Riesling. The now-famous Weis 21 Riesling clone, brought to Canada by the winery’s founder, Hermann Weis, was first planted here in 1979, with additional vines being added in 1980 and 1981. Weis, whose family founded the Mosel’s iconic St. Urbans-Hof, recognized the tremendous potential and ideal suitability of the soils and climate in Niagara. The millions of wine tourists who have made the region a must-visit destination, and who are hungering to return to Niagara, are proof of his vision.


An image of the Foreign Affair Winery tasting room.

The Foreign Affair Winery

Innovation and daring have played an incalculable part in raising the international and local profile of Ontario winemaking. The Foreign Affair’s unconventional adoption of the ripasso method of winemaking deliciously encapsulates this spirit. The Embrace 2017 is a blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir and offers generous redcurrant, raspberry, strawberry and cherry, with touches of baking spices. The winery is a supporter of the Dillon’s Distillers hand sanitizer program. But in a broader sense, their wines, such as The Embrace, speak to the impact that Ontario’s wineries have had on many of us during these difficult times. Sharing The Embrace or sending it to a friend are both wonderful ways to let someone know you’re thinking of them; it lets you send a hug when hugs aren’t possible. The Foreign Affair has been providing free shipping and donating a portion of sales from every order to Food Banks Canada.

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