Essex County Wineries Growing

(HARROW, ON) – Cooper’s Hawk Vineyards opened its doors six years ago, amid 67 acres along the North Shore of Lake Erie. The winery initially produced 600 cases of wine a year with a retail shop and event space alongside its winemaking facility. That production has quickly grown to 8,000 cases, and it is not stopping.

The first expansion was to add a restaurant and hall, and investments are continually made to add more tanks, more cooperage, more storage space, and plant more vines to meet increasing demand for their wines. All of it is done to enhance the consumer experience, said Cooper’s Hawk Vineyards president and co-founder Tom O’Brien.

“We have expansive grounds to entice people,” said O’Brien. “We made the decision to put in a restaurant as a showcase for our wines. Everything we do, we want to make Ontario wine an experience.”

Located in the Lake Erie North Shore Appellation, found about midway between Point Pelee and the Detroit River, Cooper’s Hawk is one of about a dozen wineries in and around Essex County which are producing award-winning, world class wines, while simultaneously exposing Ontario’s wine industry to a broader consumer base. When the winery opened, Ontario wines only had about 5% market penetration in the Windsor-Essex area.

“We came up with a mantra here that wine is really about the four Fs of life: Family, friends, food, and fun,” O’Brien explained. “We are trying to educate people that Ontario wines are about more than putting good wine in the bottle. It is about enjoying it in the context of a good experience.”

The Ontario wine industry has been has been expanding in recent years, and Lake Erie North Shore has a significant role to play in the growth. It is an area bursting with potential and excitement.

Colio Estates Winery recently invested $1.5 million to add 935,000 litres of capacity to their Harrow winery and added pressing equipment to bring the entire winemaking process in-house. The 12 new tanks mean the winery can take in an additional 1,000 tonnes of grapes and will fill every available litre they have at their facility.

“Due to our growth over the past three years, we required additional capacity in order to be able to ferment and store all of our wine requirements,” said Colio president Jim Clark. “The expansion has increased our capacity to 3.2 million litres and we will reach that capacity this harvest.”

These expansion projects are vital, not only to the communities that host wineries, but to the province as a whole. The wine industry is worth $4.4 billion to the provincial economy and it has been estimated that every $10 spent on Ontario VQA wines generates $40 in economic activity.

As the domestic wine industry continues to grow and explore new markets beyond Canada’s borders, expect these kinds of investments to continue.

“Quite simply, Ontario wine is really good,” said O’Brien. “Once we can get out wines to consumers in the right environment, they will have that positive experience that will leave a lasting impression.”

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