News From the Vardo

VQA forces us to remove the term Ontario Wine from our labels

I was notified by an inspector from the VQA today that the term "Ontario Wine/Vin d'Ontario" that appears on our labels needs to be removed as soon as possible because use of the word "Ontario" when associated with wine is controlled (Trademarked) by the VQA.

According to their material, VQA stands for Vintners Quality Alliance. VQA Ontario is an independent authority that establishes and monitors the province's “appellation of origin” system. All countries that produce wine have similar systems, which define their best grape-growing regions and set standards for their wines. (See www.vqaontario.ca/)

I have to admit that I was stunned and angry at first about this. My labels have been inspected by the LCBO many times and have always been deemed acceptable. We were told by our LCBO Auditor that they were compliant and have been since 2011.

The timing of this is actually not bad since I need to reorder labels shortly. The change is an easy one. From now on, it will read "Fruit Wine/Vin de Fruit" instead of "Ontario Wine/Vin d'Ontario".

Here is my question: When did it become legal to trademark a commonly used word, especially the name of the Province that was used to describe the origin of a product?

In our opinion, this IMPLIES 2 things:

1. A corporation or governing body can control the use of common language; and

2. The only Ontario wine is VQA wine.

Both of these concern me, especially since the VQA acts on behalf of the Ontario Government. (See https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/99v03)

Nonetheless, this is not a fight we feel is worth taking on.

If you are a lawyer and would like to challenge this particular trademark, you are more than welcome to.

If you want to petition the Ontario Government to cancel their trademark, have at it.

There may be a principle worth expressing, but we simply lack the funds and the drive to fight it.
And no, we do NOT want to raise a legal defense fund. Thanks, but please don't.

We will be increasing our capacity now that we can finally sell our wine at grocery stores and farmers' markets.

We will be hiring part-time workers to help sell our wines at farmers' markets.

We will be building a floating 860 square foot patio adjacent to the winery to welcome even more guests.

We will be holding regular pub and astronomy nights to help support our chosen charity of PTSD Service Dogs.

We feel that these are far better uses of time, energy, and funds.

We make fruit wine from Ontario raw materials, in Ontario, that is enjoyed by people in Ontario as well as across this and several other Countries. (People have actually taken some bottles back to their home Countries.) The only sad thing is that I believe that a little bit of our identity, namely our Province of origin, will now be hidden.

We proudly state that ours is a Product of Canada. If the Government of Ontario doesn't want any of the credit, that's their call... but in our opinion, we think that's kind of short-sighted.

Words don't change success.

Therefore, our labels will change as soon as possible.

Our website will be updated as soon as possible.

We just wanted to share that with you.

Thank you for making us so popular that organizations like the VQA took notice of our little Ontario winery. We aim to be even bigger going forward.

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Remind me again why I bother to run a Winery in Ontario...

I had an interesting conversation with a journalist earlier this week where we discussed many things related to non-VQA wines in Ontario.

He asked me how I felt about operating a winery in Ontario.  My response was that I was an idiot for investing in a jurisdiction that clearly had no interest in offering any real support to my business.

My answer caught him off-guard.

I do not believe in corporate welfare.  I believe that a well thought-out business plan, executed in a prudent and focused manner is the key to success... that, and a lot of hard work.  A level playing field would also be beneficial.

I climbed up on my soapbox and complained about the obvious bias the Government of Ontario has in favour of VQA wines, such as a tax subsidy, preferred access to marketing assistance programs, exclusive access to Farmers' Markets, and so on.  In fact, our current when our Government refers to Ontario wine, they are speaking exclusively about VQA wines.  Wines made from cold-hardy grapes, fruit, and honey wines do not merit mention.  It is a drum I have been beating for years, along with my colleagues that make up the Eastern Ontario Wine Producers association.

I must be honest.  After a while, I sound like a broken record (corrupted digital download for you Millennials...).  However, the matter is no closer to being resolved since the Premier Wynne and Minister Sousa (Finance Minister) are seemingly not interested in listening to opinions that differ from their ideology.  I recently penned a letter to Premier Wynne and Minister Sousa asking directly why tax subsidies continued to be offered to one group of wine producers in Ontario, but not the other, continued to be in place.  The response I received was clearly a form letter and did not even come close to addressing the question.  I joked that it was as if I had asked for the time and received the bus schedule in response.

It is hard not to be cynical about the Government machine when it becomes so difficult to get a simple answer.

So here we sit, two years into a one year pilot project which allows VQA wines to be sold at farmers' markets with no public report on the results and no affirmation that the program will be expanded or discontinued.

I estimated that I could increase my sales volume by at least 25% and provide part-time employment to at least 4 people if I was allowed to sell my wine at Farmers' markets in the Ottawa region.

Those sales (net of the 42% tax and fees I pay to the Treasury) would be enough money for me to possibly expand my business, invest in marketing, and possibly attend seminars that would help me improve our production methods.  I asked for this in lieu of hand-outs.

Instead, I received the equivalent of a bus schedule.  I was told that Ontario regulations were in place to ensure that citizens consumed alcohol in a responsible manner and that statistically, Ontario had one of the lowest DUI convictions in North America (I am paraphrasing).

Perhaps, and it is a long shot, the Government could take a moment to get out of the way of people trying to succeed.  Perhaps it is time for the pilot project to expand, disappear, or come clean and say that it was always meant to favour one group over another.

Another subject that came up during our conversation had to do with the ability of non-VQA wines to succeed at local wine competitions.  We joked (there was a lot of laughing during the conversation) about how non-VQA wines from Ottawa and Muskoka Lakes were winning prizes in other jurisdictions such as the Finger Lakes in New York, but could barely muster an honourable mention in Ontario.

OK, I sound like a broken record, but these are real concerns for those of us who took leave of our senses and decided to enter the wine business in Ontario.  In retrospect, I sometimes wonder if I should not have simply taken my investment and set up shop in a jurisdiction that operates on principles not based in the 1800s; one such as British Columbia, Quebec or any of the Maritime provinces.

Perhaps I need to look to exporting our wine to foreign countries; to do so would require the involvement of the Federal Government and they are genuinely interested in helping.  I wonder if my wine was to sell in a foreign Country, would the Premier's office call to ask if they could participate in a photo-op? 

Perhaps I should just wait the 2 years for my American-born daughter to reach 18 and make her the President of a winery 15 minutes away in Ogdensburg, New York.  The equipment can easily be moved; the land and buildings sold for profit.  I also understand that the State Government and City Council actually welcomes new wineries.  That may prove easier than getting anyone in Queen’s Park to pay attention; after all, it’s not like we produce real wine anyway, is it Premier Wynne?

I commend you for reading this far.  Yes, you may be shaking your head, but if you walk away with the slightest interest in learning more about the non-VQA wines of Ontario, in the very least you will be rewarded with a discovery of hidden treasures.  It will make it all worthwhile.

Cheers

Louis

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We will no longer use Canada Post to ship Wine. Here's why...

As a result of our (final) poor experience with Canada Post, we will be using another carrier to deliver our wine in the future.
This may result in higher costs, but we will attempt to hold the same pricing to our customers.

When a company such as Canada Post pledges to provide a service, it is a reasonable expectation that they do so in a manner that displays integrity and a willingness to go the extra mile.

In the past 2 years, Canada Post has destroyed or damaged over 20 bottles of wine. This is approximately 1 in 4 shipments. Although we are charged for insurance (with no option to decline), we are unable to collect any of it because of Canada Post's rules regarding the shipment of fragile items. It should be noted that NO ITEM considered to be fragile is covered. Even if you buy insurance, you will not be compensated for loss or damage solely because it is fragile.

This situation proves to me that Canada Post does not have any confidence in its carriers and staff to handle parcels marked 'FRAGILE' with any level of care. This saddens me. It also angers me that Canada Post chooses to pass this cost of this incompetence on to its customers by refusing to compensate them for damage or loss THEY cause.

I have decided to write to the Minister (to be named) in charge of Canada Post and request that they look into this. I am tired of being 'ripped off' and I am tired of having my clients disappointed when their shipment is late, lost, or destroyed.

With the holiday season approaching, we hope you will consider choosing our wine as gifts for you, your friends, and your family. We promise to use another carrier to ensure that your gifts arrive on time and intact.

Thanks for your confidence.

Louis and Claire
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New stone on the driveway

Just a quick note to advise you to drive slowly on the the way up the laneway.  We just put down new gravel and it is still a bit loose.  Be extra careful if you are riding a motorcycle.
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Blue Gypsy Wines Astronomy Night - May 16 8PM

Bring your camera, telescope or lawn chair out to the winery and take in the beauty of the cosmos.
MAY 16, 2015 from 8 PM to 11PM. In May, a group of volunteers from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) have confirmed that they will be bringing in their scopes for public outreach and viewing.
Also in May, a special, last-minute addition to the event: Gary Boyle, The Backyard Astronomer will present a lecture at 8 PM entitled "Our Cosmic Origin" in the winery building. Gary was the former president of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Ottawa branch, and a highly esteemed freelance astronomer/educator in Canada. Tweeting under the handle @astroeducator, Gary Boyle is a lifelong astronomy enthusiast who is passionate about sharing the wonders of the universe with others.
A donation of $10 would be appreciated. ALL proceeds from this evening go to our campaign to sponsor a PTSD Service dog for a Veteran in conjunction with National Service Dogs. http://www.nsd.on.ca/programs/skilled-companion-dogs-for-veterans
The winery will be open for tastings and wine by the glass.
On a clear night, the view is spectacular, given the low amount of light pollution.
For more information, please navigate to the Blue Gypsy Wines ‘EVENTS’ page on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/BlueGypsyWines?ref=aymt_homepage_panel#!/BlueGypsyWines/events
For more information, please send email to info@bluegypsywines.com
Blue Gypsy Wines is located at 1595 Lindsay Road, Oxford Mills, ON K0G 1S0
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Opening for the season May 15!

It's time to open for the season once again.  We will be open Friday night from 5 to 9, Saturday from 11 to 5 and Sunday from 12 to 5.

 

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Limited Release - 4-Year old oaked cherry wine - ONLY while supplies last


Every year, we produce 50 bottles of oaked cherry wine.  We take our regular cherry wine that has been aging and put approximately 25 litres into a Hungarian Oak barrel, where it stays for 1 year.  This process produces a smooth taste that some have compared to a light port.


Once these bottles are gone, there will be no more until next Christmas.
These will likely sell out in a month, so if you plan on picking some up, please do it earlier than later to avoid disappointment.


375ml - $30 All taxes and deposit included

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613 Night Market - Spring 2015 - May 2, 2015 - Ottawa Convention Centre

Looks like we're going to try a new show in Ottawa.  We won't be allowed to sample or sell our wine, but we will be selling our WINE VINEGARS.

The investment is very reasonable, although we do need to bring a good amount of stock with us.

This will be a good way of introducing our winery to the Ottawa market in our most popular demographic.
People won't get to taste the wines, but we hope we can tempt them to come visit.
In the very least, we get listed as a vendor, our logo is out there and who knows? We might even sell some vinegar.

Estimates are that 5000 people will walk through the door during the 8 hours it is open.  If I can convince 5% of those people to make the trip, that's 250 new faces who walk in the door of the winery.

This show comes at a perfect time for us as we are just getting ready to open the doors for the season.  The 1000 Islands Wine and Food show follows just 4 weeks later, so it should be a healthy kick-off to 2015.

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Louis Gaal is the winemaker (and spouse of the ever patient Claire Faguy) at Blue Gypsy Wines in Oxford Mills, Ontario Canada, 45 minutes south of Ottawa. You can find this raving lunatic using the BlueGypsyWines Facebook or Twitter account. Visit them on the web at: www.BlueGypsyWines.com

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Another year, another website

After messing around with the Wordpress version of our website, I finally accepted the fact that I needed to start investing in a real platform for our business.

A friend introduced me to Shopify.

I thought I would be simply referring buyers to the Shopify store, but it turns out to be so much more!

It's a refreshing change and I think you will like the new look. I know you will like the ease of using the new store!

As a bonus, Shopify is Canadian, head office right here in Ottawa.

Nice platform, nice folks to work with, excellent experience.

If you want to shop in person, we will be trying something new this year and opening on December 20 (11-5) and 21 (1-5).

 

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Allergies: Nature is really kicking my backside this year

When I was a kid, I could have rolled in the grass for hours... oh wait, I did, and not suffer the least bit from allergies. It should also be noted that when I was a kid (at least according to my selective memory) I could run far, work long hours and stay out all night without consequence. Well, no more. My current reality is that allergies are absolutely kicking my sorry beehind up and down the field, specifically, the 62 acres of field that make up Blue Gypsy Wines, just south of Ottawa Ontario Canada. I typically start taking allergy medication in May and go through to the first frost. One in the morning has been fine most years, but not this one. By the time noon rolls around, my eyes are itching and my sinuses start to ache. By mid-afternoon, the pressure gets to be uncomfortable. Being a man, I naturally think I am tougher than the allergy. To quote the that irreverent philosopher Spock (of Vulcan, not the Doctor): "I control the pain, it does not control me." Pfffft. Reaching the end of my tolerance, I decided to whine to my wonderful herbalist friend Rebecca Graves. Rebecca is the Herb Wife http://www.canada-shops.com/stores/herbwife/ an awesome herbalist and all-around sweetheart. She supplies us with most if not all of our soap, salves, muscle rubs, etc. I love the fact that she makes EVERYTHING in small batches, often to order. I finally broke down and sent her a Facebook message asking her if she could help me out. She asked me to describe my symptoms. After some reflection and serious consideration, I wrote back: "I feel like crap." In my stuffed up head, I could hear her respond in her lovely British accent, "Yes, I gathered that," she said, "but try to be a bit more specific." So, I went through the whole story about how I would be fine until noon and by then my eyes would be itching so badly I could barely stop rubbing them. How my sinuses would start to throb and if I didn't take something right away, the pain would move across the top of my head and down my neck rendering me about as useful to society as screen door on the moon. I could see her shaking her head... A few minutes later, I received the response I was hoping for. "I'll put something together for you and bring it by the winery tonight." My sinuses jumped for joy. That night, she stopped by with a tea blend, complete with hand-written label giving me explicit instructions which I read through my swollen, blurry vision. "It won't do you any good if it stays in the bag. Oh, and the flavour may not be great. Just add some honey." "That won't be an issue." I said as I hugged the little bag like Gollum hugged the ring... Rebecca then went out in the field to gather some armloads of the numerous herbs we have growing wild all over the place. Next morning, I started drinking the tea. Just to make the experimental data relevant, I skipped the regular antihistamine. I actually felt pretty good. In fact, I felt SO good, that I decided to test this little bag of miracles by mowing 2 acres of goldenrod and assorted other nasties, with the full expectation of needing to run for the antihistamines. OK, that did push it, but honestly, nothing like I usually experience. Yes, I did take an antihistamine after that, but I was treating mild pain and not a 3-alarm pounding migraine. It's Day 4 now and I think I am beginning to stabilize. The pressure is light, actually bearable for now. We'll see how it is in a week or so, but if it keeps up like this, I am going to be a MUCH happier winemaker. Oh, I neglected to mention that I actually liked the taste of the tea, even without honey. Rebecca sells her herbal blends and assorted other wares online as well. If you like to get in touch with her, drop in on her Herb Wife website at http://www.canada-shops.com/stores/herbwife/ If you do, please let her know you read about it here! ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Louis Gaal is the winemaker (and spouse of the ever patient Claire Faguy) at Blue Gypsy Wines in Oxford Mills, Ontario Canada, 45 minutes south of Ottawa. You can find this raving lunatic using the BlueGypsyWines Facebook or Twitter account. Visit them on the web as well at www.BlueGypsyWines.com
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