TORONTO — As Torontonians enjoyed the first taste of spring weather after a long and cold winter, a contingent of California winery reps travelled to the city to promote wines from the Golden State.
The group, which represented 125 wineries, were at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto on April 13 as part of cross-country California Wine Fair, which includes stops in Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. “It was another great year for California wines,” said Rick Slomka, Canadian director of the Wine Institute of California, speaking at the Toast to California 2015 luncheon. “For the first time ever there were six-million cases of California wines sold in Canada, representing $1 billion in retail sales.”
“We have seen fantastic growth in the past year, showing what’s possible when the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) and the trade come together,” added Shari Mogk-Edwards, VP, Products, Sales & Merchandising, LCBO, speaking at the lunch. As of the LCBO’s fiscal year-ended March 31, California wines generated sales of $283 million in the province, with $113 million of that sold in the LCBO’s upcale Vintages section, representing growth in Vintages of 18.2 per cent, and overall growth of 13 per cent, said Mogk-Edwards. California wines rank number 1 in sales at Vintages, making them the number-1 import in Vintages, followed by Italy and France.
“The growth is a result of great team work,” said Mogk-Edwards, who went on to state that Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot are the LCBO’s top-selling varietals, while Zinfandel and Pinot Noir are quickly gaining popularity.
Though sales for California wines have been strong, Mogk-Edwards stressed it was not an easy year for California, which struggled with a severe drought for the fourth-consecutive year, resulting in an $80-million loss. And, with the Canadian dollar taking a deep slide in recent months, Mogk-Edwards stressed, “It’s already having an impact.” Still, she assured the crowd of more than 400 industry executives, “We have plans to keep California wines top of mind,” pointing to various events and initiatives planned for 2015 to educate consumers about wines from the Golden State.
The luncheon preceded the California Wine Fair where members of the trade sampled from more than 450 wines.