Ontario vintners gather for their first industry conference and trade show, April 24.

Winery director Stephen Gash is on the phone from the Malivoire Winery on the Beamsville Bench. I’ve called him to talk about a new product he’s taking to market (more on this to come shortly), but before we hang-up we talk about another project he’s involved in: the first ever Ontario Craft Wine Conference & Trade Show, to be held in Toronto on Tuesday, April 24 at the Beanfield Centre on the CNE grounds.

Stephen Gash is on the board of directors of The Wine Council of Ontario along with the winemaker Sue-Ann Staff. The two of them championed the the Craft Wine Conference Show & Trade Show as something for the benefit of vintners, who spend much time and energy presenting at consumer shows, or trade shows like the recent ProWein in Germany but didn’t have a forum for their own professional development and an opportunity to meet suppliers.

He explained to me: “The time has come to put something together that represents the issues facing our Wine Council membership: the challenges, the innovations and new technologies, and all aspects of the business that are germane to our everyday lives. The real goal was to have a lot of meat on the bone, so we would dig into a variety of topics that are really crucial to running a VQA winery. So, there are pieces on sales and marketing, things on finance and lending, regulatory AGCO and LCBO stuff, technical wine making things, vineyard management stuff… the idea was to touch on all aspects of the business and really put some rigour behind it.”

Apart from the “Conference” aspect of the April 24 event, Gash is also very much excited about the “Trade Show” component which offers an opportunity for vintners to talk to an array of industry suppliers offering goods and services from “labeling, fermentation tanks, accountants, to whatever, those people are going to be there.”

Gash told me the decision to hold the show in Toronto was taken to make it central to wine trade in all regions, but also to make sure the public took notice of the industry. He also hoped that by getting the vintners away from their vineyards and wineries, they could take full and advantage of the full day of programming. “There are always a lot of insights and ‘a-ha’s’, ” he explained, “when you get together as an industry for the day, dig deep into some topics and talk about things. It’s a really collegial industry and we like to share and believe that a rising tide raises all boats. We’re competitors, but we’re also really looking to compliment each other and move this industry forward.”

I asked him if he thought it would be strange for him and his colleagues to attend a show where people would be trying to sell them things instead of vice versa, and he laughed and agreed it was about time, adding “we buy a lot of stuff!”

Find out more about the Ontario Craft Wine Conference & Trade Show at ontariocraftwineconference.ca.