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Grape demand seen rising on Ont. winery upgrades

Canada’s largest wine producer and marketer expects to have need of an extra 4,000 tonnes of Niagara grapes with provincially-backed upgrades at its plant in the area.

Vincor International, which owns the Jackson-Triggs, Sawmill Creek and Inniskillin wine brands, will get $750,000 from Ontario’s Rural Economic Development program for new grape pressing equipment at at its Dorchester Road facility in Niagara Falls.

The new equipment “will allow us to further increase processing capacity and improve processing quality,” Vincor CEO Eric Morham said in the province’s release Wednesday.

The addition of the “state-of-the-art” equipment is also expected to create 39 new jobs at Vincor’s facility, on top of its current roster of 72 staff, the province said.

The expansion is “helping us expand the market for our local grape growers and create jobs for our families,” local MPP Kim Craitor said in the release. “With an additional 4,000 tonnes of Ontario grapes being bottled each year, this expansion project is certainly cause for celebration.”

The company produces and markets wines from its network of estate wineries in Ontario, B.C., Quebec and New Brunswick. It also markets and distributes the wine brands of its New York-based parent, Constellation Brands.

“Lean”

Vincor isn’t alone among Ontario vintners in receiving provincial RED funding for expansions and upgrades. Niagara-on-the Lake’s Stonechurch Winery on Tuesday picked up $100,000 from the same program for “state-of-the-art” equipment to boost its production by 20 per cent.

With its upgrades Stonechurch expects to source and process an additional 500 tonnes of grapes per year from local growers, the province said.

The funding is seen allowing Stonechurch to invest in the “lean manufacturing” methods developed in the auto sector, CEO Hank Hunse said in the province’s release.

“Through the introduction of ‘lean’ in vinification and grape growing methods, we will improve productivity, quality, and product safety,” he said.

“Improvements in the manufacturing process will also enable Stonechurch to comply with future food traceability requirements seamlessly as well as substantially increase line speeds, ultimately contributing to lower production costs.”

The winery was launched in 1989 by local farmers Lambert and Grace Hunse, who passed on the business to son Rick in 1995. The senior Hunses came out of retirement and son Hank returned to the farm and vineyard on Rick’s death in 2005.

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