Sunday, May 22, 2011

Where I think V.Q.A. stores should be located

I have been reading around the web recently and there has been some discussion about possibly setting up V.Q.A. stores in Ontario. I am all for it but the current politcal climate isn't friendly towards the idea.
The provincial Conservatives would like to set up stores like this and that is fine but I am not in favour of simply privatizing the LCBO and opening up sales to private vendors. I know we pay higher prices because of monopoly markups and high taxes on product but this money goes into Government coffers and we (as a society) have more control over what these funds are used for. The potential for using funds for the benefit of us all is far greater than letting it line the pockets of a few individuals that would own the disribution outlets (after privatization) and after a period of time certain vendors would rise to the top and come to dominate the market by beating out the competition. This means concentration of market share and no real free market. If you look at any of our major sectors in the economy, the industry cycle starts with many competitors and a very real free market. As time passes businesses compete and innovate with the result of winners and losers. The winners drive out or merge with the losers and the number of competing entities in the industry decreases and oligopolies form and true free markets disappear. Just look at personal computers, operating systems, automobiles, energy, radio, Tv and telecommunictions to name a few. So in my view the LCBO should stay and the problems associated with it should be tackled with regulation change and not outright deregulation.
Having said all this I think that V.Q.A stores should take the form of Kiosks like they do with the big wineries that can distribute their product with grand fathered licenses  outside the winery. They could be located in the middle of customer thoroughfares in malls or in  supermarket chains like Loblaws Sobeys or Metro (and in the same stores as the large winery kiosks) or in big box store outlets like Walmart or even Home Depot (if Harvey's or Mc Donalds can sell there so can a V.Q.A. store).
 The LCBO could be mandated to run these stores (and regulated in how they operate so that small family and boutique wineries get a fair shake in acess to them.) or it could be some kind of industry partnership (with regulation to ensure access to the small players). Lets get this done as a start,  then we can look at the bigger issues of large scale private distribution (like wine and beer sold at Macs Milk) 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An unforseen hand in the Ontario winery industry gets his own wine

Larry Patterson wasn't a household name in the news media when it came to Ontario wine but he was a tireless force behind the promotion and growth of the Ontario wine industry. He was a front line employee with the LCBO but you wouldn't know it by how he was on a first name basis with industry leaders.  When I found out about Larry's passing I was not surprised because I knew he was very ill but I was none the less very saddened.  Got a chance to see first hand what he did. Larry (aka Little Fat Wino) first contacted me a decade ago when he found my Wine Dining site on a much younger and less mature Internet. He indicated his desire in wanting to meet me because my site specialized in Ontario wine. I went to one of his tastings at his home and many of his guests were known names in Ontario wine that I had read about in the media.
I brought him a couple bottles of wine as a gift and he insisted on giving me some other wines of equal value in return. He had no interest in personal gain and pursued his wine activities with an energy that made you tired by just watching him.
He helped organize the Fiesta Buckhorn wine and food show and the Ontario Viticulture Association and was involved in a number of wine related charity functions. At an Association meeting I watched Larry run around getting things organized and then on the way home I saw him load his trunk with boxes of dirty glasses that needed to be washed
One year he arranged for me to have a table at Fiesta Buckhorn to promote my website and he introduced me to Klaus Reif. I had already been introduced to wine writer Richard Best. He told people that he spent almost as much time on my website as he did on his and mentioned my site to many. For this I will always be grateful to Larry
Larry's site Little Fat was unbelievably popular and was noted for being very critical of the LCBO for what he saw as a lack of attention to Ontario wines but also had comparisons in tastings of offshore and local wines.
Posthumously, Stony Ridge winery will be making a red in Larry's name called Radical Red a blend of Merlot and French hybrid Landot. A batch of 300 battles will be sold with the proceeds donated to charities designated by Larry's wife. (there is no one better deserving of this)
Calumus Estate Winery will be holding a memorial tasting in his memory on June 12.
Larry's site LittleFat is still online and as long as it is, Wine Dining will be linked to it.
For more details on Larry's activities there is a good article at Wines in Niagara .com. Just click the title of this entry to see it