Grape Grower of the Year (2001-2002)

Bill George Jr.

Age:
33

Family:
Spouse Lesliann; children Will & Katelyn

Education:
University of Guelph, 1988, BSc. Agriculture

Board service:
OGGMB Director for past 8 years

Viticultural Area:
Niagara

Location:
George Family Farm Vineyards, Lakeshore Road, Beamsville

Number of acres:
80

History:
Family-owned and operated since 1796

Grape varieties planted:
Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Vidal, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot

Grower for:
Cave Spring Cellars, Jackson-Triggs Vintners

Farming philosophy:
To grow top quality. We’ve stayed with Vitis vinifera varieties and will continue to do so. You have to try and produce the best you can to compete in this industry. We’ve come a long way, and quality will continue to sell.

Changes anticipated in farming practices:
More site-specific plantings, paying more attention to where certain varieties are planted to take advantage of the soil and climatic conditions that are better suited to a particular variety of grape.

Comments:
We’re still a developing industry as far as the wines we produce. The industry is going high-end and I think that’s where we’ll find our niche. I don’t believe we can compete with low-priced imports that sell in the popular-priced $8-10 range. Although there are a lot of sales in this area, there won’t be a lot of gain for Ontario producers. We’ll make inroads in the premium end of the wine spectrum, and that’s where most of the money will be returned to the grower in the long run. I think growers are recognizing that’s where the growth will be, so they’re thinning a lot more and following viticultural practices which will achieve higher quality, and working with wineries more directly to ensure higher quality.

The biggest challenge facing this industry is finding our fair share in our own domestic market and having the LCBO promote our products. That’s the key: government support. If you go to France or Germany, you won’t see them promoting imports like you see here. Our government has to do its fair share to help our domestic market grow. And if that happens, growers will be better off. If we achieve a 50-60% market share, we’ll be in great shape – if we’re able to supply that demand. There are a number of issues that we need to resolve – taxation, the Wine Content Act, domestic market share – that are all tied together. But we need to get government more on side to achieve success.