Ontario Wineries Score Big

    Secret Shopper program results revealed

    NIAGARA, ON, July 3 /CNW/ - A secret shopper program conducted at Ontario
wineries across the province reveals that most wineries are exceeding quality
standards for service.
    The just-released report is part of a winery quality assurance program
created in partnership with the Wine Council of Ontario (WCO), the Ministry of
Tourism and Ontario's Finest (OF). The results of the program may form the
basis of a future rating system that could allow wineries to have an official
OF designation similar to ones given to Inns and Spas.
    "Ontario wineries are in the tourism business as much as they are in the
wine business and it's critical that we continue to support and promote a
positive experience for visitors," says Norm Beal, Chair of the Wine Council
of Ontario and owner of Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery.
    Visitors planning a trip to Ontario's wine regions can now access the new
2008 Official Guide to the Wineries of Ontario. The guide is available at
wineries, select LCBO stores, Ontario Travel Centres and select brochure racks
in Toronto/Niagara/Kingston and Detroit and Buffalo or travelers can call
1-800-263-2988 to order a copy.
    Ontario's Minister of Tourism Peter Fonseca expressed delight that
Ontario's wineries scored so well and said the McGuinty government was pleased
to be able to help fund this program.
    "Ontario's wineries have an international reputation for providing high
quality products and outstanding service, so I'm pleased and not at all
surprised to see these results," said Fonseca.
    "This secret shopper program builds on the success of our wine industry
and the high standards we have set for providing an exceptional visitor
    The average grade achieved among winery members was 86.5%. The highest
grade achieved was 97.7%. Wineries had to achieve a grade of 75% in order to
pass the evaluation. Individual reports and scores were sent directly to
wineries to help them evaluate their performance and focus on areas of
    "Small family-run wineries offered unique, intimate and memorable
experiences and larger, more established wineries that are expected to give a
good experience lived up to those expectations," says Cyndy Montana, Quality
Assurance Inspector for Ontario's Finest.
    "Secret Shopper" site inspections were done at 80 WCO member properties
from March to June across the province, including the Niagara Peninsula, Lake
Erie North Shore & Pelee Island, Toronto and Prince Edward County. The program
was modeled after the Quality Assurance Program used by Ontario's Finest Inns
and Spas - an association of inns and spas that uses a pass/fail method to
evaluate properties. Wineries were judged on a range of features including the
look of their retail boutique and outdoor landscaping, customer service skills
and the variety of wines offered at their tasting bars.
    WCO is also using this data to enhance its retail training programs -
seminars that offer an in-depth look at the wine consumer and how the winery
retail experience differs from retail sales in department stores.

    The Wine Council of Ontario is a non-profit trade association that
represents Ontario's four wine regions - Niagara Peninsula, Pelee Island, Lake
Erie North Shore and Prince Edward County. These regions grow 75 per cent of
the grapes used in Canadian wine production.

For further information:

For further information: Media contact: Sherri Haigh, Director of Public
Relations, Wine Council of Ontario, Phone: (905) 684-8070 ext. 228, E-mail:

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Wine Council of Ontario

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