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Winners of 2022 Canadian Wine Industry Awards announced

July 13, 2022  By Fruit & Vegetable

On July 11, Wine Growers Canada (WGC), Wine Growers British Columbia (WGBC), Wine Growers Ontario (WGO) and Ontario Craft Wineries (OCW) announced the recipients of the 2022 Canadian Wine Industry Awards, the 2022 Wine Growers British Columbia Industry Recognition Awards, and the Ontario Wine Industry Champion Award, all of which were presented during a virtual ceremony.

This year’s recipients are:

  • Canadian Wine Industry Award of Distinction: Gary Pillitteri;
  • Canadian Wine Industry Champion Award: Debbie Inglis;
  • The Karl Kaiser Canadian Winemaker Award: Paul Pender;
  • Wine Growers British Columbia Industry Recognition Award: Marjorie King;
  • Wine Growers British Columbia Award of Distinction: Josie Tyabji; and
  • Ontario Wine Industry Champion Award: Rafik Louli.

2022 Canadian Wine Industry Awards

The Canadian Wine Industry Awards, sponsored by national accounting, tax and business firm MNP, are presented annually by WGC to recognize individuals, organizations and businesses that have gone above and beyond to support and enhance the wine industry in Canada, celebrating the success, leadership, and outstanding commitment in Canada’s grape wine industry.


The winner of the Canadian Wine Industry Award of Distinction, regarded as the highest form of peer recognition in the Canadian wine industry, is Gary Pillitteri, owner and founder of Pillitteri Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

“For decades, Gary Pillitteri has been known for his work ethic and initiative, with a strong sense of family, giving back to his community, and an unwavering commitment towards the pursuit of Canadian wine excellence,” said Dan Paszkowski, WGC president and CEO. “This award is a testament to Gary’s vision of building a world class winery and a true family business, with a devotion to growing the Canadian wine industry and producing wines that are sold around the world.”

The Wine Industry Champion Award, presented to an individual who has provided exemplary support to the Canadian wine industry through media, policy or advocacy, was awarded to Debbie Inglis, director of Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI).

“WGC is proud to honour Debbie for her exceptional contribution by focusing on the research priorities of the Canadian grape and wine industry,” Paszkowski stated. “Through hard, scientific work and leadership, ranging from yeast to icewine, and being named director of CCOVI to being crowned Grape King, Debbie is breaking down barriers and is an internationally recognized advocate for the Canadian wine industry.”

The Karl Kaiser Canadian Winemaker Award was created in 2018 to celebrate great Canadian winemakers and honour the legacy of the late Karl Kaiser, a Canadian wine industry pioneer and viticultural visionary. The recipient of this year’s award is the late Paul Pender of Tawse Winery.

“With roughly 20 vintages and an impressive list of awards, Paul has crafted beautiful Canadian wines. His service to winemaking, his skills and talents, his passion and innovation, have all played a big part in not only helping create a love for wine, but also placing Canada on the world map of great wines,” Paszkowski said.

2022 British Columbia Industry Recognition Awards

The WGBC Industry Recognition Awards are presented annually in acknowledgement of outstanding achievements and contributions to the B.C. wine industry.

“It is always important to recognize individuals and organizations who go above and beyond to promote and support our industry. That is why today we are pleased to present our annual awards alongside Wine Growers Canada and the Ontario wine industry in order to honour individuals who have become stewards of the grape wine industry across Canada,” says Miles Prodan, WGBC CEO and president. “The storied accomplishments of today’s B.C. industry award recipients speak to how far we have come as an industry, and the bright future ahead for B.C. VQA wine.”

The Wine Growers British Columbia Industry Recognition Award was established in 2013 to honour a non-winery individual, business, or organization for support of the B.C. wine industry and B.C. VQA Wine through media, research, policy, regulation, education or advocacy. Past recipients include Kurtis Kolt (sommelier), Tim Pawsey (wine writer), Jeffrey Thomas (B.C. Wine Authority), John Yap (MLA and former Parliamentary Secretary of Liquor), and John Schreiner (wine writer). This year’s winner is Marjorie King, pioneer of B.C. VQA wine evaluation and Canadian-based wine award competitions.

“Marjorie’s passion for B.C. wine, sharing knowledge and building community shines through her work developing the B.C. VQA sensory evaluation process, a vital contributor to the evolution of the B.C. wine industry,” Prodan said. “We thank Marjorie for her leadership role in building the reputation of B.C. VQA wine, today known for consistently world-class quality.”

“I’m honoured to accept this award. I was particularly fortunate to work with people who collectively had a vision for the future of a young Canadian Wine Industry,” King remarked. “It was their belief, determination, and willingness to work together that made my contribution possible. It is gratifying to see some of that belief come to fruition.”

Established in 2016, the Wine Growers British Columbia Award of Distinction recognizes a winery or grower representative for outstanding leadership, commitment, and passion for the advancement of the British Columbian wine industry. Past winners include Glen Fawcett (Black Hills Estate Winery), Howard Soon (Andrew Peller Ltd.), Harry McWatters (Encore Vineyards), Tony Stewart (Quails’ Gate Winery), and Vera Klokocka (Hillside Winery). This year’s recipient is Josie Tyabji, partner at Gneiss Wines at the District Wine Village in Oliver, B.C.

“Josie has been a leading wine industry voice representing winery interests on local and national boards, including as the first woman chair of Wine Growers British Columbia (then the B.C. Wine Institute),” Prodan noted. “Josie was integral in seeing the industry through tumultuous times, and her continued involvement in B.C. wineries, including her hand in the establishment of Nk’Mip Cellars through collaboration with the Osoyoos Indian Band, speaks to her never-ceasing commitment to the growth of the BC wine industry.”

“’It takes a village’ is what we like to say these days at the District Wine Village, and that has always been something I believe in wholeheartedly. From the early pioneering days of developing the industry’s premium wine focus post-free trade, to now back to a boutique winery bringing in the third generation with my daughter Christine,” Tyabji remarked on her 35-plus year career.

“When wine gets in your blood, it becomes a lifetime passion, and when we are all rowing in the same direction toward our common vision we can accomplish great things. I look forward to the next chapter of wines in British Columbia as we continue to grow this incredible world class region together.”

2022 Ontario Wine Industry Champion Award

The Ontario Wine Industry Champion Award is bestowed to an individual who has provided exemplary support for the Ontario wine industry through media, research, policy and regulation, education or advocacy, or significantly contributing to the overall strength and long-term viability of the industry. The award recognizes champions who are passionate about Ontario wine and industry prosperity, beyond those employed directly in the industry.

“Ontario Craft Wineries and Wine Growers Ontario are very proud to announce the inaugural Ontario Wine Industry Champion Award winner. It is very important to our organizations that we recognize the significant contributions from people who make the success of our industry possible,” said Aaron Dobbin, WGO president and CEO.

WGO and OCW wish to congratulate Rafik Louli from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) on being chosen as the inaugural recipient of the Ontario Wine Industry Champion Award. Louli is LCBO’s vice-president, Retail Operations Division, and was chosen in recognition of all the hard work and support he and the LCBO retail team have shown the Ontario wine industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID pandemic proved to be a very difficult time for Ontario VQA wineries. Keeping the LCBO open during those challenging times by providing a safe experience for their shoppers and staff was very important for our industry, and Rafik and his team were instrumental in that effort,” said Richard Linley, OCW president.

“I wish to accept this recognition on behalf of our retail employees who demonstrate dedication and professionalism every day, and have been integral to LCBO doors staying open for Ontarians throughout the pandemic,” Louli said. “The LCBO is committed to providing a best-in-class retail experience for our customers and we are proud to support the local wines made in Ontario.”  

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