P.E.I. winery wins big at international competition

Mitch MacDonald
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ST. CATHERINES – A small winery here is celebrating after being notified of some big wins at an international competition held last month.

Matos Winery had five brands, Chardonnay, Gamay Noir, Bagaco, Angelica and Anisette all win a bronze medal at the 2014 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, held in Rochester, New York from March 29-30.

The winery, which has already won national and regional awards, is operated by couple Jim and Heather Matos and saw its first harvest in October 2010.

“We’re going into our fourth year so it’s not bad for a little winery in P.E.I.,” said Heather. “I keep thinking we’ve created a monster… a good monster though.”

The highly-regarded Finger Lakes competition sees more than 3,700 wines from more than 20 countries compete for a collection of international judges.

While US visitors to the winery have often told the couple they should enter, eventually they even got emails and phone calls from organizers urging them to compete.

Jim said he had initially refused their offer to enter.

“I didn’t want to get into all these aggravations of crossing the border and with the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S.,” he said.

However, a week after turning down the invitations, the couple got another phone call from organizers saying they could ship their product to a depot in Beamsville, Ont. and the rest would be taken care of.

“Then it was their responsibility to cross it into the border,” said Jim. “I said, ‘if that’s the case then OK’.”

“We thought, ‘why not?’,” added Heather. “It pays to put your name out there. I wasn’t sure we were going to win anything because I didn’t realize the level of competition. There is 75 judges from all over the world.”

The wine was a hit with the judges, as it has already been with both Islanders and tourists, and has signaled the operation’s first taste of international recognition.

Heather said while she knew the quality would be good when the winery began, the two had previously sold a wine business in 2008 before moving to P.E.I., neither imagined the Matos brand would take off the way it has.

The company has now produced seven varieties, some of which are exclusive to the winery’s location while others are available in restaurants and liquor stores, and have seen some of the flavours completely sell out.

“We’re pretty proud,” said Heather, noting the high amount of traffic to the winery. “Last year from June 1 to the end of August, I went through two guest books.”

However, starting the winery wasn’t without a significant risk especially given its Maritime location.

With the area’s climate previously being seen as unsuitable for growing grapevines, several climatology and horticulture professors from universities in the Maritimes and Ontario have been stunned upon visiting the location.

“People go ‘I didn’t know you could even grow vines here’,” said Jim. “Well, I guess you could.”

In addition to being recognized through the awards, Heather said the biggest medal they’ve won has been the support of Islanders.

“They’ve embraced us, they’ve supported us and they’re so proud of us. They bring family here, even the ones that don’t drink,” she said. “To me it doesn’t even compare. The support we’ve gotten from them and loyalty they’ve shown is phenomenal. That to me is bigger than any medal we could have won.”

While the couple are not planning on introducing any new products this year, the winery will see an expansion of about 1,000 square feet to make more room for storage.

More information on the company and its varieties can be found at www.matoswinery.com

Organizations: Islanders, Food and Drug Administration

Geographic location: U.S., Rochester, New York, Finger Lakes Beamsville Maritime Ontario

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Recent comments

  • michael
    April 24, 2014 - 07:21

    believe this?

  • Ed & Deb Savage
    April 21, 2014 - 21:28

    Congratulations to our favorite vacation winery north of New England!

  • Bill & Beryl MacRae
    April 21, 2014 - 09:14

    Congratulations on this exciting news! PEI is lucky to have you both, and these awards are the result of all your hard work. Best of luck for continued success.

  • Cathy Arsenault
    April 21, 2014 - 02:58

    Congratulations on all the success with the winery and winning the 5 bronze awards. Your hard work is really paying off. Keep up the good work.

  • M. Gallant
    April 20, 2014 - 23:51

    Wow, what an awesome achievement in such a short time. Now your Matos wine is recognized on the world stage. Thank you for creating such a wonderful product from PEI and all your hard word and dedication. Whoever said "little guys finish last" you guys finished FIRST.

  • Phyllis Currie
    April 20, 2014 - 18:19

    Congratulations on your win you have an awesome product ....I hope you are both feeling very proud .... This is Phyllis from Platinum Hair Salon

  • Garth Staples
    April 20, 2014 - 17:53

    Great people. Great wine.

  • ivan taylor
    April 20, 2014 - 15:55

    congratulations on your sucess at the show have enjoyed your wine. ivan alice

  • Shelley Watts
    April 20, 2014 - 15:27

    This is an amazing winery with the friendliest staff ever. I definitely recommend this winery as a MUST VISIT for folks from PEI and for those visiting PEI. There is not one product that is better then the other at this winery - they are all wonderful!!!! Congratulations to the owners of Matos Winery.

  • Evelyn and David Burt
    April 20, 2014 - 15:26

    We are thrilled to read on line about your terrific award. Our warmest congratulations. we want to get out this year to see the vines in blossom. Regards, Evelyn and Dave.

  • ivan taylor
    April 20, 2014 - 15:12

    congratulations on your sucess at the show have enjoyed your wine. ivan alice