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Why winemakers in Ontario are excited to harvest their grapes this fall: Andrew Coppolino

Why winemakers in Ontario are excited to harvest their grapes this fall: Andrew CoppolinoIt hasn't been a very good year for many people, but Niagara winemakers say it looks like it's going to be a great year for them.That's because many are anticipating a high quality of grapes in their vineyards when they start fall harvest.Jakub Lipinski, a proprietor and head of operations at Big Head Wines in Niagara-on-the-Lake, anticipates making some excellent wine — if current conditions hold."The most important time is right now," Lipinski says. "It's beautiful, and the nights are cool. It's actually looking to be a perfect vintage." Rain is an element winemakers don't want at this point. When it's needed, grape growers can irrigate, but humidity and rain at the wrong moment — September and October — can cause damage when grapes are most vulnerable because their skin is at its thinnest.Grapes change colour around the end of August — what's known as "veraison," especially with this summer's heat — and Lipinski calls that the tipping point where they start looking at the vineyard with an eye to picking.Gabe Demarco, oenologist and viticulturist at Cave Spring Vineyard in Jordan, Ont., calls conditions "exceptional." Although there is still a month or two to go, he judges that his Pinot Noir should be top notch."We had good heat units and now it's a cool extended fall where we can hang the fruit and pick it when we want to, rather than being told to by Mother Nature," Demarco said.He adds that early-ripening varieties are close to being ready, while late-ripening varieties are "looking really nice."Hot, dry weather helpedAt Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where the approach is biodynamic organic wines, winegrower Ann Sperling agrees that conditions have been excellent."We'll forget about those frosty conditions in early May which delayed our bud break, but it instantly warmed up. We've had lots of heat and dry weather which really reduces disease pressure," Sperling says.The conditions, she notes, are good for red wines because they develop the skins for colour and tannins: "All of the things that make red wines complex."  Bordeaux grape varieties — Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, for instance — require longer, warmer growing conditions, and Sperling is eager to see how that wine develops."I'm very excited about all three of those, but especially the Cab Franc and Merlot," Sperling says. "There are a number of factors that are aligning this year that is going to make some good wine."Raise a glassWhile the novel coronavirus has dismantled many industries, especially food and beverage, and wreaked havoc with local and national economies, Ontario wine lovers will be able to toast with a glass of rose or white wine in early 2021.Those more complex reds, destined to be barrel-aged for 16 months, will be ready for market in a couple of years.Wine sales in Ontario, according to the LCBO's annual report, were $2.1 billion in 2019, of which $505 million was from Ontario, a value that has increased nearly $200 million since 2010. There are about 20,000 jobs in the wine and grape industry in the province.On the commerce side of the business, the coronavirus posed a challenge for wineries. Wine sales to restaurants are down significantly, Lipinski notes, because dining rooms aren't operating at full capacity."Many are going through their existing wine inventory," he says.Another blow to the industry has been that visitors can no longer just "pop in" to a winery – wine tourism is worth about $850 million annually in Ontario – as they tour Niagara wine country. Like Big Head, Southbrook has been booking tastings in advance and reservations are required.Looking across the industry, Southbrook proprietor Bill Redelmeier says that some wineries have done well, others not."It really depends on the business model. Some wineries are struggling, but a lot are thriving because they have been able to pivot," he says, adding many now offer home delivery. Southbrook delivers from London to Pickering to Barrie."It's been busy," Redelmeier adds. "Restaurant sales are significantly down, but online and retail are strong."Much of that he attributes to "people wanting to buy local."Demarco says Cave Spring's sales to restaurants plummeted to nearly nothing within a week when dining rooms were shut down, but revenue was replaced, to a large extent, with online sales.Survival, he says, has in part been due to wine-industry collaboration."It could have been a disaster, but people in the business came together and helped each other," Demarco said.Safety on siteLike all industries, there has been a focus on the safety of staff, the workers picking grapes and the winemakers: wineries introduced protection strategies and may have reduced staff, accordingly."We're really worried about what happens if there's an outbreak. We hear about outbreaks in larger agriculture sectors. We're dealing with people here, so we need to show our workers respect," Redelmeier says.Demarco at Cave Spring says staff in the cellar and bottling areas have been distanced indoors; in the vineyards, anywhere from six to 11 Canadian labourers who make up the core crew are in a bubble, while migrant workers quarantine on farm."People working on the farm are essentially quarantining as a unit. They come to work together, work during the day and go home together following the rules," says Demarco.At this point, Niagara and other wineries in Ontario have things under control, including pandemic preparations. Perhaps the only variable to derail a potentially superb vintage, according to Demarco, is what winemakers are used to dealing with: the weather."No heat spikes in October," he says.


Parents await direction from Sask. health experts on Halloween trick-or-treating

Parents await direction from Sask. health experts on Halloween trick-or-treatingCecilia Prokop began thinking about Halloween when she first saw the candy pop up in the grocery store toward the end of August.Often bringing her two young kids along with her to run errands, the Regina mother started fielding questions about trick-or-treating in the age of COVID-19 and her head began to spin."It is early [to start thinking about Halloween], but it's also not. I mean, it's the middle of September already, so it will sneak up on us before we know it," Prokop said Friday."It's better to be thinking about it and talking about it now, and hopefully preparing ourselves and our kids for what it might look like, rather than be in surprise."On Thursday, Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, told reporters the province will be issuing guidelines closer to Oct. 31.He said "guidelines will be developed as required," starting with Halloween into Thanksgiving and the holiday season. Prokop said she's waiting to hear more about what health experts have to say before making the final call on whether to take her kids out door to door. She's also holding off for a few weeks to monitor the COVID-19 cases in Regina as the school year gets into full swing.Speaking to other parents, Prokop said she's not the only one up in the air about what to do this year.Many families, she noted, are sticking to trick-or-treating within their "bubbles" of close friends and family, while others are playing it safe and dressing up at home for a movie night with candy. "I think people are trying to get creative and trying to be respectful of the fact that it's not just an individual choice; whatever you decide to do, it has ripple effects," Prokop explained. "What if my neighbours don't want us knocking on their door and don't want to be handing candy out? I think there's some of that concern — just not knowing what you're walking into."Those questions are on the back of Kathe Scrobe's mind as well. However, at this point, it's not stopping the Regina mother of two from taking her boys out Halloween night."It's sad to think that something else is going to be cancelled — so many things have been put on hold," she said, adding it was tough on her sons during lockdown when they couldn't go to the playground or daycare.With students back to school and many others back at work, Scrobe argued "bubbles have been burst" and all people can do is take the proper precautions."If we're socially distanced and wearing masks, why not? As long as we're keeping it safe, we can do it," she said.Nicole Chafe is also planning to take her six-year-old son out trick-or-treating; however, they're only going to visit the homes of friends and family."It's one of my favourite holidays," she said. "I just want my kid to get the same experiences I got, too — even though COVID has come around."Waiting on COVID-19 Halloween guidelines from the provinceIn the coming weeks, all three parents say they're looking for Saskatchewan health officials to list some guidelines for trick-or-treaters.Prokop suggested the government tell people to avoid trick-or-treating in large groups and in areas outside their own neighbourhoods, on top of the usual precautions of physical distancing and avoid going out if sick."I hope Dr. Shahab gives us some rules, like everyone wear a mask, and then I hope everyone joins in," Scrobe added. "It's just Halloween — it's just candy and costumes — but it would be nice to kind of bring back some of the old normal."


Wetaskiwin opens permanent homeless shelter with 24/7 services this fall

Wetaskiwin opens permanent homeless shelter with 24/7 services this fallA long-awaited permanent shelter offering 24/7 services in Wetaskiwin, Alta., will open in November.This week, the city's mayor and council approved up to $90,000 for a hub that will offer round-the-clock intake, 20 to 30 beds, a daytime drop-in centre and multiple programs.Known as the Integrated Response Hub, the facility will be run by the Open Door, an agency based in nearby Camrose, Alta., which has operations throughout east-central Alberta."The city has been committed to making sure that this happened and we weren't going to quit," Mayor Tyler Gandam said in an interview Thursday."We needed somebody to come in to be able to champion it with the experience and offer the programming that goes along with having the shelter in place."He said existing organizations have been working with the city from the start to get the right supports in place, and they'll continue to be involved.The need for an overnight shelter in the city, located about 70 kilometres southeast of Edmonton, made headlines two years ago when officials set up two wooden dugouts, often used to shelter animals, to help shield homeless residents from the elements.The sheds burned down a month later.There have been several temporary emergency shelters opened in recent years as the city looked for a long-term solution, working with the four nearby bands from Maskwacis. Band members frequently travel into Wetaskiwin.From February and April 2018, a shelter in the Wetaskiwin Civic Building was largely run by unpaid community volunteers, including city staff and city council members.Between November 2019 and March 2020, Lighthouse Church operated a shelter downtown that was shut down early after some residents raised safety concerns.It was sheer chance that brought Wetaskiwin together with Open Door and the opportunity for a permanent shelter.> You can give them a bed but that doesn't really do anything. \- Jessica HuttonWhile the city was signing a contract with Open Door on youth programming, it became apparent that the organization was the missing piece. Open Door will bring it all together to help provide "those services for individuals that are vulnerable or at risk, or just needing something and maybe don't know where to go or how to get to it," said Jessica Hutton, executive director for Camrose Open Door Association."We're excited about the collaboration in Wetaskiwin," she added. "People are very committed and we're really excited about leveraging that."Life skills and addiction recovery are among the programs the new facility will offer. Officials will watch for signs of success, such as a drop in crime and more people being housed."You can give them a bed but that doesn't really do anything," Hutton said."We need to then go to the next step … and actually support individuals to get to the place where they want to be and actually feel like they're supported and have that wraparound holistic care around them."'Give it a chance'Wetaskiwin resident Jessi Hanks, who has been vocal about the need for such a shelter, is delighted."This is one of the best investments Wetaskiwin can make," Hanks said. "We have needed this for so long. I hope the residents in Wetaskiwin embrace this new hub and give it a chance."She's optimistic it will make a difference in the lives of residents without homes and help curb social disorder."I'm hopeful a proper team of trained professionals can help ease the need for constantly calling the RCMP," she said."The outreach workers can step in to help, giving our amazing officers the much-needed break from moving individuals loitering around businesses with no real solution."Details, including the shelter's location, still haven't been finalized but the facility will not be located downtown.In a media release, the city and Open Door acknowledged the community was not in favour of a downtown location due to past disruption of business and safety concerns.


Some nursing home residents still waiting for first hug since March

Some nursing home residents still waiting for first hug since MarchIt's been three weeks since the government announced that nursing home residents could get hugs from loved ones, but Bonnie Aigner is still waiting. "Nothing has changed," said the Upper Coverdale resident. Despite the Aug. 28 announcement, physical contact still isn't allowed at her mother's Moncton nursing home. Sussex resident Greg Loosley was able to hug his wife on Sept. 3 — the first one since COVID-19 put long-term care facilities into lockdown. But he's still waiting to be able to take his wife of 52 years to his apartment for a meal and a change of scenery. Other homes, meanwhile, are encouraging hugs and off-site visits for the emotional well-being of residents. Loosley finds the discrepancies between home almost cruel. When the government announced that designated support people, known as DSPs, would be reintroduced and that off-site visits would be allowed "effective immediately," it left the implementation up to individual long-term care homes. When asked about discrepancies on Friday, Abigail McCarthy, a communications officer with the Department of Social Development, said each home was responsible for ensuring that public health guidelines were followed."As always, it will be up to each facility to develop their individual plan based on Public Health guidance to make sure that visits can be as safe as possible for residents and staff," said McCarthy, declining further comment. Aigner was told that her mother's nursing home didn't have enough staff to proceed with DSPs and off-site visits. The plan is to start next week, but Aigner isn't holding her breath. After all, she got her hopes up after the Aug. 28 announcement. "Yeah, I was real excited. I went, 'Oh, great, now I'll be able to go and see her and give her that quick little hug that she's looking for.' And so far, it's still the same."Aigner said her mother, Donna Alcox, doesn't understand why her daughter doesn't visit as often and won't touch her. "It is almost a form of elder abuse, denying them this and taking so long, dragging their feet. Like really, four weeks? Come on."Aigner said her mother's home is already screening people on the way in, and all visitors have to wear masks and wash or sanitize their hands on entry.Loosley said family members are willing to do whatever it takes to be able to hug their loved ones and take them out for a change of scenery after six months. "Absolutely," he said. "It would be worth it just to have her here." Loosley looks around at life returning to almost normal for everyone else — children back in school, planes flying in and out of the province, unrestricted travel in the Atlantic provinces — and he can't push his wife's wheelchair across the Kiwanis Nursing Home parking lot to his apartment for a coffee. Officials with the Kiwanis Nursing Home did not respond to CBC's request for an interview. Loosely said his wife now refers to the home as a "prison" — something she never did before. He worries about her mental health. The owner of a Salisbury nursing home understands the importance of off-site visits. "It's good for them to get out and resume normal life and visit with family," said Jason Wilson, who owns Silver Fox Estate."It's particularly good for their mental health. It can be depressing for them if they're boxed in from the outside world … It really boosts their spirits and it's healthier for them." That's why his facility resumed off-site visits just as soon as the government lifted restrictions on them. Wilson said it's not like family members would deliberately put the residents at risk."These people aren't coming in and bringing their loved ones to a rock concert. They're bringing them for a meal or a drive in the country or a coffee."He said his facility will continue to encourage a "common-sense approach" to off-site visits, "so we can continue to have these people living their best lives."Their time is limited here. We want them to make the best of it."Wilson said there are conditions on off-site visits, including that they have to be arranged in advance. Residents and family members are expected to follow public health protocols for COVID-19, and they have to let the facility know where they're going, in case contact tracing is ever required.RequirementsAs the province has pointed out, the exact approach and start dates are developed by individual long-term care homes. Some have capped DSPs at one per resident, others are allowing two. Some, like Silver Fox Estates, have adopted the minimum requirements possible to follow Public Health guidelines. Others have gone way beyond them.The guidelines for one of the province's largest chains of nursing homes, said community masks are not good enough for DSPs. They have to wear "medical masks." Nine slides of the 23-slide document for designated support people is dedicated to hand washing and includes these bullet points:  * Skin that is cracked or has cuts or abrasions is more difficult to keep clean. Cuts and abrasions can be a source of infection and a port of entry for micro-organisms. It is important to keep them covered to prevent infection. * Natural nails longer than 3-4 mm (1/4 inch) are difficult to clean. * Jewelry is hard to clean around and can harbour germs. Always remove hand and arm jewelry before performing hand hygiene.


Saturday 19th of September 2020 12:19:23

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