Matthias Oppenlaender Elected Chair of the Grape Growers of Ontario

April 12, 2016 | St Catharines Standard
by Don Fraser

Matthias Oppenlaender — a Niagara-on-the-Lake grower and former Grape King — has been elected chairman of Grape Growers of Ontario.

Oppenlaender, 53, was born in Germany where he studied agriculture and viticulture before immigrating to Canada in 1984.

Matthias, his wife Monica and their five children live in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where they farm more than 160 hectares of vineyards. They are also the owners of Country Tyme Vineyards Bed and Breakfast and Huebel Grapes Estates.

Oppenlaender was elected Grape King by fellow grape growers in 2006, and the following year elected to its board.

Oppenlaender said a priority now will be to work with the growers, wineries and other partners in the province to ensure a “fair market share” for their fruit in Ontario.

Read GGO Media Release

“This is a negotiation year again so we’ll be shortly negotiating grape pricing again with the processors,” he said.

“We’ll also be looking at our strategic plan going forward, and continuing with the success of our previous chair, Bill George. He has done a marvellous job steering the grape growers through some rough waters over the last nine years.

“Certainly our industry is much better off because of his leadership,” Oppenlaender said.

“Our Ontario grape growers have continually improved their quality and the wineries are doing the same thing,” the new chair added. “We want to get that market share up, to increase wine sales of 100 per cent Ontario-grown grapes.”

This, he said, would translate into “more acres being planted; it’s good for the Greenbelt, job creation, and the challenge the premier has given to the agrifood sector to create 120,000 jobs in the future.”

Earlier this month, George, who’d been Grape Growers’ chairman since 2007, decided not to seek re-election to the board.

In 2009, Oppenlaender was elected board vice-chairman, a position he held until being elected chair on Monday.

Bill Schenck, a fourth-generation grape grower in St. Catharines, has been elected vice-chairman of the board.

The board now includes Steve Pohorly and Erwin Wiens of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Jim Morrison of Lincoln, Brock Puddicombe of Winona, Debra Marshall of Prince Edward County and Scott Wilkins of Amherstburg.

All are part-way through terms as directors.

Kevin Watson of Niagara-on-the-Lake has been re-elected and Doug Funk Jr. is newly-elected to represent growers from Lincoln.

Twitter: @don_standard