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‘We are pricing an entire generation out’ of family-friendly housing: The best comments from Hub readers this week

Commentary

This week in Hub Forum, readers discussed many of the most pressing issues concerning Canada, including the role of critical minerals in expanding Canada’s global reach, whether Pierre Poilievre can tackle housing with Doug Ford in the picture, legal battles between federal and provincial governments, the need for a Canadian CIA, and the all-consuming culture war question: just how “woke” is Canada, really?

The goal of Hub Forum is to bring the impressive knowledge and experience of The Hub community to the fore and to foster open dialogue and the competition of differing ideas in a respectful and productive manner. Here are some of the most interesting comments from this past week.

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Why critical minerals are key to Canada’s global influence

Monday, February 12, 2024

“Future governments may have little choice but to directly fund and assist the mining sector but I suspect that by the time they get to it, it will be too little, and too late.”

anon

“Governments and corporations must negotiate good economic deals with those Indigenous People who have ownership rights.”

— Al Raftis

Will Pierre Poilievre stand up to Doug Ford, Canada’s biggest gatekeeper?

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

“All politicians are faced with the trade-offs between the political path and the best for the country/province/municipality path. Sometimes the two align but often they do not. When the disconnect is too frequent and/or too egregious, a politician begins to earn the ignoble mantle of ‘typical politician,’ even with party supporters. Many may chalk it up to politics-as-usual, but when the person doing it is in power, it has real and negative consequences, including more apathy among voters or potential voters (see current government).”

Paul Attics

“Even with density to partially compensate, the result has been skyrocketing land prices, smaller units, and a huge transfer of wealth to existing homeowners. There’s ‘enough’ land without touching the greenbelt, but enough for what? The majority of new builds are apartments, not ‘missing middle,’ and we are pricing an entire generation out of the lower-density, family-friendly housing that is both what they want and what previous generations enjoyed.”

Valerie

The battles over provincial autonomy are just heating up

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

“At 50, I have known people from all walks of life and political persuasions over the years and while I may not agree with their ideologies or policy ideas, they are people I admire because they care about our country and community and think about ways to solve problems.”

Coxy

“The inequality between the rich and the poor is growing. That creates a nation which is unstable.”

— A. Chezzi

Canada needs its own CIA

Thursday, February 15, 2024

“For good and ill, we benefit immensely from the geographical proximity to, strategic alignment, and cultural affinity with, the United States. Perhaps Canada could increase its contribution to Five Eyes and our wider alliances in other ways with more value to usrobust, high profile, and ongoing exercise of our sovereignty in the Canadian North, for example.”

— Paul Attics

“The obstacles of not having our own foreign intelligence service are apparent whenever an event somewhere in the world triggers the need for a response.”

— RJKWells

A person carries a Stay Woke sign during a protest, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023, in Miami. Lynne Sladky/AP Photo.
Canadians aren’t actually ‘woke’

Friday, February 16, 2024

“If we could get back to that and stop politicizing [the term woke], we would fare much better as a country. The survey indicates that on some matters we are not much different from the U.S. and that is something we need to work on.

— A. Chezzi

“Any dominant ideology that vigorously prevents and punishes good faith discussion and ideas is a societal dead end, certainly an unprosperous one, and likely a destructive one.”

— Paul Attics

Malcolm Jolley: Amidst a worrisome winter, The Crush is Niagara’s good news wine story

Commentary

The news from the Okanagan is bleak. After freezing weather in January, there may be essentially no harvest this year. Even before the latest climate disaster, the B.C. wine industry has been struggling, with dozens of wineries purportedly up for sale. Canada’s second-largest wine region is in survival mode.

Over here in Ontario, things look brighter, although an oddly mild winter so far must evoke worries among vintners about early bud break and flash frosts. But generally, the mood seems to be pretty good, with a few particularly successful recent vintages coming into the market and some steady growth. One specific good news story, coming off of the Beamsville Bench, must be the new Niagara Custom Crush Studio.

Last week, I went to check out The Crush on the advice of Marlize Beyers who urged me to go and see it for myself when I spoke to her for a Hub piece about her new wine. The Niagara Custom Crush Studio is the only “crush pad” in Ontario. It’s a place where winemakers without a winery can bring their grapes to be sorted, pressed, and made into wine. Until it opened in 2022, if you wanted to make some wine but didn’t have the means of production, like Beyers, you had to rely on the kindness of another winery and hope they had space for your wine.

Once there, I learned The Crush is the product of a kind of Ontario wine veterans supergroup. The principals include long-time grower and vigneron CEO Graham L. Rennie of Rennie Estate Winery and Heron Pond Benchland Vineyard, Marco Piccoli as COO, who was formerly the director of Winemaking at Arterra, Canada’s largest wine company, and GM Matt Loney, formerly of Creekside and Stoney Ridge wineries.

There’s even a celebrity angle to the Niagara Custom Crush Studio story. The site is the old Stoney Ridge Estate Winery, owned by the sportscaster Bob “The Bobcat” McCown. Production started in the original 4,500-square-foot Stoney Ridge facility and retail and tasting room buildings in 2022. This year, they have been dwarfed by a new crush pad and 7,000 square foot winery attached that is capable of handling a million litres and was completed just in time to take in the 2023 harvest.

Currently, The Crush makes wine with seven “independent” producers. These range from Stoney Creek to boutique wineries like Rennie’s and the low-intervention Terroiriste wine project Therianthropy. Rennie said they’d like to have ten to twelve producers making wine next year.

The actual crush pad is the space outside the winery that receives grapes. Looking at the array of new equipment, Loney explained their modus operandi was flexibility. “We can really turn the dial from big to small to accommodate any size producer.” While Stoney Ridge makes about 10,000 cases a year, the smaller producers at The Crush can make as little as 200 cases, or four standard-sized barrels.

Inside the winery, Piccoli takes up Loney’s theme explaining that the Niagara Custom Crush Studio’s flexibility goes beyond volume and extends to technique. At one end of the hanger-like building, he shows me a row of concrete eggs brought in by Therianthropy’s winemaker David Eiberg. Seasoned winemakers like Eiberg, or Beyers, work their wines independently. Other clients at The Crush can fully leverage Piccoli’s decades of experience. In either case, he and his team are there to keep an eye out for trouble.

Aside from making the Stoney Ridge wines, Piccoli also makes wine at The Crush, including Unscripted, his collaboration with film and TV director Mike Pohorly who grew up in Niagara on his family’s River Bend Farms. He manages a wide array of wine-making styles, from the appassimento super premium Rennie wines to Stony Ridge collaboration labels, like the one for the surviving members of the Tragically Hip.

Rennie sees the Niagara Custom Crush Studio as an incubator; a place for new independent winemakers to get their feet on the ground before making the intense capital commitment of building a winery. A seasoned financier, Rennie stresses the business help The Crush can offer winemakers who are striking out on their own for the first time. “It’s great to make wine,” he said with a smile, “but everybody finds out eventually that it’s all about selling.”

Wine tanks inside the Niagara Custom Crush Studio. Photo credit Malcolm Jolley.

Speaking of which, with the new production facility in full swing, The Crush team is gearing up for the 2024 tourist season at their tasting room, wine shop, and “cheese cellar,” a delicatessen featuring local and imported cheese and charcuterie. The winery is located on Highway 81, the main east-west drag along the foot of the Escarpment, in the heart of the “Benches” wine country. It’s about 100 kilometres from the middle of Toronto.

Rennie sees the Niagara Custom Crush Studio as must must-visit spot because of the variety of Niagara wines they pour. “There’s nowhere else where you can have access to such an array of terroirs,” he said, pointing out that most conventional wineries make wine from a handful of sites. This bore out at a mini-tasting conducted with him, Loney, and Piccolo. It also emphasized different techniques and styles of winemaking, even among wines that were made by Piccoli himself.

Piccoli likes to compare the Niagara Custom Crush Studio to a museum: “At an art gallery, you have one painting next to another, and it’s interesting to see the differences.” He said this at the end of a flight of Crush red wines that began with a young fresh 2023 Therianthropy Pinot Noir and Gamay made in a Beaujolais Nouveau style and ended with a Rennie Bordeaux blend from 2016 made from grapes Rennie dried in a custom built fruttaio, and I could see his point.

The Niagara Custom Crush Studio also, of course, sells wine directly from their website to Toronto and beyond.