A major real estate deal has paved the way for a potential new craft distillery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The purchase of 70 acres of vineyards by the Mark Anthony Group includes a parcel of 44 acres that faces onto Niagara Stone Road, between Jackson-Triggs and Stratus wineries.
It’s not the first acquisition in Niagara for the Mark Anthony Group. It purchased Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers in Beamsville just over a year ago.
This week, Geoff Dillon, founder and now general manager of Dillon’s, said, “When this came up for sale, it was perfect. The deal just closed the week before last, so it’s quite recent.”
In a written statement, he said, “Our commitment to growing our business in the region has led us to the recent purchase of land in Niagara-on-the-Lake. We are thrilled to be deepening our roots in this community and excited to bring something new to town.”
Asked if the project would be a winery, given the acreage of vineyards, Dillon said no, and pointed out that grapes are also used to make spirits, not just wine.
David Dickson, head distiller at Niagara College, explained, “You can make lots of spirits with grapes, including vodka, gin, absinthe, liqueurs and, of course, brandy.”
“Wine makes good-tasting spirits.”
Dickson, who was head distiller at Dillon’s until 2018, when he joined the college, said Dillon’s already makes a lot of spirits from grapes.
“Craft distilleries go hand-in-hand with wineries, breweries and agricultural tourism,” he noted. “Niagara is a leader within Ontario for craft distilleries.”
Dickson said the sector is expanding.
“There’s been exponential growth in craft distilleries in Ontario. In 2013, there were five and now there are more than 50.”
Dillon confirmed he will be the lead on the planned project and he hopes to begin the approval process with the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake as soon as possible.
Newly elected Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa said he’s looking forward to seeing what is proposed on the site.
“It’s always exciting to see the confidence in our business community to be coming forward with new projects.”
Tim Coons, regional estate manager of Trius Winery and Gretzky Winery and Distillery, welcomes the prospect of a Dillon’s craft distillery just down the road.
“Given the quality reputation of Mark Anthony Group and Dillon’s Distillers, we would welcome them as new neighbours on Hwy. 55,” he said, adding, “Dillon’s has a great reputation for great quality.”
Coons also pointed to Anthony von Mandl, the man behind the Mark Anthony Group.
According to Forbes magazine, “Through his company Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits, von Mandl is a leading figure of Canada’s alcohol importing and distribution sector.”
Mandl is also known as the founder of Mission Hill Winery in British Columbia.
“Just look at Mission Hill winery in B.C. and you see that they tend to do premium quality.”
Stay tuned, as they say, for further details.