Dedicated work in the wine industry recognized by award

Melissa Mangelsen

Being recognized for 38 years of dedicated work is something that Debi Pratt said she is still shocked about.

She was named Business Citizen of the Year by the 2013 Niagara Grape and Wine Festival and by RBC.

"I was really stunned when I found out. There are so many people in the industry that make it a success, it was really an hour to be chosen," she said.

Pratt has worked not only to promote Niagara-Inniskillin, but has been a spokesperson for the Ontario Wine Industry as well.

"You can never go out there and promote just your winery because we're all part of a group. People don't come to town to visit one winery, they'll go to several," said Pratt.

The teamwork of the Ontario Wine Industry has helped move it forward and gain recognition worldwide. Although things are positive for the wine industry today, Pratt said it took a lot of work to develop it.

"I think what I'm most proud of during my time here is working to promote year round tourism. We had help with the Icewines, but it's great to see that wineries are able to enjoy the benefits of tourism year-round."

She noted how much the consumer has evolved over that time period as well.

"The consumer has become more involved, eager to learn more and try different wines. When I started people were prejudiced against Ontario wines, but now our wines are standing up to the wines from other countries. People's knowledge has really grown."

Another change in the industry is how wine and culinary have become linked.

"It's interesting because in Canada wine was always looked at as an alcoholic beverage, but in Europe it was viewed as a food, or at least something that should be paired with food. We're seeing that here now, where the two industries are coming together and working together."

Her expertise has led many industry associations to achieve great success and she has recently competed a six-year term on the board at Niagara College.

As part of being a spokesperson for the Ontario Wine Industry, she has the opportunity to speak at various conferences as well as Niagara College, and others to educate about the industry.

Her work has been described as 'legendary', by her peers, but she said that it's all been about doing something she enjoys.

"For me, this award made me conscientiously stop and think of what I've accomplished over the 38 years. When you're doing it, you don't go home and think 'hey, look at the great things I've done today'." she said. "The award really put my work into perspective and I really see it as a reflection on the work that has been done."

"I found out that the co-founder of Inniskillin, Donald Ziraldo, also won this award one year. It was a cool feeling to think of him winning this award and now myself," she said.

Though 38 years doing anything may seem like a long time, Pratt said it's gone by quickly.

"The 38 years really did fly by fast. I guess the busier you are, the quicker the time goes."



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