Premier Kathleen Wynne says it’s time to loosen Ontario’s liquor laws in order to get more locally produced beverages into the hands of consumers, and she’s keen on starting with Ontario wines.

“I think having some sort of controlled availability is what we need to look at, absolutely,” she said.

Decades of strict government control in Ontario limit winemakers, which is why many have been urging Queen’s Park to allow privately run VQA stores that would sell mostly Ontario vintages. 

In a one-on-one interview with CTV Toronto’s Paul Bliss, Wynne said she is ready to relax the law for more points of sale of Ontario wines.

Wynne will not push to put booze in corner stores, but she said change is coming. 

Winery owner Jeff Aubry is skeptical over the premier’s promise, however.

“I’m happy to hear it, but I’ve heard it before,” he said.

Aubry says the current laws limit his ability to sell all of his stock, which is produced at Coyote’s Run Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

He can only sell at his winery, to restaurants and the LCBO, which takes 75 per cent of his bounty.

“They’re our customer, and they’re a good customer, but they’re the only one,” he told CTV Toronto. “If they don’t take a wine, then I have to drink it.”

Aubry said he’ll produce 120,000 cases of wine when the harvest begins this week. Of that, the LCBO will purchase about 80,000, leaving him to find a way to sell 40,000 cases.

Hillary Dawson, president of the Wine Council of Ontario, says the province’s wine industry is on the brink of expansion. She believes consumers now embrace local wines that used to be dismissed as insufficient.

“Let’s give them another place to grow their business and I think you’ll see our industry explode,” she said.

Aubry says Ontarians don’t realize how many restrictions the government imposes.

“They think what we have here is normal – it’s not,” he said. “It’s actually one of the most repressive alcohol distribution regimes in the Western world.”

With a report from CTV’s Queen’s Park Bureau Chief Paul Bliss