Ottawa restaurants pull Norman Hardie wines amid sexual misconduct allegations
Prince Edward County winemaker accused of unwanted sexual contact, sexual harassment
Ottawa-area restaurateurs say Norman Hardie's wines will no longer find a place on their wine lists, as the prominent Prince Edward County winemaker faces allegations of sexual misconduct.
"We don't condone that kind of behaviour. It's wrong. It's not acceptable," said Véronique Rivest, one of Canada's most accomplished sommeliers and the owner-sommelier of Gatineau's SOIF wine bar.
"This kind of behaviour just has absolutely no reason to be and I have no tolerance for that whatsoever."
The allegations against Hardie were first revealed Wednesday following an investigation by The Globe and Mail.
Based on interviews with more than 50 people, the report described a "wide-ranging pattern of alleged sexual advances and sexual harassment" by the winemaker.
Three women accused Hardie of unwanted sexual contact, including kissing and groping, according to the report.
Another 18 people spoke of behaviour that can be described as sexual harassment, including requests for sex, lewd comments about sexual acts, and remarks about employees' bodies or clothing.
CBC Ottawa has not independently verified the allegations, but Norman Hardie did not deny them entirely in a statement issued Wednesday.
"Some of the allegations made against me are not true, but many are," Hardie wrote in an open letter posted on his winery's website.
"Behaviour and language I viewed at the time as harmless or good-natured was anything but," he wrote.
"To all those who felt marginalized, demeaned or objectified while working for or alongside me, I am truly very sorry."
Véronique Rivest, SOIF's owner and sommelier, says she was "devastated, appalled [and] in shock" when she first learned of the allegations.
While the food and wine industry has a reputation for its "work hard, party hard" culture, Rivest said, there's absolutely no excuse for sexual misconduct.
"I've worked hard all my life and I've partied all my life, but I have never, ever been disrespectful to anyone and I would never tolerate that kind of behaviour," she said.
In response to the allegations, Rivest has added her restaurant to those that will no longer stock Hardie's wines.
"That's definitely out of the question now. They will not make it onto the wine list," she said.
"I'm just hoping people will simply turn around to other producers. There are many other great producers in Prince Edward County — and elsewhere in Ontario and Canada."
Norman Hardie wines were listed on menus online for at least four Ottawa-area restaurants on Wednesday.
The CBC reached out to a number of restaurant owners who carried Norman Hardie wines.
One restaurant owner in Ottawa said he was "shocked and disappointed" to learn of the allegations.
In response, the restaurant owner said he will also no longer stock Norman Hardie wines.
Another one of the four restaurants removed the wines from their list later in the day.