From Pelee Island to Niagara to Prince Edward County, Southern Ontario’s wine-producing pockets are home to a bounty of vintners that craft high-quality Pinot Noirs, Rieslings, Icewines and much, much more. Every Wednesday throughout the summer, Where Toronto profiles an Ontario winery whose bottles are worth seeking out, and whose vineyards are definitely worthy of a day trip from the big city.
This week’s Ontario winery:
Established in 1997
Owner: Joe Will, president and founding winemaker. Newman Smith, chairman.
Winemaker: Dr. Marc Bradshaw
How big is your winery?
Strewn is a smaller winery with 26 acres of grapes grown from the winery’s lakeshore and inland vineyards, along with those purchased from a handful of other growers.
How many varieties of wine do you produce?
We produce nine varietals. We produce age-worthy Bordeaux-style red wines: Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Our refreshing white wines include Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Blanc. We produce Vidal, Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine. The portfolio also includes the more affordable TwoVines and Cottage Block brands, premium varietals and single vineyard Terroir selections, many available only at the winery.
What are your three most popular wines?
Two Vines Riesling-Gewurztraminer, Strewn Barrel Aged Chardonnay and Rogue’s Lot (a blend of Cab Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc).
Tell us about the winery’s background.
Joe Will, founding winemaker has always had a passion for wine. While he working in other fields (journalism and public relations), he kept his passion for wine alive. In 1989 he had the opportunity to further pursue the business that stirred his soul. After working in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, Joe headed to Australia’s Roseworthy College at the University of Adelaide. Upon returning home Joe signed on as the inaugural winemaker at Pillitteri Estates and five years later opened Strewn winery with industry veteran Newman Smith. The mandate of the winery is to make premium VQA wines from grapes grown in the Niagara Peninsula.
Does the winery offer tours?
We offer complimentary public tours daily at 11:30 a.m., which includes a vineyard walk (weather permitting) followed by a tasting. We also offer French-speaking tours available by appointment. Private tours are available for groups of 10 or more for minimum of $5. Customized tours available for groups. Prices vary.
What other amenities are on site?
The Wine Country Cooking School located within Strewn is a unique culinary experience for recreational cooks. Terroir La Cachette is the restaurant at Strewn where chef Alain Levesque combines French Provençal style of cooking with the best local ingredients, bringing together the finest the region has to offer.
Tell us something people typically don’t know or understand about wine production.
Contrary to popular belief, winemaking is a pretty un-romantic occupation! It’s exhausting, intense, involving crazy hours and insane temperatures, and is totally grubby work with black stained hands for many months of the year…but, like any forms of art, people embroiled in the production of wine are some of the most absolute super-charged passionate people you will ever encounter, and they wouldn’t have their job any other way.
What is one piece of advice you’d offer someone wishing to have a better experience with wine?
I feel that the wine consumer often overlooks serving temperature for most wines. Often white wines are served too cold – making them less aromatic and more acidic. Typically, more complex white wine, such as barrel-fermented Chardonnay should be served slightly warmer (10-13°C). Whereas, lighter-bodied and neutral white wines benefit from more of a chill (7-10°C). The common refrigerator is set to 4-5°C, so a good rule is to remove white wines from the fridge around 15-20 minutes prior to service.
With the advent of state-of-the-art heating and insulation systems, room temperature has increased. In turn, red wines are often served slightly too warm. Serving a red wine too warm makes them seem flabby and less fresh. Lighter reds are refreshing when served between 10-13°C and medium-bodied red wines are appropriately served between 13-16°C. Serving bigger, bolder and more tannic red wines too chilled will make them more astringent and bitter, so serving slightly below room temperature at 16-18°C is recommended. Placing most red wines in the fridge 15-20 minutes prior to service will benefit the wine and the consumer. Of course, if you like your wine warmer or colder, you should not forsake what you enjoy—after all, you paid for it and you are consuming it!