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:
BY CHADSEY’S CAIRNS WINERY & VINEYARD
Established in 2002
Owner: Richard Johnston and Vida Zalnieriunas
How big is your winery?
We produce about 1,800 cases per year from just under 20 acres of grapes, expanding to 24 acres this year.
How many varieties of wine do you produce?
Eight, including the only Chenin and Muscat in the county. We also have Gamay, Pinot, and St. Laurent in the reds.
What are your three most popular wines?
It changes from year to year but in the past couple of vintages our botrytis-affected Rieslings were our biggest sellers.
Tell us about the winery’s background.
We are a family partnership. We began growing in 1999 as we re-imagined the future of the Chadsey’s farm that had been growing fruit for 200 years. I [Richard] loved the soils and told Vida on our first day here that “I think we could grow grapes here.” Little did I know how tough it would be. When we opened our doors to the public in 2003 we offered the first Riesling, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer ever produced commercially in Prince Edward County.
Does the winery offer tours?
Yes, we provide tours of our apple house vineyard to explain the winter burying and trellising techniques we use, and we give a tour of our pioneer cemetery. The price varies per group and is usually tied in to a tasting as well. We can accommodate groups as small as 4 and as large as 60.
Is there a retail shop on the premises?
Yes. The Apple House, built circa 1855, is our tasting room.
What other amenities are on site?
We don’t have a restaurant but do have a great picnic area and our barn that overlooks lake Ontario is pretty spectacular.
Tell us something people typically don’t know or understand about wine production.
Burying vines in PEC is not like covering the grafts in Niagara. For fine wines, we don’t have multi-year trunks but bring up new canes off the graft each year. Two of those are tied down to a wire just above the ground and they’re buried under dirt in mid-November to help them survive our more severe winters. Unburied plants would have lost 100 per cent of their buds to freezing temperatures during this past winter.
What is one piece of advice you’d offer someone wishing to have a better experience with wine?
The key to understand Prince Edward County wines in general is to focus in on the lovely clean acidity in each of them and to try to pick up on the impact of the calcerous limestone that underpins the whole area.
• By Chadsey’s Cairns Winery & Vineyard, 17432 Loyalist Pkwy., Hillier
• bychadseyscairns.com; Facebook