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:
Founded in 1991 in Richmond Hill; 2005 in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Owners: Bill and Marilyn Redelmeier
Winemaker: Ann Sperling
How big is your winery?
Of the 15- acre property, 57 acres are planted with vines. There is still a substantial stand of forest, and a large pasture/hayfield that supports the flock of sheep that are integral to the biodynamic farm practices.
Among Southbrook’s offerings: Triomphe cabernet franc rosé and a Poetica series featuring poetry on the label
How many varieties of wine do you produce?
We grow nine varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay, Semillon, Muscat and Vidal.
What are your three most popular wines?
Southbrook Vineyards is best known for robust red wines made with the varieties native to Bordeaux, such as our Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot, as well as rich and well-balanced barrel fermented Chardonnay. Our Connect White and Red wines are the only certified-organic VQA wines available throughout the LCBO as “General Listing.”
Tell us about the winery’s background.
Southbrook Vineyards grew out of a mixed farm, pick-your-own, and country farm market operation in Richmond Hill, where the Redelmeiers have been established since the 1940’s. Originally, grapes were purchased from Niagara and processed at the farm north of Toronto. Fruit wines were also produced using Ontario-grown berries. In 2005, the Redelmeiers purchased an existing vineyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and began expanding the vineyards and converting the practices to follow Organic and biodynamic principles. In 2008, the Jack Diamond-designed hospitality centre was opened, and in 2009 the first certified organic and biodynamic wines produced in Canada were released from the 2008 vintage.
Does the winery offer tours?
From May to September we offer a menu of daily tours such as Southbrook: We Hardly Knew Ye, A Southbrook Structured Tasting, Can You Say Cheese?, Earthly Infused Food Pairings, and Franc’s and Food. Tours range from $5 to $25, which includes food and wine pairings. Advance booking is recommended; 48 hours is required for some tours.
Is there a retail shop on the premises? Yes.
Tell us something people typically don’t know or understand about wine production.
As the leader of our production team, Ann Sperling considers herself a winegrower, meaning that the quality of our wines is founded on the skilled work we perform in the vineyard to grow ripe, healthy fruit. We keep our yields per acre far below the industry standard, and support the health of the vines from the soil up by using fertility from our sheep, spraying natural plant and mineral teas, and avoiding all synthetic inputs. Our goal is to allow each individual vine to express the character of its place, or terroir, and then capture that essence in the bottle.
What is one piece of advice you’d offer someone wishing to have a better experience with wine?
Gather friends and family around a table, relax, take time, share favourite foods, open the wines you enjoy and don’t worry about the details.
• Southbrook Vineyards, 581 Niagara Stone Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake, 905-641-2548
• southbrook.com; Facebook; Twitter @Southbrookwine