Archive for November, 2010
When I explain my agritourism book project to friends, one of the most common questions I get is: “how do you find the places you’re visiting?” People are curious about how I go about my research. In particular, they want to know what kind of web resources there are for planning farm visits – especially for the less well-known destinations.
The answer to this question is complicated, which is partly why I decided to write a book and create a website on this topic. Although there are multiple websites covering the topic of local food and agritourism, there are some particular challenges in our region: Read the rest of this entry »
A couple weekends back, my husband and I visited Les Trois Coteaux, a heritage breeds farm located in Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix, Quebec (near Ripon). Daniel Miclette, the owner of the farm, offers 90-minute tours in French or English for anyone who wants to visit the farm. The cost is $10 each for adults, free for children 14 and under. Although it was November – probably the worst month to visit in terms of weather and scenery – we had a great time and learned a lot about heritage breeds and farming.
Daniel Miclette grew up on a mixed farm that switched over to dairy after the Quebec government began encouraging farms to specialize back in the 1970s. He didn’t really like the dairy farming life, so he followed a different career path. But he still loved farming, so he started Les Troix Coteaux and now raises a number of heritage breeds, including Highland and Canadienne cattle, Fjord horses, Sanglachon pigs (wild boar/heritage pig crosses), Chantecler chickens, Katahdin and Blackbelly sheep, and Primorski bees. He now welcomes visitors to the farm to learn about these breeds and enjoy the surroundings. Read the rest of this entry »
Our final stop of the day was Henry of Pelham Family Estate in St. Catharines. This winery was established in 1988 by Paul and Bobbi Speck, and is now operated by their sons Paul Jr., Matthew, and Daniel.
Matthew Speck (who is the Viticulture Manager) provided our tour. He started with an overview of the history of the winery and his family’s deep roots in the area (over 200 years). The name “Henry of Pelham” comes from an ancestor, Henry Smith, who went by the name “Henry of Pelham” when signing documents. He built the 1842 carriage house that now houses the winery’s retail store and hospitality rooms. Read the rest of this entry »
After lunch at Ravine Vineyard, we headed to Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Bill Redelmeier, who owns the winery with his wife Marilyn, greeted us outside the hospitality pavilion. We immediately headed over to the vineyard, where Southbrook’s flock of sheep were hanging out amongst the vines. The sheep have helped Southbrook become Canada’s first biodynamic-certified winery, which means that the entire property is organic and is treated as a self-contained and self-sustaining organism. (See my previous entry about a couple farms in the Ottawa area that follow biodynamic principles.)
Southbrook’s environmental commitment extends to their hospitality pavilion as well. The pavilion was designed by renowned Canadian architect Jack Diamond, and is LEED-gold certified, which is a third-party certification program for high performance green buildings. The building is worth visiting just for the architecture alone. Almost entirely glass, it offers views out to the vineyard from floor to ceiling. The front of the building has a 200-metre long landscape wall, with rainwater retention ponds perfectly integrated into the building design. Not surprisingly, the building won a 2009 International Architecture Award, known as “the world’s most prestigious architecture award”. Read the rest of this entry »
Our next tour stop was Ravine Vineyard, located in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Although it opened to the public only two years ago, Ravine Vineyard has it all: a beautiful setting, great wines (all organic), a historic building for wine tastings, and a deli and bakery that has gained a well-deserved following for its wood-fired, stone oven breads.
We started our tour in the Woodruff House, an 1802 heritage home where the main tasting room is located (along with several tasting rooms that can be booked for private events). The assistant winemaker, Shauna White, gave us an overview of the winemaking process and answered many questions from the group. Although relatively young, Shauna is a very experienced winemaker, having grown up around a family vineyard in B.C., and then working at wineries in France, Australia, New Zealand, and Oregon (not to mention graduating from the Winery and Viticulture Technician program at Niagara College). Throughout her talk, we enjoyed several different wines from the winery. Read the rest of this entry »
Our first stop was Flat Rock Cellars in Jordan. Worth visiting for the vista alone, the winery overlooks the Twenty Mile Bench and affords spectacular views from all directions. The architecture of the buildings fits into the environment perfectly, which is not surprising considering Flat Rock’s commitment to environmental responsibility.
Flat Rock Cellars specializes in three types of wines: Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. They also have some Gewurztraminer, which they use in their very popular “Twisted” blend. We tried several of their wines, and they were all delicious. We were even able to taste some Pinot Noir straight from the barrel.
We also had our first food of the day: a “breakfast taco” filled with eggs, bacon, honey, tomatoes, and several other fresh, local ingredients. The food was prepared by Tamara Jensen and Adam Hynam-Smith, owners of a gourmet mobile food truck called “El Gastronomo Vagabundo”. This retro-fitted courier truck with a full commercial kitchen offers up globally-inspired street foods, such as tacos, tapas, and Southeast Asian dishes. The gourmet truck served food throughout the summer and fall at the winery, with diners eating on the Flat Rock Cellars Green Roof patio above the underground barrel cellar. Read the rest of this entry »
On the day after the OCTA Summit, I attended a Niagara region familiarization tour (aka FAM tour) organized by OCTA and the Wine Council of Ontario. The tour was primarily aimed at media representatives, but a few tickets were available for the general public (like me).
This was my first experience with a tour aimed at industry insiders, rather than the general public. The day was amazing – wonderful wines, delicious food, and beautiful scenery. Although some of the experiences were a little fancier than what the average visitor would enjoy, most of the tour could easily be recreated by independent travellers.
We visited four wineries:
- Flat Rock Cellars in Jordan
- Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake
- Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake
- Henry of Pelham Family Estate in St. Catharines
I will provide details and pictures of each winery in separate blog entries, so please keep reading!
For the last three months, my freezer and fridge have been overflowing with local products: apples, tomatoes, beef, bison, maple butter, cranberry juice, goat cheese, Beau’s beer (if you can call that food), and a multitude of other products available from our local producers. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to visit these producers on site, buying directly from the farm. But many of these places are a good drive from my house, so replacing the food as we eat it is not so easy.
The problem of local food distribution was the topic of one of the OCTA Summit presentations. Lauren Baker, Executive Director of Sustain Ontario, was the presenter. In this session, we heard about the “hourglass phenomena”, in which there are lots of buyers at one end of the hourglass, and lots of farmers at the other, but there’s a squeeze in the middle when it comes to distribution. Read the rest of this entry »