Our land consists of 25 acres, of which 7.5 acres have been planted with vines, and is situated next to the village of Hillier in Prince Edward County. The County has been recently named the fourth “Designated Viticultural Area” by the government of Ontario, joining Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore and Pelee Island. This reflects the increasing realization that our terroir can yield grapes and wines of very high quality. The soil consists of a relatively shallow layer of clay loam riddled with chunks of limestone over shattered and therefore penetrable layers of limestone, reminiscent of the soils of Burgundy, France. This configuration allows excellent drainage, yet good access to mineralized water by roots penetrating deep into the underlayer. Our logo design is based on the fossil shapes we find in the limestone rocks throughout our vineyard.
The climate is also Burgundian - relatively cool but with enough sunshine to allow for gentle and effective ripening of premium grape varieties such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. The moderating influence of Lake Ontario, only about 2 km from our vineyard, protects the vines from temperature extremes. The prevailing westerly breezes from the lake provide an important cooling effect during the hotter days of the summer and reduce the humidity. Nonetheless, in the winter it can get cold enough to destroy fruiting buds and, rarely, even vines. This necessitates burying the vine graft union and selected canes late in the Fall, then uncovering them in the Spring, a labour intensive process requiring extreme care. When we taste our wines, however, we feel that the extra effort is well worth it!
Vine Types and Vineyard Practices
Presently we have 7.5 acres with 13,000 vines of Pinot Noir and 2,500 vines of each of Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, planted between 2005 and 2009. The Pinot Noir vines are Dijon (France) clones 114, 115, 459, 667, 777 and 828 grafted to rootstocks Riparia Gloire or 101-14. These were planted at high density, 4.5 ft x 3 ft or 6 ft x 3 ft giving 3,225 or 2,400 vines per acre respectively, configurations claimed by many to give high quality fruit. We keep our fruit yield down to about two tonnes or less per acre so that these many vines are producing less fruit, thereby concentrating available minerals and nutrients in fewer grapes. The multiple clones and much reduced fruit yield per vine confers complexity and intensity to our wines.
High density viticulture is more work. To produce premium wines, all vineyard operations require meticulous and conscientious care. We have achieved this by doing the hard work ourselves, with the help of our family and a few very dedicated vineyard employees. We use organic practices wherever possible, avoiding the use of agents that have potential toxicity. We do all our weeding either by hand or mechanically. Our harvests are also done by hand – any grape clusters and even individual grapes that have any indication of disease are discarded. All this ensures that grapes used in the winemaking are as healthy and ripe as possible.