According to this list of the Southwest Ontario Vintners Association, there are quite a few wineries in this area. Although our agenda indicated that we were only going to visit three wineries, one must be careful to pace oneself, as each of the winemakers likes you to taste all of the wines — which could easily add up to at least eight wines.
The first rule of thumb to pacing yourself is to eat a big breakfast, since many of these wine tours start the tasting as early as 10:00 am. Once that was under our belt (I did need a new belt) we went to our first winery which is just several miles east of Kingsville. Mastronardi Estate Winery. The first thing we noticed were the seven wind machines that were in the vineyard. These should not be confused with the wind turbines that are used on wind farms to generate power.
The wind machines used in the vineyard are used on days that there are frost issues. These machines take the warmer air that is above the ground (at about 50 feet or 15 meters) and mix it with the cold freezing air that is trapped near the ground. The net impact can be to warm up the vineyard by as much as 6 degrees F (3 C) at times. That difference can save the grapes. This is one of the methods used by Mastronardi Estate Winery to overcome the ‘icebox’ conditions the site was known by prior to their ownership.
When we asked about the wind machines we learned that there are plans to create a wind farm off the coast of the lake. This has created a lot of discussion and dissent in the area.
In 2002 Tony and Eadie Mastronardi purchased this vineyard and successfully combined the contemporary use of the wind machines with their wine growing roots from Italy (Tony) and Portugal (Eadie). Prior to 2002 the Mastronardis’ were growing tomatoes in greenhouses.
How did the wines taste? The combination of the Mastronardi’s farming and winemaker Lyse Le Blanc’s expertise created a very impressive tasting experience. The Barrel Chardonnay had a perfect balance to it, unlike many oaked Chardonnays which come off too strong. The award winning and delicious Cabernet Sauvignon also tasted very well balanced. Their most popular wine is the sweet tasting Casa Nostra Baco Noir. A wine that we did not taste was the Brianje Riesling which was named for Brittany Mastronardi, Tony and Eadie’s daughter who tragically died at the age of 11. The name is derived from “Bri” for Brittany and “Anje”, which is Portuguese for angel.
After the tasting was done we took the ten minute drive back to the lovely town center of Kingsville to Pelee Island Winery. We were greeted by Walter Schmoranze the President and wine master.
Walter was the perfect host. We were escorted into a private room where we found a bounty of food to be paired with the wine tasting. Walter grew up in Rheingau Germany which is in the middle of wine country and his family did some winemaking. Walter gained his winemaking skills in Rheingau, home to some of the finest Rieslings in the world.
The wine tasting began with the Riesling Dry, which was wonderfully dry and crisp. We moved on to something a little sweeter with the Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio. The lavish spread of cheese, crackers, sausages, salad was a great enhancement of our wine experience. After the light tasting Chardonnay we went on to the reds and enjoyed the smooth Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir Reserve.
After two hours (which seemed like ten minutes) we thanked Walter for the food and wine feast and headed on the road to our final appointment at Sprucewood Shores Estate Wine. We headed west from Kingsville to Sprucewood, which is between the towns of Harrow and Amherstburg. It is about 30 kilometers (18 miles) along the beautiful shoreline of Lake Erie.
Along the way we passed six other wineries. We also passed through the town of Harrow; home of Hiram Walker’s Canadian Club Whisky. We did not get to do any whisky tasting though because the distillery was closed in 2009. Canadian Club Whisky is now distilled in Windsor.
Upon arriving at Sprucewood we found a wedding ceremony (see photo) about to begin outside and the tasting room was full. A typical Sunday afternoon from what we hear. Winemaker Tanya Mitchell took time out of her busy schedule to personally lead our tasting. We began with the Barrel Reserve Chardonnay which was rich in the limestone mineral taste of the region. We tasted other whites and then went on to the Lady in Red which has a rich taste (which would go great with steak). Lady in Red is a blend of Cabernet and Merlot. We also enjoyed the equally smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Since there was about fifteen minutes before the wedding started we had time for a nice visit with Tanya Mitchell. Tanya learned winemaking by combining her degree in chemical engineering with hands-on work with winemaking experts from the Niagara region of Canada as well as Europe and Australia.
This is truly a Mitchell family business. Tanya’s dad, Gordon, was born on a dairy farm in the area which had originally been farmed by his great grandfather. Tanya’s maternal great grandfather was a farmer in Lebanon, growing olives and grapes.
After Tanya and Gordon got the winery started, brothers Stephen and Jake also became involved in the business and on the marketing side.
At this point it had been hours since we had eaten. Remembering the red wine and steak pairing we headed into Windsor to do some of our own research.
Mastronardi Estate Winery
1193 Road 3 East
Kingsville, ON N9Y 2E5 Canada
(1/4 Mile West of Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens) 519-733-9463, 1-800-320-5040
Pelee Island Winery
455 Seacliff Drive (County Road #20), Kingsville, Ontario, Canada N9Y 2K5
Phone: (519) 733-6551 Fax: (519) 733-6553 Toll Free: 1-800-597-3533
Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery
7258 Cty Rd, 50 West
Main: (519) 738-9253 Toll-free: (866) 938-9253
Author: Michael Fagin is a freelance travel writer who has traveled over the last ten years across Canada and visited all the major Canadian wine regions. While he is not writing Mr. Fagin is a meteorologist for West Coast Weather, LLC forecasting weather for the West Coast of the US as well as on an international basis.