Since summer weather does not start in the Pacific Northwest till after July 4th, we were looking forward to leaving the rain and the cool weather at home in Seattle (June gloom) for lots of sun and summer weather. So, for the next four days my wife and I sat in the outside patios of different wineries in Southwest Ontario to sample the local wines and enjoyed the summer sun. This is just what we needed.
Our trip started at the Wedding House Bed and Breakfast in Kingsville, Ontario (Photo on the right) and upon arriving we were greeted by our hosts, Linda and Tom Gelinas. We relaxed in this romantic and historic house and received the lowdown on the region by folks who grew up here. The Wedding House received its name when the original owner’s daughter got married there in the early 1900’s. Although Linda and Tom, the current owners, did not get married here, they did have their own romantic story to tell. They met many years ago in Windsor where they were co-workers for a big firm. However, neither of them liked the idea of dating each other while they both worked at the same place so they decided that one of them had to leave the company. Not sure if they flipped a coin, but Linda ended up leaving the company for a new job elsewhere. The relationship prospered and soon led to marriage.
We relaxed in the living room while Linda explained that the wine grape growing went back to the 1800’s. We were surprised to learn that tobacco was also one of the first crops grown in the Essex County region. Some say tobacco was first grown in Canada in the late 1700’s.
In the early 1900’s there was much discussion among the farmers of Essex County about what to grow. There was talk of prohibition coming which would make it difficult for the farmers to sell their wine grapes. So it was not a big surprise when in 1917 the US Congress passed prohibition that wine grape growing dropped significantly in Essex County to be replaced with lots of tobacco crops. However, the government has recently taken steps to encourage farmers to replace the tobacco with more socially acceptable crops.
Of course, now wine grape growing is the big winner as the tobacco crop has declined. Another big winner is the tomato crop that is grown in Leamington, Ontario, Canada, which is a 30 minute ride from our Bed and Breakfast. Leamington has been declared the Tomato Capital of Canada and is home to the annual Tomato Festival held each August. It is also worth mentioning that Canada is the largest producer of greenhouse tomatoes in North America with Essex County being one of the major producers.
With wine, tomatoes and other crops flourishing we had to ask our hosts, Linda and Tom, why this region is so great for farming. The answer goes back a ways, say 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. As the huge ice sheet that covered much of Canada and the northern United states receded, it left a finely ground, fertile soil that drained exceptionally well.
The weather also certainly impacts farming. Although Essex County gets harsh weather in the winter, the spring through fall seasons offer a great growing season with summer average high temperatures close to 80. There is no mystery as to why it is so warm since Essex County is at the same latitude as Chicago, Rome, Madrid and Northern California. Also being located next to Lake Erie is a big help as the relatively warm lake helps to minimize frost issues in the fall.
After our talk with our hosts we were looking forward to our tour of the region. We were scheduled the next day to take the short drive from Kingsville, ON to Leamington, ON (Tomato Capitol of Canada) to catch the ferry to Pelee Island. However it was now time for dinner and of course it was suggested that we eat some fresh fish from Lake Erie. Do we want rainbow trout, white perch, pickerel, or walleye? We decided to have a glass of the delightful local wine first before we made any quick decisions.
The Wedding House Bed & Breakfast
98 Main Street East Kingsville, Ontario N9Y 1A4 Canada
519-733-3928 (Local number)
877-733-3928 (Toll Free)
Leamington Tomato Festival
August 18, 2010 to August 22, 2010
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.
Toronto’s Icewine Festival: Perfect for any Icy Winter Day
Pelee Island Part 4: Burning off the post-wine calories
Pelee Island Part 3: Pacing Yourself for a Busy Day
Summer fun in the wine country of Ontario, Canada
Pelee Islands – Island Hopping