In the past few years I have been ecstatic to see more and more craft breweries popping up in Huron County, a place that until as recently as the 1970's still had entire "dry" municipalities still in it's borders. Now we have enough breweries to really do a proper weekend tour, a delicious one. Breweries are one thing, I mean we are a farming county and beer seems a natural beverage to create here. When I heard that we were going to have wineries and vineyards in our county too I was shocked and beyond excited. I had never heard of wine this far north before, Niagara sure, but Huron County? I still remember finding wild grapes down the back tractor lane on the farm I grew up on, but to have a vineyard, with wine vintage grapes? How would that work? Hand me a nice glass of red or white and I am your friend, but hand me a local glass of anything and we are now in a committed affair! (An affair of the palate only, promise!)
I recently had the pleasure of visiting and experiencing Huron County's very first winery. Maelstrom Winery is the original Huron county winery and vineyard, a vision seen and brought to life by the Landsborough family in what used to be an under-used pasture on their home farm settled in between Clinton and Seaforth Ontario. I drove along highway 8 with my husband and my brother-in-law Nathan. Nathan had visited the winery and written about them back when they were just beginning and working out of their garage. He was helpful with finding the country road to turn down and pointed out where they have nestled their new building in the hills of the Huron countryside.
As we pulled up to the quaint, yet roomy, tasting room: built only last year and soon to be joined by an outdoor tasting area for large groups and small alike, Nathan shared a story he learned during his last visit here. Apparently back when the vineyard was still only a rough back pasture for cattle, there were cherry trees in abundance along the bush line, they are still there but now the birds claim them before human hands can. However in past times the fruit of these cherry trees was harvested by a certain grandfather and made into a cherry wine that was enjoyed by friends and neighbours with much laud. So in a way this pasture always had a root in the wine cellar, just now the grapes are saved from the birds by the original cherry vintage.
Walking up to the new structure I was impressed with how well conceived and quickly realized this dream seems to have come to be. (I'm sure the Landsborough family would say it was not so quick, but to me they have done so much so well in such an efficiently managed amount of time.) Upon arrival I met Brian Landsborough, youngest son of the founding owners and now their P.R. rep and a budding wine maker in his own right. Walking through the winery with Brian is like being introduced to an old friend's new baby. His natural warmth and charm caused me to feel as though we had been friends for a long time, not two strangers who had just met. His pride over what his family is growing and building is so akin to parental delight that you really know you are seeing something special. Touring through the building as Brian turned on the lights and got ready for the day (The tasting room opens at eleven and runs through until six) we observed the rustic, yet modern design, and the very right choice of bringing the natural materials of the land and elevating them to artistic elegance within the building, as they do with their wine. As you enter the main room through the front door you are greeted with natural light spilling into the open concept space from the full length windows, these windows look out onto the vines, river, and rolling hills, if you look far enough back you can spot the aforementioned cherry trees on the tree line.
The windows stretch from floor to the vaulted ceiling, all open and showing the beautiful natural wood which keeps the light warm and soft. Turning to your left you find the sales room stocked full of wine bottles in rustic wooden wine racks. It is a sight to behold. There is a cooler of local cheeses to pair with the wine, and a rough hewn table to stand and taste at. Turning right from the sales area you see an annex sun room softly furnished and cozy in appearance, perfect for sipping in shelter but still with the vista afforded by the veranda just outside the room's door. Turning back into the grand room we entered from, there is a large bar with high stools. We sidled up to the bar and Brian walked us through the vintages offered this season. Oh laud I have never tasted wine like this before! Huron County soil I love you!
The first vintage we tried was the Vidal. It is a sweet white that has a bit more acidity than a Muscato. Definitely a new go to Summer wine for me. My second favourite was a new vintage I had not been previously acquainted with, a Marquette. It is a newly patented Hybrid from the University of Minnesota. Patented in 2006 this grape has become very popular amongst wineries in colder climates, and I can see why! After trying this clear red from Maelstrom I am in love. This grape was meant to be grown here in the mineral rich soil. The acidity in the soil mingles with the more current like flavor of the grape and tranforms into a perfect dance of richness and softness on the pallet. I have definitely found my new favourite red. Brian told us all about the many vintages they have to offer and we tried many more. Maelstrom's has so much to offer in knowledge, taste and enthusiasm, I truly am excited to make it back over to visit soon.