With exquisite views, delectable food, unique ambience, and spectacular architecture it has never been a better time to visit one of the many wineries in the Niagara Region. There is much more to a winery than just the wine and Ontarians are quickly learning that wineries deliver the whole package. Here are four dynamic wineries situated in Niagara-on-the-Lake, what some call the birthplace of Ontario’s wine industry, that not only deliver satisfying wines but remarkable architectural structures.
CHATEAU DES CHARMES
“From the road, you might think it’s a French chateau, but it is reminiscent of the old railway hotels. That is what my father- in-law, Paul Bosc, wanted to portray,” says Michele Bosc, Director of Marketing for Chateau des Charmes winery. “My father-in-law was born in French Algeria where the climate was warm and you had to be strong to succeed. He knew he had to be strong to make a go of it here in Canada. The railways reminded him of that and he wanted the building to pay homage to that.”
Opened in 1994, Chateau des Charmes was designed by McDonald Zuberec Ensslen Architects in St. Catharines. Prior to the opening of the Chateau, the winery was located on their Creek Road facility. “In order to sell the wines, my father-in-law knew that we had to show Canadians how important the wine was to the culture,” says Bosc. The view from the road gives Chateau des Charmes an impressive appearance, but guests should not be intimidated by the grand view because once inside, there is a warm and welcoming feel.
“This is our home away from home and when you visit we want you to get a feel for our way of life,” says Bosc.
Along with weddings and corporate events, the Chateau also participates in local activities. To help accommodate events, the family recently expanded and added a hospitality building. “Last year we expanded our barrel cellar and redesigned the new vineyard courtyard,” says Bosc. “We are a family run business trying to make the best wine possible. From crushing and fermenting the grapes to growing the grapes our wine doesn’t leave our hands until it reaches the shelf, to make sure it is the best possible quality. We want you to see our passion for how the wine is grown and made,” concludes Bosc.
THE HARE WINE CO.
Although the Hare Wine Co. is the new winery in town, don’t underestimate their stature as a leading competitor in the wine industry. In a short time, the Hare Wine Co. has proven to be a remarkable establishment. Since opening on October 22, 2016, the winery’s Jack Rabbit Red, 2013, won the prestigious award of the official red wine of the 2017 Ontario Legislature. With a desire to create an open and inviting space, Owner and General Manager, John Hare, worked with Weiler & Associates to bring forward his vision for the winery.
“Our winery celebrates the bounty of our region paying homage to the settlers that founded this rich agricultural area reminiscent of forgone days,” explains Hare. The winery allows visitors to explore the fruits of past labour that is now exhibited and has culminated in the wines.”
Entertainment was at the forefront of the design for the winery. “Courtyards were historically viewed as a place of gathering, often a central part of the community and we anticipate it will be the centrepiece of most events,” explains Hare. “Inside all of the wine bars and shelving were built to be mobile allowing us flexibility to host a wide range of events including weddings, corporate affairs and of course signature wine events.” “The structure was modelled after a mid-nineteenth century industrial building,” says Hare. With distinct features, such as one-hundred-
With distinct features, such as one-hundred-year-old reclaimed bricks used on the exterior of the building, Baco Noir juice stained floors in the production facility, and a barrel stave wall in the VIP tasting room, the Wine Hare Co should be your next stop on the wine route. “Many people have stated that when they walk through our main entrance and into the courtyard, they are taken back in time, reminding them of an old English Muse,” says Hare. “You will feel a shift in time to the vibrant and thriving agricultural area.”
Strategically selected decorations are a testament to the inspirations for the winery. “The archivists of St. Mark’s Church were commissioned to prepare some twenty sketches of historical persons who lived in the immediate vicinity of the winery. These have been displayed within the retail space,” says Hare. “Authentic materials were employed in the construction of the Hare Winery. These materials age well, softening and improving in appearance as time passes. The building has an integrity that all people can be comfortable with,” explains Hare. The winery uses natural materials of paper, wood, and metal throughout the design of the building and in the construction of their labels. “This blending of material also speaks to the composition of our wines; which are predominantly blends, showcasing the best of what each vintage has to offer,” concludes Hare.
TWO SISTERS VINEYARD
Old world, classic, and timeless are words used to describe the Palladio style winery owned and operated by sisters Angela Marotta and Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli.
“The winery reflects our Italian heritage and our philosophy of enjoying the simple pleasures of life through good wine and food,” says Marotta.
Inspired by Venetian architect, Andrea Palladio, the two sisters commissioned San Nestico from Nestico Architect Inc. “He understood the vision of our family. Through our travels to Europe, we were able to bring these inspirations to life through him,” says Marotta-Paolicelli. “Palladio style of architecture was distinguished by symmetrical large structures with smaller windows, pediments, and large columns,” says Marotta. Rows of red maples line the entrance way to the estate. Upon entry, two stone eagles greet guests. “Originating from the Alpine region of Veneto, Italy, these eagles were hand carved by stone artisans and represent our love of art and all things artisanal and old world,” says Marotta. “There are personal touches from our family everywhere, from our art collection, and tapestries,” adds Marotta-Paolicelli. “As grand as it seems, it is warm, personal, and inviting,” says Marotta.
These distinguishing touches have inspired the much anticipated red blend, Stone Eagle, which will be released in the spring of 2017. Whether tasting wine at one of the tasting pods in the retail store, or at the winery restaurant, Kitchen 76, Two Sisters Vineyard offers a unique and intimate setting fit for family, friends, and strangers. “We wanted to encourage both intimacy and community,” says Marotta-Paolicelli. Stop by the winery to enjoy the “Strong bones and full bodied wines reflective of the overall structure of the building.”
RAVINE VINEYARD ESTATE WINERY
Nestled in the warm corridor of St. Davids Bench where history and family values meet is Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery. The family run vineyard, canning house, restaurant, and event facility is a place to let your hair down and unwind. “Primarily, we are a farm,” states Paul Harber, Chef Proprietor and Brand Manager for Ravine.
“Our family has been here since 1867. My ancestor David Jackson Lowrey was the first to plant a commercial vineyard and the first commercial peach and pear orchard in the area.”
Harber describes the vineyard as Historical and Georgian Loyalist. The tasting bar and hospitality centre are located in The William Woodruff homestead build by Laura Secord’s uncle, Major David Secord. “It was burnt in World War Two, rebuilt, and then dismantled in the 1960s. My family found it in pieces in Port Hope,” says Harber. “We moved it back in pieces and rebuilt it on the winery.” The restaurant is in the recreated old fruit packing shed,” says Harber whose family also used to package fruits and distribute them to markets or the local cannery. “My father’s cousin, Jane Burgess, and her business partner, Karl Stevens, from Stevens Burgess Architects LTD in Toronto helped with the restorations.
It was a blessing to have her on the project when we rebuilt the Woodruff House as it is noted to be one of the top 50 historical and architectural noteworthy homes of Canada,” explains Harber. The decor inside the winery is simple and pays homage to the family history and farm life the Harber and Lowrey family grew up with. “My mom, Norma Jane, does it all. She keeps it simple by using the wildflowers and sunflowers we grow to dress the tables with,” says Harber.
Ravine’s line of wines, Sand and Gravel, is named after the family’s business, Lowrey Sand and Gravel, which closed twelve years ago. “The stone from the quarry was used for the second phase of parliamentary buildings in Ottawa and the first hydro plant in Niagara Falls. We have photos of my great-great-grandfather, Ed Lowrey, dropping off loads of limestone to the foreman of the job site,” says Harber. “We wanted to honour the business with this line of wines.”
Strong family and community values are evident at Ravine especially when it comes to their events. “Being in the middle of the village of St Davids we do a lot of community events. Right now we have a skating rink so anyone can come. We hold concert series, and Canada Day fireworks,” explains Harber. There is more history to be discovered and discussed at Ravine, especially as this year the winery will celebrate the 150th birthday with Canada. To properly do the stories justice, stop into Ravine and ask for Paul.
By: Jill Tham