Tanya Mitchell, the winemaker at Sprucewood Shores Estate winery, is about to take a small group on a “Wine Club member’s only” tour of the winery. She starts by pouring everyone a glass of bubbly. “This is our new sparkling riesling. We host quite a few weddings here and there was a demand for a sparkling wine. I hope you like it.”
Tanya begins by talking about the history of the winery. In the mid-1970s, her parents Gord and Hanna Mitchell purchased a 52-acre farm on the shores of Lake Erie, near Amherstburg Ontario. Gord had an interest in wine, and in 1991 he planted a few acres of vines to see what would grow best in the farm’s Perth clay soil. He was a pioneer grape grower in the area. When others said that varietals such as cabernet franc, merlot and even cabernet sauvignon would not grow in Essex County, he knew they could. More vines were planted in the following years and about ten years after that began the planning for a winery.
Tanya Mitchell gained experience by making wine in Niagara, France and Australia. In 2004 she became the youngest wine maker in Ontario when the first harvest from the family vineyard was used for the winery that her father had envisioned.
Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery opened in 2006 with a large, elegant building that overlooks Lake Erie, and a production facility surrounded by the rows of grape vines.
The sudden death of Gord Mitchell in 2011 shocked the local wine community. The winery has always been a family operation. From early in the morning until late in the evening Gord had been either out in the vineyard or working in the winery’s retail store. Tanya’s two brothers Stephen and Jake and her sister Marlaina have all stepped up to help fill the void left after their father’s death.
As the group that Tanya is taking the tour on finishes up their sparkling wine they raise their glasses in a toast to Gord Mitchell.
Tanya leads the group into the production area of the winery and offers tank samples of the 2015 rieslings that the winery will release this spring. The first wine from the steel tank will be sold at the LCBO this summer. Currently the 2014 vintage is available at the winery and at the LCBO for $13.95. Crisp acidity and just a touch of sweetness make this a very friendly, easy drinking white wine. The second riesling sampled was much sweeter. Tanya says that this will be the winery’s reserve wine.
The winery has grown in production and size over the years. With the recent completion of the vineyard reception hall, Sprucewood Shores can now host weddings and other special events all year round. “There is a demand for weddings at our winery,” Tanya said. The picturesque views have caught the attention of many couples, and the hall is booked well into 2017.
The group tour ends back in the winery’s retail store. With the exception of a few reserve wines most bottles are affordably priced — between $13 and $18. “Making quality Ontario wine at a reasonable price was something my Dad always believed in doing,” says Tanya.
Sprucewood Shores wines have become popular with many local restaurants and can often be found on the “wine by the glass” lists. “Several of our wines are available at the LCBO too,” says Tanya Mitchell. The winery recently started a wine club offering different packages of wine for home delivery, from monthly deliveries to seasonable and special occasion packages. Member benefits include:
• 15% discount on non-wine merchandise
• early notification of library releases (older vintages not currently available for sale)
• a wine club members-only post-crushed and fermented wine seminar in the second week of January.
Here are two recommendations from the Sprucewood Shores list:
Sprucewood Shores Lady In Red ($14.95, LCBO# 266486) — A tasty blend of 40% cabernet sauvignon, 35% merlot and 25% cabernet franc. Very aromatic fresh blackberry, plum and vanilla notes. Very food friendly, pairs well with pasta and tomato based sauces, burgers and chicken wings.
Sprucewood Shores Pinot Grigio ($14.95, LCBO# 426577) — Dry, crisp and clean. A delicious sipping wine. Fruity apple, lemon and pear notes. Pairs well with light white fish and seafood dishes.
Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery
7258 County Road 50 West, Harrow ON
You may need to use “Amherstburg” rather than “Harrow” when entering the city location into a GPS device.
Open daily 11am–5pm