Pioneers of “Huron Shores” Alton Farms Estate Winery in Lambton County

Written by Gary Killops

Looking for a day trip close to home? Alton Farms Estate Winery, located at 5547 Aberarder Line, Plympton-Wyoming is just about an hour west of London.

Marc Alton and Anne Kurtz-Alton, who own and operate the vineyard, recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of the winery. The Altons purchased the 90-acre property in 2005 and soon after planted a test acre of fifteen different varietals to see what they could grow best on the property.

They proved wrong the naysayers who said it would be too cold for grapes to grow and for vines to survive the cold winters, and went on to became Lambton County’s first winery. Together with Dark Horse Estate Winery and Maelstrom Winery in neighboring Huron County an Ontario wine region is forming, unofficially called “Huron Shores”.

Anne Kurtz-Alton with some of the sheep at the Alton Farms vineyard

“From the beginning we have always been committed to sustainability both in the vineyard and the winery,” Anne explains. “We try not to waste anything. We compost the pruned vines in the spring, and the grape skins and seeds after harvest. We also have a herd of Shetland sheep and 15 lambs who eat the ground cover between the rows of vine and fertilize the soil.”

As is the case for most vineyards in southern Ontario, too much moisture from rain and humidity can be a concern. Marc, who is both the winemaker and vineyard manager, keeps a close watch on the climate and will only use the most sustainable products when there is a need to spray in the vineyard.

A geo-engineer and marine geologist by profession, Marc is a self-taught winemaker and grape grower. He is learning, adapting, and challenging traditional winemaking practices and is willing to experiment with unusual blends that are both interesting and unique.

The new tasting room has a warm and welcoming ambiance

In 2013 the winery opened to the public in a century-old wooden drive shed on the property. “It’s been a labour of love,” says Anne. “As our budget allows we look to make improvements to the winery and in the vineyard.” This year the tasting room and retail store were moved to the renovated basement of the family home, offering a striking wooden tasting bar with superior lighting and welcoming ambience. The winery offers a flight of three wines for $5. The tasting fee is waived with wine purchase. In addition to wine, the retail store has glassware, gift baskets, and wine accessories for sale.

Other recent additions to the winery include an open-air patio and a wood-fired pizza oven offering Margherita, meat lovers, Mediterranean chicken and gluten-free pizzas. The patio menu also includes charcuterie boards with a selection of seasonal meats, cheeses, breads, crackers and fruits. Wine is available by the glass.

The selection of red, white and rosé wines available for purchase from the winery is always changing as new wines are released. The current offerings include a 2016 riesling, 2016 sauvignon blanc and 2015 chardonnay, and a rosé made from marechel foch grapes. Red wines include the 2016 baco noir, 2015 cabernet sauvignon and 2015 cabernet franc. Some hybrid and vinifera blends are also available.

Alton Farms wine production is small when compared to other wineries in Ontario. Last year they produced just under 600 cases and hope to increase production to about 800 cases this year. With this volume it is difficult to make a profit. “You really have to make more wine, and sell more volume,” Marc said. Anne also pointed out that the patio and special events help keep the winery open at this time.

The winery hosted quite a few events this past summer such as “Wine Wednesday Dinners” featuring different local chefs each week and food paired with wines from Alton Estates. They also hold “Wine and Paint” and “Wine and Yoga” afternoons and the annual “Fine Art, Fine Wine: Show and Sale”.  Many of these events sold out.

Anne Kurtz -Alton and Marc Alton, of Alton Farms Estate Winery.

On September 23rd the winery will host the third annual grape stomp event. The stomping fee is $5 per entry, with all proceeds in support of Bluewater Centre for Raptor Rehabilitation. This is a family event with competitive adult grape stomping and kid stomps.

On October 13th the winery will host their second annual Weinfest. This family-friendly event is a German tradition in celebration of the new wines in production after harvest.

Alton Farms Estate Winery
5547 Aberarder Line

About the author

Gary Killops

Gary Killops is a CAPS Certified Sommelier who loves to talk, taste and write about wine. He shares his wine tasting notes on EssexWineReview.com