Photo: B. Alter, Flat Rock Cellars
In the past decade a whole region with new Ontario wineries has sprung up around Beamsville, near Niagara Falls. This was formerly a rich fruit growing area, but the peach and cherry orchards are disappearing as the wineries pop up.
Many of them are striving to be eco. They are making organic and biodynamic wines, and have recycled buildings, sheep grazing the vines, and geo-thermal heating and cooling systems. Forget about Wayne Gretzky and Mike Weir's vanity wineries and welcome to the new green world of Wine Country Ontario.
Flat Rock Cellars is committed to respecting the eco-system of the Niagara area. They use geo-thermal systems for all heating and cooling within the winery and ozone technology to clean barrels and tanks, so no use of chemicals. The winemaking process is below ground so the gravity flow reduces energy. The architecture includes natural lighting, offering wide panoramic views of the Niagara Escarpment, and reducing energy.
Their landscaping includes a charming geo-thermal pond which regulates the heating and cooling for the whole winery.
Featherstone Winery & Vineyard only farm 20 acres, which is small-ish for a winery. The farm is run on a completely environmental basis. Featherstone has been insecticide free since 1999 and is committed to environmentally sustainable winegrowing.
Unique for Niagara, but widespread in New Zealand, they use a small flock of sheep to eat leaves from the grapevines. This exposes the grapes to more sunlight and air circulation and enhances fruit quality. They have a hawk to control the starlings and robins which eat the precious grapes in the autumn.
Photo: B. Alter, Malivoire Wine Company
This rustic and attractive looking building is a former quonset hut which was recycled to be the home for Malivoire Wine Company. An extension of the hut is half under ground to keep the cellars cool. The steel canopies and rock pillars at the entrance were inspired by Canada's rugged natural landscapes. The wooden supports holding up the entrance are discarded telephone poles made of Canadian Red Pine.
The wines themselves are all certified organic. They compost all the cuttings, some of which are applied back to the vines to provide nutrients and control pests. Wild horsetail weed is brewed to create anti-mildew spray.
Photo: B. Alter
Tawse Winery uses organic and biodynamic farming practices. One whole section of vines is grown and harvested along biodynamic principles. "It is based on the concept of the vineyard as a self-contained ecosystem requiring no pesticides, fungicides or chemical fertilizers. Here natural predators will be used to keep pests at bay, livestock will eat weeds and excess vine foliage as well as provide manure for soil enrichment." They are planted according to the lunar calender, no pesticides are used, and a special biodynamic leader oversees their practices.
Photo: B. Alter, Megalomaniac
Megalomaniac, aka John Howard Cellars of Distinction, sits on the highest point on the Niagara Escarpment and has stunning views of Lake Ontario. It is built underground, with a sod roof which is 3 feet deep. This keeps the cellar cool, without air conditioning or heating, all year round--like a cave. Even the counter where you sip their wine is recycled from a bar in an old saloon.