Who knew? All this time I’ve been under the impression I had to get to Beamsville, or beyond, to be in wine country.
In a conversation with Mayor Bob Bratina a few weeks ago, he stated categorically that Hamilton had at least one winery within its city limits, if not two. To make the point he ducked back into his office, emerging with a bottle of 2004 Merlot Reserve from Puddicombe Estate Farms and Winery.
I called Murray Puddicombe, President of the Winery (clearly a family run enterprise) who confirmed their #8 highway location in Winona is indeed part of the City of Hamilton. He also volunteered that Ridge Road Estate Winery, just up the hill from Puddicombe,
is also within the municipal boundary.
Further investigation suggests there may be yet another wine producer in our city, Central Valley Winery. However, I was unsuccessful in contacting them as of this writing. (The Milburn Road location that comes up via a Google search on their name is an unpromising industrial park, rather than a bucolic vineyard.)
Murray encouraged me to come by and chat with his daughter. “She’s the winemaker and can answer all your questions,” he said.
A few days later, I was greeted at the 214 year-old family farm by Lindsay Puddicombe. A University of Guelph graduate she was also in the first cohort of students to emerge from the Niagara College Winery and Viticulture programme about a decade ago.
Although grapes were first planted at the farm in 1962, the current incarnation of the winery was founded by her father and herself once she was done with school. Lindsay is one of four siblings: her brother helps Murray on the farm and founded the Puddicombe Cider Company. They make “Sir Isaac’s Premium Pear Cider” and are gearing up to host the Ontario Ciderfest June 23rd.
That’s an event I’ll be sorry to miss. In March I experienced the variety and quality of ciders at the outstanding second annual cider tasting dinner held at Spencer’s at the Waterfront in Burlington. (For an overview of that event by Rick VanSickle see his write-up here.)
“I knew from an early age that I wanted to come back,” said Lindsay as we walked out to see the property
where –part of the eighth generation to till the soil - she oversees production of 5000 cases of wine annually. Holding a glass of 2009 Summerville Pinot Rosé and with a smile lighting up her face, it’s clear she’s most at ease among her vines.
The Rosé (retailing at $15.20) is described as a (1) on the sweetness scale but I found it a bit higher than that. “It may seem sweeter because it’s fruity with big berry flavours,” she said.
She particularly loves to work with Sauvignon Blanc, Colombard and Pinot Noir grapes. “But, I’m a mood drinker, and at the moment I love the Sauv Blanc and the Merlot, though that might change in another month!” she laughs.
The Merlot, that 2004 Reserve produced by the Mayor from the depths of his office, is a lovely wine indeed. The tasting notes on the bottle indicate “cassis and black cherry with rhubarb and a sprig of mint… (and) spicy notes of black pepper and cedar.” It paired wonderfully with some lamb I barbequed and Lindsay tells me it is still available at the winery at $19.20 a bottle.
There were many other varieties of wine to try, ranging in price from just over $10 bottle, to the Reserve Merlot and some icewines around the twenty buck mark, but since I was driving they will have to wait.
Puddicombe is a fully integrated operation, with a wine store, gift shop and bakery (try the fudge!), banquet room, train rides around the property, a farm animal display/play area, a pick your own operation (strawberries, cherries and apples depending on the season) and even a B&B housed in an old rail car.
On my way home, I passed Ridge Road which was closed. That’s a shame as their website indicates they make Verjus, a vinegar substitute I’d like to learn more about and try in my cooking someday.
All this only twenty minutes from the centre of Hamilton, makes a visit to both wineries an easy outing for a summer afternoon.
Thanks for the tip Mayor Bob!
For more pictures of Puddicombes Estate Farms and Ridge Road Winery, click here.
Alex (Alex can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )
Food for Thought logo, designed and kindly donated by Ninka Bielak. Ninka can be reached at email@example.com.