Our dream job began in September 2005 when we (Marc and Anne Alton) moved from Bright’s Grove to Aberarder Line in Plympton-Wyoming with a goal of creating a vineyard and winery where we can make delicious wines and create a new wine region ( Huron Shores) for Ontario. The location of our vineyard lies in the middle of the world’s wine belt, the zone between 41 and 44 degrees north.
The Spring of 2006 saw the planting of our first test acre, with more than fifteen different varieties. Some include: Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, as well as hybrid cold temperature varieties such as Frontenac and Marechal Foch. The following year our second test acre was planted, with even more varieties including Shiraz and Baco Noir.
When the vines were mature enough to harvest for wine making, the real fun began! We have made more than seventeen different wines for testing, and of course, for tasting. We now have 6 acres of producing vines and expand a little every year.
We have completed renovations on our century old drive shed where we now process and age the wines. Renovations are complete on our wine store and tasting room and we have stocked a large selection of wine related merchandise.
We bottled 7 wines from 2011, 9 wines from 2012, 13 wines from 2013, will likely bottle 11 wines from the 2014 vintage vintage and are just working on the 2015 vintage now. See our wines tab for further information and tasting notes.
A little information about how we work in our Vineyard on Aberarder Line. We try to be sustainable in all our practices; in other words we try to work the vineyard so that it can produce quality grapes with minimized chemical inputs, but also continue to produce grapes in the long term.
Cultivation, to keep down weeds, is mechanical, not chemical. This is labor intensive, but it reduces chemical input into the final wines. We mow alternate rows during the growing season to maintain the beneficial insect population. As the grapes start to ripen we allow the weeds and grasses to grow, reducing nutrients and water to the grape plants which helps to shut down the vines. We don’t use chemicals to shut down the vines.
We also use our herd of sheep to keep the vineyard weeds under control (somewhat under control anyway) and remove the lower vegetation on the vines. This opens up the vineyard to winds, allowing better drying of the vines and less chemical use. Sheep also digest seeds and help to reduce the weed burden in the long term. Sheep manure is also our main source of fertilizer for long term vineyard health..
Insecticides are seldom used as they disrupt the ecology in the vineyard – we accept the fact that we will have some insect damage to the plants and the fruit. If necessary we remove the insects by shaking the grape bunches prior to making our wine. We do lose grapes to insect damage, but this practice reduces chemical input into our wines. We leave the damaged fruit behind in the vineyard for the birds.
The worst problems are birds and mildews. Birds we control with propane cannons, bird scare calls, plastic owls and scare eyes, reflective tape, netting, noisy equipment and other noise makers. Our neighbors are very tolerant of the noise. Bird watchers are welcome – we have lots of birds in the vineyard even with the controls. One of the few things we cannot ignore, Downy and Powdery Mildew, are controlled with chemicals. Some of the control chemicals are organic, some of them are best practices for sustainability. For example, for downey mildew we could use 3 kg of copper per hectare, or 300 grams of Sovran. The copper, can be considered organic, but it is left behind in the soil forever. Sovran, on the other hand, has low toxicity and is readily degraded by microbial activity, so we choose to use this commercial product as it is the better sustainable choice.
Water use – we don’t irrigate – this keeps our wine quality up and reduces our water use.
A little information about our winemaking at Alton Farms Estate Wines. We try to minimize the chemical inputs in the winery as well. We use grapes, yeast and yeast nutrients mainly in the process We minimize filtering and clarification additives by allowing our wines to almost freeze over the winter. During this low temperature soak, the natural tartrates drop out of the wine, carrying down much of the sediment. We rack and bottle using a gentle gravity method.
If you have any questions please come out and see us.
Giving back to the community:
We, at Alton Farms Estate Winery, believe in giving back to and supporting our local community. Recently during a few of our larger events, we have raised funds and donated (with time and money) to:
Sarnia Lambtons Big Brothers/Big Sisters via their Tastings Event
LCDS via their Fusion Event
Alzheimer Society of Sarnia-Lambton – Mindful Music program
The Kiwanis Eliminate Project, for maternal and neonatal tetanus.
and sometimes not so local, like UNICEFs Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund.