Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News
OXFORD STATION — Marie Saverimuttu is on a roll. It’s Saturday afternoon and she’s pouring samples of her selections to visitors at Green Gables Vines Winery along Highway 44 around the corner from Oxford Station.
Saverimuttu is having at least as much fun as her customers, trying to persuade one who doesn’t like wine but is there for the ambiance of the Green Gables shop to at least try a few swigs. She does take a taste… but it doesn’t change her negative reaction to wine in general. It’s a very comfortable space close to the vineyard, with mood lighting, bottles of wine on display, and other decorations.
COVID-19 precautions are in place such as social distancing and masks when entering the shop. Customers remove the masks for tastings while Saverimuttu keeps hers in place.
At the other end of the bar, a couple is shopping around regional wineries looking for a supplier for their upcoming wedding. They agree it’s an enjoyable project, especially when samples are free.
They already have a venue but Saverimuttu reveals she plans to eventually host events such as weddings at the winery that’s she’s been refurbishing since acquiring it about seven years ago. A federal public servant during the week, she’s at Green Gables on weekends welcoming guests and taking care of the bookkeeping, putting her business degree to work. Winemaker/software engineer Richard Deslande handles the daily nuts and bolts, from production to vine trimming.
Saverimuttu didn’t really want a winery. She wanted the Green Gables classic white and green homestead which came with it. Rather than plow the vines under, she decided a better idea was to rehabilitate the property and continue making wine. Her plan is to eventually live in the trademark house but, for now, it’s a rental.
The samples coming across the bar are all palatable whites, roses and reds, some made with the grapes growing on five acres outside the door and others with grapes shipped in from Niagara Region. The offerings have catchy names like white Honey I’m Home, Blushing Daisy, a rose, and red Kissing Bridge; they have equally catchy labels including the Green Gables homestead on Honey I’m Home, a bouquet of pink daisies on… you guessed it! Same goes for the covered bridge label!
Honey I’m Home is a blend of five Green Gables grape varieties including Delisle, Louise Swensen, Prairie Star, 6-16-10, and Frontenac Blanc; there’s a related label, I am Home, which is a dry version. Blushing Daisy is made from the vineyard’s hardy hybrid Sabrevois grapes, while Kissing Bridge, with its “cotton candy aroma,” is derived from Frontenac red grapes. Most selections are $15 a bottle.
Green Gables is one of a handful of wineries which have sprung up around Eastern Ontario over the past 15 years, a region where wine snobs once decreed decent selections couldn’t be produced because of cold winters, late springs and lingering frosts.
But that all changed with hardy grapes developed mostly in Minnesota, varieties resistant to cold, allowing for enough maturing time. Among other area wineries to have benefited from the varieties are Domaine Perrault at Navan, Smokie Ridge at Mountain, Stone Crop Acres at Morrisburg, and Stone House Vineyard in North Glengarry which is planning a wine and local food pairing event Sept. 5.
The Eastern Ontario Wine Producers Association has even established a mapped wine route for those who would like to discover vintages in their own backyard.
There are 4,000 winter-hardy vines planted on the Green Gables property, varieties which have withstood temperatures of -35 C. The vineyard is situated next to a climate modifying hillside, surrounded by mature forest, with plenty of southern exposure. The rocky soil with sandy loam and a limestone base isn’t unlike the Bordeaux region of France, Saverimuttu says.
With 30 years of experience in winemaking, Deslande says the partners chose to offer an organic, high-quality product which means lower volume: ‘’There are no herbicides or pesticides used… we accept a few weeds in order to get better, healthier wine.’’
Marie feels the location right of Highway 416 is ideal for locals and tourists alike and welcomes guests to the retail shop Saturday, Sunday and holidays, 1-5 p.m.