Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News
MORRISBURG — As soon as party-pooping COVID-19 permits, Eastern Ontario will welcome a new cider maker as part of an established winery… Stone Crop Acres off County Road 31 just north of Morrisburg.
Suggested by winery staff, the compatible cider name sounds like it’s straight out of the movie or wrestling world: Stone Cold! Under two labels, it comes in clear glass bottles with steel caps… the kind that require an opener; one label is green, the other red.
And there’s a big difference!: The 330 ml red label contains standard dry apple cider while the green label mixes cider with Riesling wine to create a “vinous cider,” a beverage which, to Stone Crop co-owner Norene Gervais’ surprise, turned out to be trendy.
Gervais is so excited about the blend she felt compelled to describe it on the flip side of the label for all to see: “Who knew it was a trending thing when we thought of it? Crisp, with a hint of sweetness and a little higher alcohol than traditional cider, this is a great hybrid.”
The red-capped dry also tells an engaging little story on its label: “We drove our half-ton truck just down the road to historic Dundela and brought the juice home to craft this cider with partly tart and partly sweet apples.”
About 20 km west of Stone Crops five-acre vineyard, winery, store and event building, Dundela is where in the early 1800s John McIntosh discovered the apple given his name. Nearby Smyth’s Orchard is where Gervais sourced her Mac juice.
Gervais and her husband Marc considered a cider option for some time, partly to cater to customers along for the ride who aren’t enthusiastic wine drinkers. However, the hard apple beverage will remain a sideline, with the main offering being a dozen varieties of red, white and rose wine.
For the cider launch, a limited batch has been made which will sell individually or in six and 24-packs. While not finalized, the take-out price will probably be $3 per bottle or $5 served on the Stone Crop expanded rear patio overlooking a Schneckenburger crop field featuring new outdoor wood-fired pizza oven and an array of local foods… when COVID-19 permits, of course!
A retired small animal veterinarian, Gervais is looking at a portion of cider sales as a fundraiser for Morrisburg’s Upper Canada Playhouse where she’s a member of the board of directors. Stuck with a C-19-darkened stage for the past year, UCP is banking on its patrons to support its “Get on With the Show” campaign; the theatre company is hoping to mount a constricted program this season.
Stone Crop is also in the entertainment business as part of the Harmony Concerts circuit. C-19 permitting, Gervais will open the 2021 season May 29 with popular country rocker, area-based Marlene Fawcett & Mountain Breeze. Once again depending on pandemic protocols, concerts will run all summer.
The winery will also sponsor a three-show Discovery Series featuring non-professional artists, guest chefs, and regional craft beers. The award-winning event venue is also booked tight for wedding parties from across Eastern Ontario.
Rather than being cancelled, depending on C-19 restrictions in place at the time, some events will be held outdoors on the main patio, Gervais said.
Asked if she plans to eventually add her own craft beer to round out the beverage list, Gervais said there’s no Stone Crop/Cold brewery on the immediate horizon.