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News from the Ontario Vines

with Fred Couch


A Vineyard Walk at Strewn Winery

Joe Will  phot by Fred Couch
Joe Will and Marc Bradshaw in Strewn's Vineyards

Just weeks before the 2013 harvest, the Ontario Wine Society – Niagara Chapter held its monthly tasting event at Strewn Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Guests were greeted with a glass of Strewn Riesling to accompany various cheeses. After the reception, Joe Will, founding winemaker and owner/partner of Strewn filled us in on the evening’s happenings. The plan was to go into the vineyards with Joe and winemaker, Dr. Marc Bradshaw. Joe and Marc explained what the vineyard workers have to do before harvest including canopy management, crop thinning, testing, tasting and, most important, decision making.

We had a chance to experience a small part of canopy management – removing some of the leaves to expose the grapes to the sun and to provide better airflow. If done by hand, this can be an arduous, labour-intensive job and not one I would want to do for very long.

Strewn Winery photo Fred Couch

Strewn Winery has three vineyards on the estate growing Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Blanc. As we walked through each vineyard, Marc encouraged us to try the grapes (which were not quite ripe at this point) and then try the finished wine sample provided. He said to try and pick out the grape's characteristics and see if they came through in the finished product. Marc also explained how the winemaker knows when the grapes are ripe enough to pick. He showed us how to use a refractometer, an instrument which measures the amount of sugar (actually, the percentage Brix) in the juice of grapes to determine the ripeness of the grapes. The juice from the grapes we picked that night showed a reading of 11-12 Brix. The winemakers like to see at least 19 Brix before picking so these grapes still had a few weeks left to ripen fully.

Before we left the vineyards, Joe let us try our hand at grape picking. The unripe grapes can be used in a product called “verjus”, which literally means “green juice”. Verjus can be used in a salad dressing or in a marinade. We took back a container of these grapes to the winery to be pressed and sampled. The verjus was a bit tart, a bit like green apples.

wine club member trying his hand at pressing grapes for verjus

After tasting the verjus, we got to try barrels samples of four different wines from the 2012 vintage. These were compared with similar wines from 2010 which have now been bottled. The wines presented were from the Terroir series: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Strewn Three – a Bordeaux-style blend. This gave us a chance to see how the 2012 vintage is coming along which many in Niagara are saying may be the best vintage since 2007. Wine club members were given a chance to purchase futures of the four 2012 wines at a reduced price.

After the wine tasting, delicious finger foods were provided by Adam Hill – Of the Earth Catering.

Sunset over Strewn's Vineyard

For more information on Strewn Winery go to their website at For more information on the Ontario Wine Society visit


Photos by © F.G. Couch

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