Written by Stewart Dutfield
posted on September 14, 2018 12:35
I believe readers will be interested to learn that Stewart Dutfield sent me this article as a query, asking if it would be of interest to our readers! Absolutely, I replied, but the most amazing part of this query was the simple fact that I received it on Sunday, September 2, 2018 the very day Grindstone Islanders paid tribute to Kenneth Deedy at a memorial service held in the Grindstone’s United Methodist Church. What better day to give us a tour of the island Deedy spent over 30 years helping to preserve.
Grindstone Island is always part of summer on the River: camping with my son, walking to Picnic Point to recall the story (or one of them) of Thousand Island dressing, unpacking bicycles from the boat to ride from the dock at Aunt Jane’s Bay. For several years I had wanted to tour Grindstone island on foot. A new sign on the trails behind Canoe Point points the way to the Grindstone Island Winery, and one afternoon in August I decided to follow it.
I arrived at Canoe Point by kayak from Thousand Island Park and offered to pay the $6-day use fee. The friendly staff provided a Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT) brochure, information on the winery, and some local knowledge of the island. Trotting into the woods, I began to realize that I wouldn’t have enough time to visit all the sights they had described.
Orange ribbons led through the State Park to Middle Road, which I would follow almost to the length of the island. Past the Heineman Family Nature Preserve (TILT Songbird Forest), a small bridge marks the furthest extent one could paddle into Delaney Bay from the north. I turned on Schoolhouse Road—by the lower schoolhouse building—to let the winery know that I was off for a run but would be back in a couple of hours.
Grindstone Island seems much as it may have been a hundred years ago. Few vehicles use the gravel roads, and much of the landscape is preserved either through conservation easements or Land Trust ownership. The remains of the cheese factory still stand, though the days of Grindstone Island Cheese, which in bygone days was for sale at the TIP grocery, are long gone.
In the middle of the island, beside the upper schoolhouse and community center, is a glorious pirate ship play structure. TIP once had one of these, but like the see-saws it was deemed too dangerous and taken away.
At the west-end of the island, the road becomes a track through forest and active farmland that TILT refers to as “old fields”, looping past Mid River Farm (another TILT preserve) to the northwestern shore. On a muddy part of the track, what appeared to be a profusion of yellow flowers turned out to be scores of butterflies—sulphurs, as I was later informed by the good folks at Minna Anthony Common Nature Center—congregating or “puddling” until I disturbed them.
Hot and thirsty by now, I turned off the road to emerge from the 19thto the 21st century for a brief swim at the crowded and cacophonous Potter’s Beach. Saving a side trip to the old Scottish quarrying community of Thurso for a later date, I continued, by way of the pirate ship, back to the winery. Julie, the Winery Manager, was still conducting tastings, but the first three drinks I asked for were all glasses of cold water.
Of a large array of wines, Julie was starting to describe the red Baco Noir to a young couple from the island (“Bacos Noir” sounds better but is probably wrong). A spectator to the tasting, I ordered a glass of Baco Noir rosé: a refreshing summer wine, which tasted sweet at first, but had the touch of sharpness that I prefer in this type of wine. The winery offers many more choices than currently appear on its website, and sell only from the Grindstone Island location. Julie was very proud that they were able to grow Pinot Noir, though none is available this year: another reason to return in future.
I was delighted to find that a 100% Baco Noir, not mentioned on the website, was available. Julie offered me a side-by-side tasting of this, with one of her Baco Noir-Merlot blends; though both were good, I resolved right away to buy as much as would fit in my backpack: two bottles of the 100%, and two of their Grindstone Island port, for TIP family members—presents for which the giver has made the pilgrimage to buy from the source.
It’s an hour of easy walking between the vineyard and Canoe Point; as the evening was approaching, I strode off at a brisk pace until the couple from Grindstone caught me in their golf cart and brought me to the entranceway to the Grindstone Island Nature Trail. A mile of grassy trails later, I was packing the wine into my kayak for a gentle paddle across Eel Bay, through the narrows, and back home to TIP.