Written by James Rappaport
posted on October 12, 2009 22:31
The Ontario landscape has long been known for its ideal geographical location for growing grapes. However, to many of us, most of the notoriety exists near a rather industrialized stretch of the QEW between Niagara Falls and Hamilton. In recent years, many ex-urbanites have returned to the land in Prince Edward Country near Picton, spawning many vineyards along the north coast of Lake Ontario. This migration has reached the 1000 Islands as well, with several vineyards in operation on the New York side as well as in the Mallorytown area. Now Howe Island can be added to the growing list.
My trip to Howe Island on this autumn Saturday is a contrasting look at the region in the “off-season”. As many know, the summer skies were offering rain quite frequently this year. This has translated to a wonderful foliage Fall season. Mix this with the intense sunlight that comes with the autumn months, and one was sure to have a great day in the making. My ride on the 1000 Islands Parkway and Gananoque passed a few bicyclists and few late season pedestrians in town, enjoying the sun and crisp air on the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.
The Howe Island Ferry takes me across on a boat that holds exactly three cars and takes all of five minutes. The ferry is actually pulled across the small channel via a cable that runs between the docks. Following a short drive, I arrive at the Howe Island Winery and B&B. One of the mysteries of the St. Lawrence River are the different perspectives depending on ones location. At this spot, one sees the main channel looking at the vast river across an area between Clayton and Cape Vincent NY to the south and the eastern part of Wolfe Island. Between a cliff side deck and a couple of yellow Adirondack chairs, it is quite the tranquil setting.
Owners Wendy and David Jones have spent a good deal of time away from their native country (David’s finance career took them to Australia for many years). Yearning to return to Canada, Howe Island became the ultimate contrast in their prior urban lives (Montreal, Toronto Canada and Sydney Australia). Their enthusiasm for the island life has left no doubt that they are very happy with life’s changes.
The concept of a vineyard came out of some basic land surveying and soil analysis. Realizing the soil was acceptable for grapes and the drainage was ideal, the seeds were planted. The vineyard currently primarily has Frontenac grapes (white, gray, red) that originate from the upper-midwest area of the United States. Also in development is an old barn that will be used for fermentation tanks and bottling. While the end product of bottled wine is still a work in progress, we will follow up next year to see how they are progressing.
The Bed and Breakfast end of the business is also growing. The farmhouse has accommodations with three rooms. True local cuisine is part of the experience here, as the eggs and much of the produce is sourced on Howe Island. The current year was quite successful, as many Europeans seeking the true Canadian experience have found their on-line website (www.bbcanada.com/howislandwinery). The central location to Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto, and Montreal makes this a delightful and easy getaway.
The latter part of the afternoon meant my return trip to New York, however the late afternoon gold sunlight mixed in with the colors of autumn made it a spectacular day in all. One of the aspects of touring this time of the year is the relative lack of crowds, and this certainly enables one to take the time to really explore. The region has a lot of what I like to call “nooks and crannies”; plenty of lesser known areas that are sometimes overlooked in the standard tourist magazines. Today I think I found one.
By James Rappaport
James is a regular contributor to TI Life. He loves to explore the region and travels to many places over the summer. He is a strategic management consultant for publishing, radio, and cable television ventures as well as contributing writer for several media outlets. He began his writing at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, where he was a feature writer as well as a managing editor for the Hill News. His work has also been featured in various news outlets, including the Stamford (CT) Advocate and The New York Observer. Jim is a resident of Indian Point in the Town of Hammond and northwest Connecticut.
Editor’s note: Interested in local vineyards? See the Upper Canada Winegrowers Association: Realizing the full potential of cold climate wines. As well as the US Thousand Islands Seaway Wine Trail.