Today, I’m visiting a new PEI winery in Gladstone, PEI. Located near Murray River in the eastern part of PEI, Gladstone is approximately a one-hour drive from the Island’s capital of Charlottetown.
As I head through the quiet little village of Murray River and turn on to the Gladstone Road, I pass along a rural country road lined with many wild rose bushes in full bloom in various hues of pink. The paved road ends and I am on a narrow red dirt road crossing a small bridge over a tranquil water inlet. Then, suddenly I come upon a sign for Newman Estate Winery.
As I turn in, I see a long red dirt lane leading past rows of grapevines to a tall, modern-shaped simplistic building which I’ll soon discover is the winery including a tasting room. The rows of grapevines are neatly marked with the various grape varieties – like Marechal Foch, Lucie Kuhlmann.
As I arrive at the winery and open the car door, I sense a peaceful tranquil setting. Birds are twittering and dew is still on the grass and I think what a wonderful living and working environment. I am met by owner and winemaker, Mike Newman, and my tour begins in the vineyards.
On this early July day, the vines are in their flowering stage so it will be a few more weeks before clusters of grapes will be seen hanging from the vines. Harvesting is expected in early September when the sugar concentration is optimum.
The vineyard is nestled in between large groves of tall trees that border the winery’s property and shelter the grapevines.
Because PEI, located in northeastern Canada, is prone to somewhat harsh winters, one of the first questions I ask Mike is what effect the weather has on grape production. To my surprise, he tells me his hybrid vines can tolerate temperatures as low as -27C. Our winters rarely get colder than that. Growing grapes is labour-intensive and time-consuming work with a lot of staking and pruning of the vines. Mike tells me his property has good sandy soil which is suitable for grape growing.
We move into the winery where there are six large stainless steel tanks for the wine fermentation process and Mike explains the laborious wine-making process from the crushing of the grapes through to fermentation, filtering, bottling, corking, and labelling.
Upstairs, on the veranda outside the wine-tasting room, you get a beautiful panoramic view of the vineyards.
Inside, you’ll find a mix of rustic and modern décor in the wine-tasting room that can accommodate up to 24 people. Mike takes the time to explain the difference and importance of color to wines and how, for example, the colors of red wines differ substantially based on how long the grape skins have remained in contact with the grape juice during the fermentation process – the longer the contact, the darker the wine.
Mike planted his first grapevines in 2008 and produced the first wine for market in 2011 with a production of approximately 13,000 litres.
Today, the winery has 7500 vines covering 10 acres and is completely organic. Mike tells me his four-year old vines will generate six to seven clusters of grapes per plant and will be considered a full harvest. Fruit from year three vines will be considered an early crop. So, apart from being labour-intensive, wine-making also takes patience.
The winery is small. Currently, it operates with Mike as the winemaker and seven part-time staff. Mike is a young entrepreneur, well-educated with an engineering degree, an MBA, and is currently working on his Winemaker’s Certificate. He is very committed to his winery and, when you speak with Mike, his passion for his vocation is very evident. What started out as a hobby has turned into a career for Mike. His goals are to enjoy doing what he does, generate local jobs, make a good quality wine at a reasonable price, and get Islanders to buy locally-produced wine. Supporting local producers is always a good thing in my books.
Currently, Newman Estate Winery is producing both a red and a white wine with plans of expanding production. The wines are very competitively priced at $12.50/litre (CDN$) and you can find them in PEI Liquor Retail Stores and at the winery.
I personally like Newman’s wines. After my visit to the winery, I chose a menu for our evening meal that would feature one of Newman’s wines. I chose the Chardonnay Seyval Blanc and paired it with pan-fried haddock, fingerlings, and maple-glazed carrots. I found the wine was light-tasting, refreshing, and was a nice compliment to the seafood meal.
On August 20, 2012, I visited the winery again and found these delightful clusters of grapes clinging to the vines.
Newman Estate Winery is located at 2404 Gladstone Road, Murray River, PEI. The winery is open for tours Monday – Saturday, 11:00am – 5:00pm. If you are in the Murray River area, I recommend you take the short drive out to Gladstone to visit Newman Estate Winery and have a tour of their operation. You can check out their website at http://www.newmanestatewinery.com/ or call the winery at 902-962-4223.