Tag Archives: wine

Mead in Wheatley River, PEI – The Island’s New Honey Wine Meadery

Island Honey Wine Company's Wildflower Mead
Island Honey Wine Company’s Wildflower Honey Mead

In the small rural community of Wheatley River, not far from Hunter River in central PEI, the Island Honey Wine Company meadery produces unique wines made with fermented honey, otherwise known as “mead”.

Island Honey Company
Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada

Charles and Laura Lipnicki opened the doors to their meadery on July 7, 2017. The couple had vacationed on the Island a few years earlier, fell in love with it and its people, and decided they wanted to become Islanders too, so five years ago, they moved to PEI, first to North Rustico then later settling on to the farm in Wheatley River.

Charles and Laura Lipnicki, Owners of Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada
Charles and Laura Lipnicki, Owners of Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada

Charles had been making wine as a hobby for 25 years and always had a fascination with yeast.  Laura has a love of lavender and, having seen fields of lavender in Provence, wanted to have her own lavender field. Opportunity presented itself for location amidst the gentle rolling hills in Wheatley River and Laura now has that beautiful field of 1500 lavender plants and Charles has a new career in winemaking which, interestingly enough, merges with the lavender from the couple’s field, wildflowers, and fruits grown on the farm.

Lavender Field
Section of the Lavender Field in Bloom at Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI (Photo Submitted by Island Honey Wine Company)

In addition to the meadery itself, the couple operates a small certified organic farm called “La Serena” where they have six acres of fruit production that include hascaps, elderberries, and apples and they also raise some sheep, hens, and ducks.

The "grasscutting crew" at the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI
The “grasscutting crew” at La Serena farm, home of the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI

Charles says he started the meadery because he likes making “a value-added product that originates with products produced on the farm, products like honey, lavender, and fruits such as haskaps”.

Fermentation Tank at Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI
Fermentation Tank at Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI

Now, I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of flavor of mead. I say this because, several years ago, I was served a glass of mead in a castle in Ireland and, well, the drink was not to my liking.  However, I went on my visit to Island Honey Wine meadery with an open mind and I was more than pleasantly surprised.  The honey wine from the Island meadery is quite lovely.

Island Honey Wine Company's Wildflower Mead
Island Honey Wine Company’s Wildflower Honey Mead

The Island Honey Wine Company is currently producing four different kinds of meads for sale – lavender, wildflower, haskap, and nectar sweet dessert wine.  The products are presently sold only onsite at the meadery but Charles says they will soon be carried by the PEI Liquor Commission in their retail outlets.

Island Honey Wine Company's Wildflower Honey Mead
Island Honey Wine Company’s Wildflower Honey Mead

Of the four meads, I asked Charles which is the most popular.  He says the Wildflower mead is most popular and he believes this is because a glass of this mead takes one on a journey as flavor notes can be found in each taste based on the many different wildflowers the honeybees have visited which transfers into the flavor of the honey they produce. The wildflower wine is the most food-friendly and versatile of the three meads and I’ll talk a bit more about what that means later.

The quality of the mead produced at the Island Honey Wine Company has recently been validated through the winning of  medals at an International Wine competition in Virginia especially for non-grape wines.  The Nectar Sweet wine, with its sweet and lingering taste, secured a silver medal both the Wildflower and Haskap wines attained bronze medals. I think, once you sample their honey-based wines, you’ll understand why the wines have garnered these awards.

Honey
Honey

Honey, a fermentable sugar, is the base for all the meads and only raw honey is used. While the meadery has some beehives on the farm, they don’t have enough for adequate supply for the mead making.  Therefore, they source honey from other local producers. Most of the honey wine is produced in the winter months. According to Charles, the process for making honey-based mead is not a lot different from making traditional grape-based wines and the honey mead will take about 2½ – 3 months fermentation.

Fermentation Tanks
Stainless Steel Fermentation Tanks

Charles says one of his greatest satisfactions of making mead is seeing how people enjoy something that started just as an idea and that turned into a liquid to be enjoyed. Each of the honey wines has its own benefits and uses for certain times and, as Charles says, “each one is a snapshot in time and place with regards to honey because of the different flowers the bees visit“.

each one is a snapshot in time and place with regards to honey because of the different flowers the bees visit

I asked Charles to tell me how he would suggest pairing the three meads with foods.  Here are his recommendations:

Wildflower – With the broadest notes, this is the most food-friendly of the three meads. Pair this honey wine with poultry dishes, cheese, with desserts such as apple pie, or enjoy as a sipping wine after a day at the beach.

Wildflower Honey Mead from the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada
Wildflower Honey Mead from the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada
Lavender
Lavender

Lavender – This one-of-a-kind mead lends itself to saltier foods. This honey wine is a lovely accompaniment to PEI lobster, brook trout, sharp cheeses, and desserts like walnut baklava.  It also pairs particularly well with charcuterie trays. Charles says this is a unique and intimate wine reminiscent of the intimate relationship the bees share with the lavender flowers.  This is a versatile wine to be shared with good company or simply enjoyed solo with a good book.

Lavender Honey Mead from the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada
Lavender Honey Mead from the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada
Lavender Honey Mead (Photo Submitted by Island Honey Wine Company)
Lavender Honey Mead (Photo Submitted by Island Honey Wine Company)

Nectar Sweet – Classed as a dessert wine, Nectar Sweet pairs well with Brie cheese, dairy desserts like cheesecakes, crème brulée, and German chocolate cakes and caramel desserts.

Nectar Sweet Honey Mead from the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada
Nectar Sweet Honey Mead from the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada

You will also find some local artwork in the meadery’s tasting room along with several lavender products including locally-made lavender shortbread, soap, and similar items.

Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI
Inside the Tasting Room and Retail Shop at the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI
Lavender Shortbread
Lavender Shortbread
Homemade Soaps from the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada
Homemade Soaps from the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada

Product tasting is available onsite in the newly-constructed meadery.  The wooden tasting bar is made from repurposed wood that came from one of the large old elm trees that had to be removed from the city of Charlottetown.

Charles Lipnicki pours a sample of one of his honey meads made at Island Honey Wine Company in Wheatley River, PEI
Charles Lipnicki pours a sample of one of his honey meads made at Island Honey Wine Company in Wheatley River, PEI
Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, is PEI's first meadery dedicated to making mead with fermented honey and flowers and fruits from its own farm

The Island Honey Wine Company’s meadery is located at 820 Millboro Road in Wheatley River, in central PEI. For hours of operation and more information, visit their website at https://www.islandhoneywine.ca/

Rossignol Winery — PEI’s First Winery Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI
Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI

There are three wineries on Prince Edward Island and the oldest of them, Rossignol Winery, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. To find out more about Rossignol wines and products, I visited the winery and vineyards in Little Sands where I met owner and vintner, John Rossignol.

John Rossignol, owner, Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI
John Rossignol, owner, Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI

In the early 1990s, John was looking for a new career and one which he could pursue while living in a rural environment. He had developed an interest in wine making and in a special place called Prince Edward Island (PEI) where there were no established wineries. Hence, he saw a potential niche market. However, his dream was not without some challenges, chief amongst them being that there were no existing laws in PEI governing and regulating commercial wine making. Working with the provincial government for over two years, John pursued his dream and, in 1995, the Liquor Control Act and Regulations were enacted which allowed for commercial wine production in PEI.

Grapevines at Rossingol Winery
Grapevines at Rossingol Winery

In the meantime, while the process to develop and enact legislation was underway, John was optimistic so he planted grapevines to get a vineyard established so he’d have grapes available should the Province give permission for commercial wine making. The winery was built in 1994 and the first wine produced in 1995, upon enactment of the enabling legislation.

Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI
Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI

Currently, there are about ten acres of grapevines grown onsite at the winery. The remainder of the grapes needed for production are sourced from other Island vineyards.

John grows four varieties of grapes. Two of the most common are Marechal Foch, a French hybrid grape that is successfully proven to grow well in the Maritime climates and l’acadie blanc that was developed in Nova Scotia.

John Rossignol checks the status of the grapes on the grapevines at his winery in Little Sands, PEI
John Rossignol checks the status of the grapes on the grapevines in his vineyard at the winery in Little Sands, PEI

The grapes below were photographed in mid-August.  They will be ready for harvesting in October.

The winery also has an onsite apple orchard to produce apples for its iced apple cider, “Liberty Blossom”.

Apple Orchard at Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI
Apple Orchard at Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI

The wonderful sand sculptures at the winery are the artistic work of sand sculpter, Abe Waterman.

Sand Sculpture by Abe Waterman - at the Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI
Sand Sculpture by Abe Waterman – at the Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI

The detail in these works of art at the edge of the vineyard at the winery is incredible.

Since its beginnings, the winery has made a number of fruit wines (e.g., strawberry, wild blueberry, rhubarb). In the winery’s early years, John says this was a necessity as there weren’t enough grapes available to make the traditional wines as we think of them. Supportive of local products, John sources raw products such as Island strawberries, raspberries, and black currants from local farmers.

Fruit Wines Produced by Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI
Fruit Wines Produced by Rossignol Winery, Little Sands, PEI

The fruit wines are especially popular in summer and are generally consumed as an aperitif. John likes the Strawberry Wine paired with cheese and says the blueberry wine can also be a table wine. This medium-sweet red wine is especially good paired with spicy, curried food. In total, the winery now produces 16 varieties of products under the Rossignol label.

When asked what the winery’s most popular wines are, John says the Little Sands White and the High Bank Red top the list. The winery also produces some specialty liqueurs, including their iced apple cider, maple liqueur, and cassis which they bottle in special Italian bottles. The cassis is a relatively new product for the winery which began the process four years ago to get this product ready for market. The cassis has been on the market for two years now and is particularly popular with chefs.

The winery also makes a wild rose liqueur from the hips of locally grown roses. These products are suitable as after-dinner drinks.

John indicates he experiences no great challenge to running a winery in rural PEI. He says PEI has good growing conditions for quality fruit which, in turn, means good quality wine.

“PEI has good growing conditions for quality fruit which, in turn, means good quality wine.” – John Rossignol

I asked John what his greatest satisfaction is from producing wine. He says, when he started in the business 20 years ago, it was always intended to be a lifestyle business which it remains today. He tells me he enjoys getting to work from his nearby home without going through city rush hour traffic. He also derives satisfaction from looking for new markets that keep the business interesting and different. But, perhaps most of all, John says he enjoys a business that actually allows him to be involved in all stages of the production of the finished product. That means he farms the grapes, makes the wine, and bottles, markets, and sells it so he gets to see the entire process of production from start to finish.

After our chat about the Rossignol products, John toured me through the winery.

The wine is sterilized by filtration and passes through three large tanks.

Tanks Containing Wine in Progress
Tanks Containing Wine in Progress

Some products, such as the maple liqueur, are aged in traditional oak barrels.

Traditional Oak Barrels for Aging Wine
Traditional Oak Barrels for Aging Wine

The barrels in the photo below contain red wine which has been aging for two years.

Oak Barrels of Red Wine Aging for Two Years
Oak Barrels of Red Wine Aging for Two Years

During my visit, the winery staff was busy bottling wine.

Bottling Wine
Bottling Wine
Corking and Labeling the Bottles
Corking and Labeling the Bottles

 

Freshly Bottled Wine
Freshly Bottled Wine
Boxes of Wine Ready for Shipment
Boxes of Wine Ready for Shipment

Rossignol wines are presented in uniquely-labelled bottles. Labels feature the work of local painters, including John’s wife Dagny, as well as some of John’s own artwork.

Wine Bottle Label Designed by Dagny Rossignol
Wine Bottle Label Designed by Dagny Rossignol

 

Wine Bottle Label Designed by John Rossignol
Wine Bottle Label Designed by John Rossignol

One of the earliest artists involved with producing artwork for Rossignol bottles is Nancy Perkins who happened to drop by the winery during my visit.

Nancy Perkins, Designer of Wine Bottle Labels at Rossignol Winery
Nancy Perkins, One of the Designers of Wine Bottle Labels at Rossignol Winery

Rossignol wines and liqueurs are available at the winery located at 11147 Shore Road, in Little Sands, PEI, as well as at Island liquor stores. The winery has at times shipped their products to Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, and Alberta Liquor Commissions. Recently, the winery has sent four shipments of wines to China which has shown a special interest in PEI wines.

The winery regularly sends samples of their wines to wine competitions and, as you can see from the photo below, they have garnered many medals attesting to the fine quality of wine being produced at Rossignol Winery.

Rossignol was recently awarded the gold medal for the best fruit wine in Canada at the All Canadian Wine Championships in Ontario. That’s great recognition and validation for a winery that was the pioneer in wine making in PEI and is still going strong, producing on average about 40,000 bottles of wine annually.

For more information on Rossignol Winery, visit their website at http://www.rossignolwinery.com/Rossignol-Winery.html

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A Tour of Newman Estate Winery in Gladstone, PEI

Newman Estate Winery, Gladstone, PEI, Canada

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.

Route from Charlottetown to Gladstone, PEI (via scenic Montague)

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.

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.

 

Varieties of Grapes

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Vineyard in the Early Morning

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.

Flowering Grape Vines

 

The vineyard is nestled in between large groves of tall trees that border the winery’s property and shelter the grapevines.

Rows of 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.

Grapevine

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winemaking at Newman Estate Winery

Upstairs, on the veranda outside the wine-tasting room, you get a beautiful panoramic view of the vineyards.

View of Vineyard from Veranda of Wine-tasting Room at Newman Estate Winery
Newman Estate Winery Wines

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.

Red 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.

Wines Produced at Newman Estate Winery, Gladstone, PEI

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.

Veranda at Newman Estate Winery

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.

Seafood Dinner Served with Newman Estate Winery’s Chardonnay Seyval Blanc

On August 20, 2012, I visited the winery again and found these delightful clusters of grapes clinging to the vines.

Grapes on the Vine at Newman’s Vineyard in Gladstone, PEI, 20 August 2012

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.

Newman’s Wine Goes Great With Grapes, Cheese, and Baguette

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