Back in October, I celebrated my birthday with a weekend trip to the Prince Edward County wine area. Leon and I took the camper out for one last weekend and camped at Sand Banks Provincial Park. The campground was pretty well empty yet we were charged full price ($48) for one night. The showers were already closed for the season. I found it overpriced for so few amenities. We enjoyed ourselves nonetheless, a nice bottle of wine and a bbq dinner were a nice way to spend the evening under the tall trees of the park.
The next day we got on our bikes and took a ride near the beach and along some of the backroads in the area. The plan for the day was to visit a few wineries then have dinner in Picton at one of the larger restaurants. But as we know, our plans often evolve rather quickly. We visited the farmers’ market in Wellington where I bought some local maple syrup and stopped for a cup of tea and a date square at a quaint café. I could see myself living in a town like this with its big view of Lake Ontario. It’s always fun to look at real estate wherever we travel and imagine what it would cost to live there.
We went on to the wineries so we could try a few of the local wines. It turned out to be the grape harvest weekend in the area when local wineries open their doors to the public so they can help with picking grapes. In return, the crowds are fed a lovely meal and served some of the local wine, of course. So after visiting 3 wineries, we came up to the Norman Hardie Winery. It caught my eye because of its attractive building. We drove in and went up to the tasting room. Leon quickly asked if we could help out in any way, even though we knew it was a bit late in the day for picking grapes. We were introduced to the head of the restaurant as well as the owner, Norman Hardie, then directed to where they were setting up for the harvest buffet which included roast pig. And of course, we were served wine. There wasn’t much for us to contribute in terms of help, so we went ahead and enjoyed the wine and the meal, chatting with some of the harvesters. While eating, Norman Hardie came around the tables, thanking everyone and asking if anyone would like to volunteer to help harvest another 2 rows of Chardonnay grapes. Of course we were happy to help out.
So off we went to a far field, spent 2 hours at sunset snipping grapes and putting them in a bucket while sitting on an upturned bucket and chatting with other people in town for the day. At one point I found myself chatting with a young man from Ottawa who actually works with my nephew at Shopify. How cool is that?
When the harvest was over, we headed back to the winery to watch them process the grapes. It turns out they can’t end their day until all the grapes have been de-stemmed and crushed, ready to begin fermenting. The winery staff work very hard at this time of year, usually starting at sunrise and working till midnight, or later. After polishing as many glasses as we could find and helping to organize the tasting area for the next day, we enjoyed more wine as we watched this de-stemming process, asking questions about winemaking. We were invited to join the staff for a late night dinner, but we decided to retire to our camper sometime around 10pm. They were still hard at work at that time. I couldn’t imagine working so hard. That’s when we realized that owning a winery is really farming and I do not have the stamina to be a farmer at this point in my life. I guess we won’t be buying a winery anytime soon.
The day ended with us sleeping in our comfy camper right there in the winery. I fell asleep with the sounds of the music the staff were playing to keep them entertained while they worked late into the night, as I reflected on the day. We had some great wine, harvested grapes, and slept in a winery. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer birthday celebration. That Leon, he always comes up with the best adventures!