Sometime this summer, Denis Perrault's 400-acre, 115-head dairy farm south of Navan in rural Ottawa will officially become the site of Eastern Ontario's latest commercial grape winery.
An agricultural activist involved in many farm-based organizations, the well known farmer has received tentative approval from the LCBO to open Domaine Perrault winery, with wife Lyse and two daughters as partners.
"A few years ago, some of the rules were softened," Perrault said. "Eastern Ontario became an official wine district under the LCBO and new, small wineries are being encouraged."
Perrault is president of the 80-member Eastern Ontario Grape Growers Association which held its seventh annual meeting in late April at le Domaine du Cervin near Chesterville, another licensed grape winery which relies on livestock - in this case red deer - as its primary income source.
The only other grape winery in the Ottawa region is Raymond Huneault's Vignoble du Clos Baillie in West Quebec. The area's first licensed grape winery in recent times was Bourget Estates, which closed last year.
Meanwhile, the Countryman family in Augusta Township kn southwestern Grenville County has begun making and selling fruit dessert wine out of almost everything but grapes, including strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, peaches and cranberries.
The Countrymans - Gene, Marsha and Eli - acquired an LCBO licence for a fruit winery in May and have plans for an official opening June 10 at 1:30 pm. The address is 3387 County Rd. 26.
Also making and selling fruit wines other than grape for the past several years is Strathmore Orchard and Winery 25 km north of Cornwall. Licensed Strathmore products include apple-cranberry and apple ice wines.
Sitting in the sunroom of his farm home overlooking his acreage where deer sometimes roam, his grape vines a stone's throw away, gently sipping a glass of his own finest, Perrault allowed that life was pretty good and having his own winery will only make it better.
Over the past five years, the Perrault family has taken six acres on a southern sandy slope of the farm and planted them with 12 varieties of winter-hardy grapes. Recently, a substantial wine-making building and necessary equipment were added... about as far away from the cows as they could get it.
How did he make the jump from dairyman to winemaker? For Perrault, both specialties are all about agriculture and don't cancel each other out. Besides, as a wine lover, he personally wanted to see a wine tour launched in the region, to bolster both farming and tourism.
President of the community advisory committee at Alfred College, he relied on expertise provided by the college's parent, the University of Guelph, on fact-finding missions to other cold climate winemakers, and in trial and error in deciding upon which varieties to grow.
It was an uphill battle, with some of the experts convinced that a viable industry could never take root in an area with so many days of deep cold and frost.
While the jury is still out, major inroads continue to be made, Perrault said, noting that, with a mild winter and just enough snow cover, his latest fall harvest is shaping up as a bountiful one.
With about 3,000 litres of last year's red, white and rose wine to be bottled, Perrault is fine-tuning two reds, two whites and one rose and plans to be offering "Domaine Perrault" products right off the farm later this summer.