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Cox Creek Cellars Estate Winery: A toast to the good life in Wellington County

by Kelly Waterhouse

GUELPH-ERAMOSA - Eating local food supports farmers and the region’s economy, so why not raise a glass of truly local wine and say cheers to a winery that is harvesting the fruits of its labour and serving up a toast to the good life in Wellington County.

Cox Creek Cellars Estate Winery is located on Highway 6 at County Road 22, between Fergus and Guelph. It might seem an unlikely place to start a vineyard, but owners Jerry and Kamil Trochta would counter, “Why not?”

With stubborn tenacity, a proud heritage in the craft of wine making and a passion for the artful mix of science and nature, this dynamic couple proves doing what you love can be fruitful.

“People wondered if we were crazy, opening a winery [here], but I said I live in Guelph and I want to have my winery right here,” Jerry said with a laugh.

“In Europe, there are wineries everywhere, because they know how to produce good wine. They bring in the grapes from wherever they need to, to produce quality wines because they know how to do it. Why can’t I do the same here?”

The Trochta family invites locals and visitors alike to drive up their laneway and sample their award-winning fruit wines and Baco noir vintages.

With 31 wine varieties to their credit - including labels of chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir, rose, vidal, sparkling and gewurztraminer, plus sweet desert wines and a variety of fruit blends of apple, raspberry, elderberry, cherry, strawberry and black currant - wine maker Kamil likely has something to please most palates.  

Their fruit farm is spread out across 50 acres that includes their home, retail store and the wine making and storage facility. The property boasts more than 3.7 acres of Baco noir grape vines, three acres of black currant berries and another two acres of orchards that grow seven different varieties of apples, all for the sake of their wine production.

Growing up in Czechoslovakia, Kamil and Jerry had family in the wine making business and knew the work and craftsmanship involved. Wine was an important part of their culture and family tradition.

But when they decided to flee the communist rule of their homeland in the late 1960s, the idea of making wine and running a business was a distant dream.

Years later, the desire to work the land, grow their own grapes and create unique flavours in wines of their own creation was the inspiration for Cox Creek Cellars Estate Winery.

“It was something that I needed to do,” said Jerry. “Vineyards and wine making has always been a huge part of our lives.”

Opening its doors in 1998, their small operation was one of 23 independent wineries in Ontario that were outside the Designated Viticultural Area (DVA), which includes Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie’s north shore, Prince Edward County and Pelee Island.

“Because we are not in this region, we knew we had to produce a certain portion of our wine in fruit, so we decided to add to the orchard and planted another acre and a half of a several varieties of apple trees. Then we planted our black currants and the Baco noir vineyard,” said Jerry.

But like any farm, the yield depends on the mood of Mother Nature.

“It’s not the cold winters that kills our vine crops, it’s the spring frost we have to worry about,” she explained. “We suffer a frost pretty much every third year. At that point, we have to consider replanting.”

Fortunately, with a wide variety of white wines in their product line, they can continue to develop their fruit wines, even when their crop suffers.

Cox Creek Cellars has high standards for the white grapes bought from Ontario farmers in the Beamsville, St. Catharines and Niagara regions.

“The geography is really different, and that creates a very different flavour, so we use the grapes from these areas and pair them with our fruits to produce an Ontario fruit wine that is still local in nature,” said Jerry.

Being local matters. It’s a message Jerry and Kamil believe in, not only as farmers, but also as members of the community.

It speaks to the future of wine making and the farming practices required to maintain the integrity of their product, but also the economic profitability to ensure the future of their business is viable.

“More and more people are becoming aware of buying local, not only for the reason of good economical practices, but it is also an awareness that the more food and drink travels, the more chemicals are needed to keep it fresh,” said Jerry.

Practicing natural farming techniques, Jerry explained that while their winery is not organic by classification, it is in practice.

“We don’t use pesticides or herbicides because the black currants don’t need them. Our apples don’t’ need to be perfect to make a nice wine,” she said.

“We only need to protect the trees, but the fruit is perfect just the way it is. Our grapes are sprayed with a copper/sulphur blend, to suit our region’s climate.”

The lack of added chemicals on the fruit means the final product has a naturally healthy component.

“In other words, you won’t find yourself getting the headaches from our wines that many people experience with other red wines,” Jerry added.

Cox Creek Cellars is an active member of the Guelph Wellington Local Food (GWLF) organization, participating on the GWLF map and represented as the only winery in all of Wellington County.

“I find that instead of looking down on us as a small winery, local people are realizing our wines can compare to the good wines of Niagara, and we can beat the price too,” said Jerry.

With the average Cox Creek bottle costing between $9.70 and $10.70, the price is right to support local wines that have collected a total of 104 medals in wine competitions throughout Canada and the United States.

“Wherever we send our wines, they always come back with a medal,” Jerry said proudly. “And most of our wines have won something, including our Red Velvet Cassis Style Sweet Black Currant Desert Wine, which has brought home eight gold medals, two silvers, and six bronzes.”

She added her husband, Kamil, who holds a master’s degree in science, loves making wine and is good at it.

“He loves everything about the process; how it transforms itself, how what he puts into it (not what he does to it) changes. He cares for it, checking on his creation, nourishing the wine,” she said.

Their best-selling product is the Back Home Oak Barrel Aged Baco Noir Grape Wine, which retails for $11.70.

“This product outsells all our red wines. We have customers across Ontario who love this wine.

“Because of the black currants it has a unique taste and is full of anti-oxidants, with loads of Vitamin C,” explained Jerry.

Because wine is used in celebration, the Trochta’s have created spaces to host life’s special events, including a special outdoor area for elegant weddings and receptions, fundraisers, company functions and family gatherings that can accommodate up to 190 guests, or the indoor facility that holds up to 32 people.

Every Sunday at 2pm, they offer a public tour and wine tasting for $6 per person, or private tours with a minimum of 10 people.

They host annual events too, including the popular Lobsterfest, this year held as a fundraiser for the Centre Wellington Food Bank, and the Sunset Classical Concert in July.

On Sept. 11, from 1 to 4pm, the public is invited to Cox Creek Cellar’s pig roast, a dinner that includes spit-roasted pork, desserts and a wine tasting. Tickets are $32 per person and reservations are required.

Jerry and Kamil hope people will celebrate with family and friends and enjoy a bottle of locally-produced, quality wine from their land.

“I hope people will come in and try it. We produce a very unassuming, good quality wine at a very good price,” said Jerry.

“If you want a nice bottle of wine to serve with your dinner, we’re the place to visit.” 

For more information on Cox Creek Cellars Estate Winery call 519-767-3253 or visit coxcreekcellars.on.ca.

 

September 2, 2011

 
 

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