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Agritourism Ottawa

A Guide to Wineries, Orchards, Gardens, Farm Tours and Other Agricultural Adventures in the Ottawa Region

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Beyond Ottawa

Apple Picking in the Ottawa Region

Over the last couple years I’ve visited many apple orchards in Eastern Ontario (and one in Western Quebec). Here is a summary of what’s available in our region:

Within the city of Ottawa:

Pinewood Orchards: An apple orchard on NCC land in the Greenbelt (Kanata). Very picturesque. Although the store is open daily, I believe apple picking takes place only on weekends. You can also purchase their apples at their stand along Carling Avenue, near March Road.

Apple Hill Fruit Farm: A small pick-your-own apple orchard in Barrhaven (Nepean). They also offer wagon rides on weekends. NOW CLOSED

Log Cabin Orchard: A 10 acre, pick-your-own orchard featuring 7 varieties of apples on a 33-acre farm in Osgoode. The store front is a 172 year old log cabin which is the original homestead on the property from 1840. I have not yet visited this orchard, but it looks great!

Harvest Moon Orchard: This orchard in Carp does not offer pick-your-own apples, but they have a very nice store and the apples are freshly picked. Note: They hold a special event called “Heritage Apple Days” each year in October.

Dekok Berry Farm: This berry farm in Kanata offers pick-your-own apples on Saturdays. Continue reading “Apple Picking in the Ottawa Region”

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All Day Cheese Tour: Vicki’s Veggies

Picnic lunch at Vicki's Veggies

A highlight of our All Day Cheese Tour was stopping at Vicki’s Veggies for a picnic lunch. We arrived quite hungry from a busy morning of touring, and were happy to take a seat at the picnic tables that had been set up on Vicki Emlaw’s and Tim Noxon’s property. Here we savoured a delicious box lunch from Prince Edward County’s East & Main Bistro, while free-range chickens wandered around us looking for handouts.

During our lunch, Vicki Emlaw provided a history of the farm business that she and her husband run. After spending a couple years at university, Vicki spent twelve years travelling the world. She would return in the summers to work evenings in local restaurants, and would spend her days working in her mother’s garden. At a party one night, she met a local carpenter whose recent hand injury was preventing him from being able to can his home-grown tomatoes. She volunteered to help him, and the rest is history.

Now the couple lives on an 8-acre property where they grow non-certified organic mixed vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers, mushrooms, and eggs. Continue reading “All Day Cheese Tour: Vicki’s Veggies”

All Day Cheese Tour: Black River Cheese and Fifth Town Artisan Cheese

Fifth Town: Aging Cave

When we finished our tour at Maypul Layne Farms, we headed off to Black River Cheese Company. This small-scale cheese factory is located on the Black River – a very picturesque spot in Prince Edward County. The company is a small co-operative owned by local farmers, and specializes in cheddar, mozzarella, brick, and fresh curd.

Our tour included an overview of the cheese making process, followed by a peek into the warehouse containing over $1 million in cheese. There were some interesting discussions about the milk quota system, which sets the amount of milk that cheese makers are entitled to; if they need more, they must lease the extra quota from another producer (which I assume is quite expensive). We were told that the only exception is when a cheese maker develops a cheese that no one else is producing, in which case, they can apply for up to 10 million litres extra quota per year. I’m not sure how they define a unique cheese, but apparently it doesn’t count if you just add different flavours (like hot peppers, for example). Continue reading “All Day Cheese Tour: Black River Cheese and Fifth Town Artisan Cheese”

All Day Cheese Tour: Maypul Layn Dairy Farm

Martin Miller with one of his dairy cows

As readers of this blog know, my main writing focus is agritourism. I profile farms and agribusinesses that open their doors to their public, providing a glimpse into the passion and hard work that goes into producing the agricultural products that we often take for granted.

One type of farm that rarely opens its doors is a dairy farm, whether the farmers are raising cows, sheep, or goats. The main reason is that biosecurity is a big issue in the dairy industry; everything must be kept very clean to ensure a safe milk supply. In fact, you are a bigger risk to the animals than the animals are to you, so there’s too much risk for most dairy farms to provide regular tours of their operations.

However, you will occasionally run across opportunities to tour a dairy farm – usually one-time events that are easier for the farmers to manage. So when I saw that the Cheese Festival was offering a bus tour that included two dairy farms, I immediately signed up. One of the tours was for a cow dairy farm, and the other was for a dairy goat farm.

Sadly, the dairy goat farm tour was cancelled at the last minute, due to a tragic event on the farm. Continue reading “All Day Cheese Tour: Maypul Layn Dairy Farm”

Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Prince Edward County

Chef Anthony Rose from the Drake Hotel

I just returned from a wonderful 3-day weekend in Prince Edward County, where I attended the 1st annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival. I had such a great time touring cheese factories, sampling outstanding cheese, and most of all, meeting so many inspiring and passionate people who were part of the event. As one woman I met said, “This is like a wedding, but without the bride and groom!”

Over the next few blog entries, I will provide details about the tours, seminars, and tasting events that I attended. This should provide lots of ideas for agritourism experiences in Prince Edward County and beyond, and will also give you some ideas for great cheeses to seek out from your local cheese shop.

Here are the topics I will cover in the next blog entries:

  • An all-day bus tour that took us to a dairy farm, Black River Cheese, Vicki’s Veggies, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, and County Cider
  • A full day of cheese seminars covering Canadian cheddar, cheese from Quebec, and artisan cheese in Ontario
  • The Cooks and Curds gala featuring tasting dishes prepared by eight Canadian chefs with eight Canadian cheeses and paired with Ontario wine and beers
  • The  Artisan Cheese and Fine Food Fair where cheesemakers and producers of artisan foods offered their products for sampling and purchase

It’ll take me a few days to cover all these topics (unless I write faster than I usually do), so keep checking back for new updates, including pictures from the various events.

Cheese and Wine Lovers: 3 Great Events and a GIVEAWAY!

Artisan Cheese
Artisan Cheese

Great news! There are three exciting wine and cheese events coming up this month, and I’ve got tickets to give away for one of them! Read on for more details.

On Wednesday, May 18th, Savvy Company is holding a Quebec Artisan Cheese Tasting at Thyme and Again in Westboro. Tickets are $60 each, and there are only a couple seats left, so you’ll need to act fast if you want to go.

On Wednesday, June 1st, Savvy Company is also holding a Taste and Buy event with the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake. The event is taking place at the National Arts Centre’s Terrace Tent, with 26 wineries showcasing their latest releases of wine. Tickets are $45 when purchased before May 20th. Sounds like a great way to spend a Wednesday evening!

And finally, the Great Canadian Cheese Festival is being held in Prince Edward County from June 3rd-5th. From the festival’s website:

For the first time in Canada, The Great Canadian Cheese Festival brings together the country’s leading cheesemakers from coast-to-coast so cheese lovers can meet to learn, talk, taste and buy the best in artisan, farmstead and specialty cheese—and sample fine wine, craft beer and artisanal foods.

Last week I attended a media launch in Ottawa for this event, and got a preview of what attendees will be enjoying at the festival. Continue reading “Cheese and Wine Lovers: 3 Great Events and a GIVEAWAY!”

Niagara FAM Tour: Henry of Pelham

Wine cellar

Our final stop of the day was Henry of Pelham Family Estate in St. Catharines. This winery was established in 1988 by Paul and Bobbi Speck, and is now operated by their sons Paul Jr., Matthew, and Daniel.

Matthew Speck (who is the Viticulture Manager) provided our tour. He started with an overview of the history of the winery and his family’s deep roots in the area (over 200 years).  The name “Henry of Pelham” comes from an ancestor, Henry Smith, who went by the name “Henry of Pelham” when signing documents. He built the 1842 carriage house that now houses the winery’s retail store and hospitality rooms. Continue reading “Niagara FAM Tour: Henry of Pelham”

Niagara FAM Tour: Southbrook Vineyards

Sheep in vineyard

After lunch at Ravine Vineyard, we headed to Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Bill Redelmeier, who owns the winery with his wife Marilyn, greeted us outside the hospitality pavilion. We immediately headed over to the vineyard, where Southbrook’s flock of sheep were hanging out amongst the vines. The sheep have helped Southbrook become Canada’s first biodynamic-certified winery, which means that the entire property is organic and is treated as a self-contained and self-sustaining organism. (See my previous entry about a couple farms in the Ottawa area that follow biodynamic principles.)

Southbrook’s environmental commitment extends to their hospitality pavilion as well. The pavilion was designed by renowned Canadian architect Jack Diamond, and is LEED-gold certified, which is a third-party certification program for high performance green buildings. The building is worth visiting just for the architecture alone. Almost entirely glass, it offers views out to the vineyard from floor to ceiling. The front of the building has a 200-metre long landscape wall, with rainwater retention ponds perfectly integrated into the building design. Not surprisingly, the building won a 2009 International Architecture Award, known as “the world’s most prestigious architecture award”. Continue reading “Niagara FAM Tour: Southbrook Vineyards”

Niagara FAM Tour: Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery

Wine at lunch

Our next tour stop was Ravine Vineyard, located in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Although it opened to the public only two years ago, Ravine Vineyard has it all: a beautiful setting, great wines (all organic), a historic building for wine tastings, and a deli and bakery that has gained a well-deserved following for its wood-fired, stone oven breads.

We started our tour in the Woodruff House, an 1802 heritage home where the main tasting room is located (along with several tasting rooms that can be booked for private events). The assistant winemaker, Shauna White, gave us an overview of the winemaking process and answered many questions from the group. Although relatively young, Shauna is a very experienced winemaker, having grown up around a family vineyard in B.C., and then working at wineries in France, Australia, New Zealand, and Oregon (not to mention graduating from the Winery and Viticulture Technician program at Niagara College). Throughout her talk, we enjoyed several different wines from the winery. Continue reading “Niagara FAM Tour: Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery”

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