Fun, Food and Wine in Jordan, Ontario(Part 1)
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Canadian Chapter members of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) spent 2 days touring the wine and fruit producing region of Jordan under the hashtag banner #wherethehellsjordan. Hint: it's in the Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada.

 

Creative development is taking root in the region. Unlike its well-known sister community of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Jordan is off the lake and slightly west. It's intimate, contagiously friendly and growing nicely with pride and care.

Riesling wine tasting, Jordan, Ontario, Canada

Featherstone was our introduction to Twenty Mile Bench appellation. Heritage breed Southdown and Suffolk sheep are the lawn mowers. They eat the lower vine leaves (but not the grapes!), allowing sun to do its work on the fruit. How perfect is that?

sheep, Featherstone Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada

Husband and wife winemakers David Johnson and Louise Engel greeted us with tastings of dry riesling and Canadian oaked (a rarity) chardonnay. They met as students at U. of Guelph, ran a butcher shop after graduation, sold it and bought the 25-acre farm that's become Featherstone — named after chicken feathers and the limestone soil. Of course.

winemakers David Johnson and Louise Engel, Featherstone Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
Black Sheep Riesling, Featherstone Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada

As part of their organic philosophy, they employ Amadeus, a Harris hawk, to discourage swarms of starlings from feasting on the fruit. Much quieter than the bird bangers used in many vineyards. Starlings have grown by millions since being introduced into the USA by the American Acclimatization Society in the late 19th century to bring every bird species mentioned in Shakespeare's plays. Art and agri-commerce haven't mixed well since.

Winemaker Louise Engel and Harris hawk 'Amadeus', Featherstone Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
red wine in a glass, Featherstone Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada

A very short drive from Featherstone is a handful of  buildings from the mid 1800's when this was a busy community named after the Balls brothers who founded it. A rumbling mill still produces flour. In contrast, a LEED certified building showcases art galleries and green architecture. The hamlet has a fascinating connection to Sir Isaac Brock, the British commander who died stopping an American invasion during the War of 1812. 

19th C. flour mill, Balls Falls, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
SATW travel journalists
Ball's Falls flour mill interior
bag of flour from Ball's Falls mill
old photo of Sir Isaac Brock's hat, Balls Falls, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
 mill notice, Sir Isaac Brock, Balls Falls, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
Ball's Falls LEEDS building, Centre for Conservation

Though no longer state of the art, the LEEDS visitor centre (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building system — now you know!) has a self-contained eco system of beneficial but delicate bacteria. Ironically, this means no cleansers with bleach can be brought into the building, a concept which had to be explained to the public health inspector. 

Ball's Falls dry from drought

The falls, normally free flowing, were almost bone dry from this summer's drought.

 (Part 2) 

Lunch at 13th Street Winery

A couple of us get lost on the way to 13th Street Winery for lunch. We find it tucked inside the city limits of Ste Catherines. Bad luck driving turns to good as we arrive just in time to meet two women bearing plates of food. What to do? I take a picture.

Gallery Room, 13th Street Winery
food descriptions

It gets even better as I find the food is for us! Inside the restored century farmhouse affable co-owner Doug Whitty is describing the history of the region, his third generation family roots and the winery. To stimulate all the senses, 13th Street encompasses contemporary architecture, a serious bakery plus local art inside and out. Nice.

wine and cheese tasting, 13th Street Winery

After that delicious knosh we pop outside for a wine and cheese pairing by seminar chef/sommelier Corinne Maund, then race through the bakery and onto our waiting bus. I missed the garden sculptures!

tasting room, 13th Street Winery
wine and cheese tasting, 13th Street Winery
bakery, 13th Street Winery
fresh fruit and baked goods, 13th Street Winery

Still licking our fingers, next stop is Beechwood Doughnuts in downtown Ste. Catherines where we meet Taylor Book, the owner of Niagara's first and only 100% vegan doughnut shop. Taylor poses for a shot behind a display of a few of the 30 varieties her kitchen turns out on a seasonal basis. Surprisingly, they aren't overly sweet. A continuous stream of customers confirms their popularity.

Taylor Book, owner of Beechwood Doughnuts
Beechwood Doughnuts, Ste Catherines
Beechwood Doughnuts, Ste Catherines
Beechwood Doughnuts, Ste Catherines

Hefting wine, cheese and doughnuts doesn't technically qualify as hard work, but we take a break anyway to check into our digs for the night, the Inn on the Twenty in prim "downtown" Jordan. 

flowers, main street of Jordan, Ontario, Canada
main street of Jordan, Ontario, Canada

Describing the makeover of tiny Jordan as a renaissance is no exaggeration. Cave Springs Winery provided the impetus. To quote from the website, 'in the early 1920s Giuseppe Pennachetti emigrated from his hometown in Fermo, Italy, to work as a mason building Niagara’s Welland Canal.' Home-made wine eventually led to Cave Springs, whose original quarters now anchor an upscale transformation of the village.

 Inn on the Twenty, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
Inn on the Twenty, Jordan, Ontario, Canada

After a refresh at the inn, we gather for a village walkabout.

Valley Jewellers, Jordan Mews, Jordan, Ontario

Valley Jewellers are a new tenant in the Village Mews shops.

Kenneth Lane Smith, Jordan Mews, Jordan, Ontario
wine cellar, Cave Springs Winery, Jordan, Ontario

Original Cave Springs cellars remain beneath the wine shop and restaurant.

Kenneth Lane Smith sells photo art on canvas. 

Inn on the Twenty restaurant, Jordan Mews, Jordan, Ontario
Conestoga wagon, Jordan, Ontario

Visitors dine al fresco while a few short blocks away the Historical Society has restored pioneer artefacts.

Wine maker Rob Power and company president Andrew Howard greet us at the entrance to Creekside Winery. Rob is exhausted from several days of bottling — "a necessary evil in this industry", he says. Fatigue notwithstanding, Rob and Andrew usher us "behind the scenes" to partake of their liquid assets and gain a deeper understanding of wine making in Niagara.

sparkling wine, Creekside Estate Winery
Creekside Estate Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
Creekside Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
Creekside Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
Jessica Greene, Creekside Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
wine maker Rob Power, Creekside Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada

"Creekside got popular in 2004", Rob tells us. He's been wine maker since 2000, "so I remember all the sordid details" he jokes about the growing pains. "Ultimately, wine is farming and in Ontario heat is the limiting factor."

Thanks for the pours, Jessica.

cellar entrance, Creekside Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada

Continuing..."The Niagara Peninsula is going to emerge as a wine destination of the world that will appeal to everyone."

During an inspired feast of a BBQ dinner by chefs Nathan Young and  Adam Hynam-Smith on The Deck, 13th Street vintner Doug Whitty had heartfelt words of praise for Rob.

wine makers Doug Whitty and Rob Power, Creekside Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
dinner feast, The Deck, Creekside Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada

Some wineries, such as Creekside, are bike friendly, which is great. For anyone needing wheels for longer distances and which not incidentally avoid roadside breathalyzer tests, there's a bus service. Fourteen of us were squired around in an oversize mini van by Coventry. It even had disco lights and a center pole which I tried out. Sorry, but the video wouldn't upload.

 Part 3 

Breakfast is at the winery which happens to also be Sue-Ann's home. Her new high-end oven is toast, but she quickly recovers with her old oven to whip up two different fritatas plus home fries, fruit salad, coffee and tasting setup for our gang. It's soon evident that nothing fazes Sue-Ann. The only action faster than her entertaining rapid-fire comments is how quickly she's rung up some 450 national and international wine maker awards.

wine maker Sue-Ann Staff, Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
Bernese dog 'Brix', Gillian Marx, Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada

Sue-Ann's pet Bernese 'Brix' steals the show with a Good Morning! tail wag for each of us while less sociable 'Shiraz' watches from under a chair.

breakfast, fritatas, fruit salad, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
black cat named Shiraz, Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada

The 104-acre farm which she shares with her brother's family next door is also a venue for weddings and special events. A semi-permanent tent with interlocking brick and stone dance floor (yes!) comes with the stipulation that only Staff wines come with the event. Not all that hard to take.

wedding pavillion, Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada

We move inside for a pinot noir and double sparkling tasting. The white she describes as an "easy, leesy, cheesey wine" which she named Irridescence "for life's changing colours." Fancy Farm Girl is her brand concept catering "to what's in all of us". (The other

'F' words she reserves for the tractor when it doesn't start.)

brut sparkling wine, Sue-Ann Staff, Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
Fancy Farm Girl Flirty Bubbles sparkling rose wine, Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
Sue-Ann Staff farmhouse, Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
sign promoting wine and dogs, Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
Bernese (St Bernard) dog, Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada

She turned on the AC for us. Johann Munro and her husband Ryan run a funky pottery business from their home. Not every bedroom has a kiln on the floor below that reaches internal temperatures of 1221°C / 2230°F. The mudroom and living rooms are galleries and there's a second kiln in the basement. Website photos poetically show the artistry that goes into each piece. Free-range chickens meander outdoors, each having a name. Without pretence, shed pottery is definitely a comfortable place with 'a modern country vibe.'

ceramic mugs by Johann Munro, the shed, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
the shed pottery, ceramic artist Johann Munro, jordan, Ontario, Canada
free range chickens, Jordan, Ontario, Canada

Johann's grandmother made pottery. With no formal training Johann began her business after being laid off from a job in the hospitality industry. "If I can work 10 hours a day for someone else, I can do that for myself." Her talent was rewarded with immediate commissions for which she painstakingly applied each layer of paint by hand to ensure unique results. It's become part of her technique.

the shed, ceramic pottery by Johann Munro. Husband Ryan, pet dog Chance
ceramic pottery by Johann Munro, the shed, Jordan, Ontario, Canada

Grant and Carolyn Westcott make wines with a crazy passion and a sense of artistry. Their wines are named for an impressive lineage of remarkable women in the family and various connections with names such as Chrysler and Amelia Earhart; ask about the posters in the room above the dining area. The winery is young, but with careful tending of small batch chardonnay and pinot noir, is making a name for itself as a class act.

sommelier Jèrome Leclêrc, Westcott Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
Sandra Easton mayor of Lincoln Township, Westcott Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada

Joining our luncheon was Sandra Easton, mayor of the town of Lincoln, whose vision for growth is to enable businesses that protect and work within the natural landscape.

"This is a really special place. We don't want to be known as a bedroom community, but we're certainly in bed with agriculture."

SATW Canadian Chapter FAM, Westcott Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada

Victoria Westcott gives a tour of the inner workings.

SATW Canadian Chapter FAM, Westcott Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
SATW Canadian Chapter FAM, Westcott Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
roast chicken, corn & thyme purée, strawberry blueberry BBQ sauce, Westcott Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
dessert, Niagara peach & pear shortbread crumble
wine glasses, Wescott Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
photo mural, Wescott Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
wine maker Arthur Harder, Wescott Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
poster, wine label, Wescott Winery, Jordan, Ontario, Canada

Wine maker Arthur Harter strives for wines with clarity and classic elegance.

chefs Jacquelene and Steve del Col, zooma caters, Jordan, Ontario, Canada

It seems fitting to close this story with a visit to a fruit market because Niagara Peninsula's micro climate has made its produce renowned across Canada. Vineyards are now replacing orchards, driven by market forces, housing, climate and ever important terroir. And yet fruit growers like the Kowalik family are a continuing agricultural force. The Kowaliks proudly cultivate excellence the old-fashioned way: as naturally as possible with minimum sprays. It's something they've been doing for over 60 years and four generations. 

horse-drawn hay cutter, Kowalik Country Farm store
Kowalik Country Farm store, Jordan, Ontario, Canada
Kowalik Country Farm orchards, Jordan, Ontario, Canada

I'd been chatting while the rest of our group shopped in the store. Suddenly, we had to go. Licking my peach ice cream (no lie — the peachiest I've ever had) and my wounds as Doug, our organizer, yelled at me to get on the bus, I said "Gotta go!" and bid farewell to a tasteful and  pleasant 2 days in and around Jordan.

ostrich sculpture, Jordan Mews, Jordan, Ontario, Canada, wine barrels, flower planter

Jordan Mews

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© Gary Crallé 2016 

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