Brian Preston – The Travelling Sommelier
Blue Gypsy Wines of Oxford Mills in Eastern Ontario, south of Ottawa, is owned and operated by Louis Gaal and his wife Claire Faguy. Louis went from being a management consultant in Manhattan, New York, to being a farmer here in Eastern Ontario. He still provides consulting services to help pay the bills of a still-developing winery operation. Being an avid gardener, Louis has actively studied farm methods for over 20 years, experimenting on small-scale plots. As a strong believer in organic methods, he is investigating methods for fertilization and pest control with little or no use of chemicals. His wife Claire, a pastry chef, splits her time between the winery Simply Baked Catering in Winchester (which she also owns) where, along with two partners, they produce a range of baked goods and provide a catering business. Claire’s culinary training has developed her palate in a manner that makes her invaluable in wine blending and quality control, testing every experimental wine blend and recipe. Claire has final word on whether a recipe remains part of the repertoire or not.
The only fruit winery in this part of the province, they opened in October 2011 on 62 acres of fertile, pesticide-free farmland, formerly part of an 1800s apple orchard. They planted 5 acres of a wide variety of fruits and supplement this with fruits from other Ontario sources such as cranberries from Muskoka Lakes. For over two years, they started by doing small test batch fruit wines and with a select group of experienced tasters were able to settle on recipes which they then in 2011 put into production for the public. The blueberry wine, for example, started with cultivated blueberries which had no flavour but when they switched to wild blueberries it made all the difference! They also weren’t pleased enough with the strawberry and raspberry wines so they are not in production, but the cherry wine was such a hit that this year’s 1 barrel/16 cases sold out in 6 weeks just by word of mouth (and tasting of course). Keep an eye out for this one next vintage! Select LCBO outlets (soon to include Smiths Falls) now carry the Blueberry wine. LCBO takes 55% of his business so this is a good business model to help staff and winery production expansion. Unlike table wines from grapes, Ontario fruit wine regulations allow the sale of fruit wines at farmers markets.
In keeping with a low-impact approach to fruit-wine making, Blue Gypsy winery operates completely off-grid using solar power, and they may connect eventually to feed surplus energy back into the grid. The winery’s building is constructed of metal for minimal maintenance and has radiant (in-floor) heating. In two years, as production and sales are now expanding, they will construct another building. All of their products have no sulphites added.
Here is a list and some tasting notes I have on their range of products:
Blueberry Wine 750ml $17.00 – a lovely example that is right up there with other Canadian producers like Rodrique’s in Newfoundland (now labeled Markland Blueberry, named after the town it is made in).
Cranberry Wine 750ml $16.00 – a real hit based on Muskoka Lakes fruit which has a balanced degree of tartness, acidity and flavour that pairs great with Thanksgiving turkey and cuts the savoury sweetness of the dressing and traditional mashed yams covered in marshmallows that our kids love! Kids get the Shirley Temple and the adults get the Cranberry or Blueberry wine!
Rhubarb Limited 750ml $16.00 – described as a limited release rhubarb wine that is ever so slightly pink, with a dry Riesling/Pinot hint. According to the website, only 14 cases still available, so call ahead if this is one you want to try/buy.
Then try the meads also known as honey wines:
Nekkid Mead 750ml $16.00 10%abv – base unflavoured mead with no sulphites added,
Louis and Claire also produce some lovely flavoured vinegars:
Wine Vinegar 200ml $10.00 -Apple, Cranberry, Maple, Raspberry, Wild Blueberry
Their tasting room is open from Victoria Day Weekend to Remembrance Day. Normal hours are Saturday 11-5, and Sunday 11-5. Phone: 613-698-7685 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and they are located at 1595 Lindsay Road, Oxford Mills. You can order wines 24/7/365 through their online store at www.bluegypsywines.com