Thanks to the pioneering spirit of our innovative wine makers here in York Durham Headwaters, we are starting to turn the tide on what is traditionally thought of as Ontario’s wine country. More and more fledgling wineries are digging in to produce new flavours, balances and notes that are subtly distinct from those that are produced within Niagara region. Adamo Estate Winery in Headwaters is one of our celebrated vineyards, with award-winning vintages that come from our own backyard. We recently spoke with vineyard manager Shauna White, who tells us all about what makes Adamo so special.
Though it is a relatively recent venture, Adamo Estate Winery has swiftly become a beloved brand for locals and visitors alike. The first vines were planted less than ten years ago—in 2012. The following season, 2013, the first Adamo wines were made under the supervision of a consulting winemaker, with grapes imported from Niagara (since Adamo’s vines, being young, needed a few seasons to mature and bear suitable fruit). 2014 was the year that Adamo saw its first harvest of vidal grapes from its own vines, and also the year that Shauna White came aboard as vineyard manager. Today, Adamo has 18 acres of cultivated vineyard.
Shauna certainly knows a thing or two about wine. She grew up on a vineyard in Kelowna, British Columbia. Upon graduating high school, she thought she might like to go into sports medicine, but her grandmother convinced her that carrying on the family tradition and pursuing a career in winemaking would be a better choice. “I took some continuing education courses in Kelowna, just to see if I liked it,” she recalls. “It came so naturally to me that I came over to Niagara College and did their Winery and Viticulture program.” From there, Shauna travelled the world, working in places like Chablis, Oregon, Australia and New Zealand. Eventually, she returned to British Columbia, but when the position of vineyard manager became available at Adamo, she jumped at the opportunity.
Shauna’s background in winemaking is heavily shaped by pinot noir and chardonnay, having worked with these particular grapes at many different wineries around the world. From her travels and training, she has cultivated expertise that has helped her choose the practices and techniques which will work best for our climate here in YDH. The goal, as she puts it, is to ensure that the grapes express where they come from. With temperatures that regularly reach below 20 degrees Celsius each winter, Adamo must protect its vines with geothermal blankets to ensure a healthy crop is produced the following year. “When you’re growing the noble grapes like chardonnay, riesling and pinot noir, they actually die at minus 23,” Shauna explains. “When we get down to minus 26 every year, if we didn’t protect them, then we wouldn’t have any fruit any year.”
Not all of the varieties produced at Adamo are grown on site. Due to the cooler climate, some varieties cannot be grown in Headwaters successfully. Shauna and her team source these varieties from growers in Niagara, and work closely with them to ensure that only the best quality of fruit is procured. The grapes are brought back to be crushed, pressed and fermented under Shauna’s expert watch.
Though Adamo Estate Winery is currently closed to visitors due to Covid-19, the winery typically offers tastings for visitors eager to sample our local flavour. There are many varieties to choose from, several of which are winners of prestigious and international awards. If you wish to stay and enjoy the scenery, perhaps you might like to pair your wine with a bit of lunch at the property’s Paddock Café, or from the restaurant at the adjoining Hockley Valley Resort.
While we are waiting for recreational opportunities to become available again, Adamo Estate Winery is still busy behind the scenes. At the end of this month, they will be offering a special release of a brand-new wine: the first harvest of Adamo’s gamay noir grape. “Our gamay noir was planted in 2015, and it takes three to four years to mature,” Shauna explains. “It is a wine that we have never made before from our estate. We are really excited about that.” There is also an estate package of new releases in the works. In addition to the brand new 2019 gamay rose, there will be a 2019 riesling, a 2019 estate vidal, and a 2019 Legacy pét-nat.
Ask Shauna which wine she is most proud of, and she will not be able to choose. “I am proud of all of them,” she says. “They’re like my children. They’re my little babies. You want to see them develop into their best selves. It takes a lot of patience, and a lot of tasting the grapes and watching to make sure that they are healthy and happy. After all, a happy, healthy vine will give you a happy, healthy wine.”
Adamo Estate Winery
793366 3rd Line EHS, Mono
(519) 942-3969 x 5100
Story by Katherine Ryalen