Nestled in the picturesque Hockley Valley in the region of Headwaters is one of YDH’s newest wineries. Windrush Estate Winery was established in 2017, and owners J.C. (John) Pennie and Marilyn Field M.S.M., have combined their love of entrepreneurship with their love of fine wine, entertaining and the arts to create a stunning, state-of-the-art facility. Only the highest quality grapes are processed here, and the unique Chateau Windrush is the perfect accompaniment to these VQA wines, lovingly crafted by acclaimed winemakers from our very own province of Ontario.
The name Windrush was inspired by John and Marilyn’s world travels. Their original home, built in 1984 on a windy crest in Caledon, was named Chateau Windrush after the couple had toured the Cotswolds in England. “The house that we had at the time was designed as a Tudor-style house, and there were houses like that and stone hut cottages on the Windrush River. So, we thought that was an appropriate name,” John recalls.
In the 2000s, John was deeply entrenched in the wind power business. The property on which the current Windrush Estate Winery sits was originally intended to be a wind energy site. When it was determined that wind was stronger in the Garafraxa plateau, the business moved there, and John and Marilyn found themselves wondering what they were going to do with the property. In the end, they bought it from the company called (not-so-coincidentally) Windrush Energy, and built Chateau Windrush II. This 11,000 square-foot structure includes features such as a great hall that can host up to 120 people for a cocktail reception, a music hall that can seat 110 for a concert or 60 people for dinner, and was designed with the intention of entertaining the couple’s friends, business associates, and for fundraising for Marilyn’s national charity.
In what might be described as a moment of Serendipity, the exact purpose of the new Chateau Windrush was decided when Adamo Estate Winery opened and began offering wine tastings. “My son and I went over to taste the wine,” John says. “We were talking to Mario Adamo about his soil conditions and where the water table was, and so on. In looking at what he had built, we thought Chateau Windrush was not much different, and might be repurposed as a destination for a winery.” Happily, the soil tests which had been performed 15 years earlier when the site had originally been intended for a wind power site provided usable data, and additional research and testing confirmed that the micro climate in the Hockley Valley was indeed ideal for wine growing.
Even more fate-like was how everything else fell into place. John explains that one of the essential factors of a successful winery is distribution. However, this is easier said than done for most facilities. With such a boom in the craft wine industry, and with so many new wineries wanting to get their fine products into restaurants and entertainment chains, placing your wines in front of customers is often difficult, and it takes a few years to develop a reputation. As more good fortune would have it, however, the couple also owns a food service company, so they were able to tap into their customer base to facilitate meetings that would otherwise be challenging to obtain.
Once those meetings were held, the quality of Windrush’s wines spoke for themselves. “We already had a large venue, we had the land that was suitable for growing grapes in a micro-climate, and we had distribution,” John concludes. “That all just came together by accident.” The last thing the business needed was a solid business plan. John, as a lifelong entrepreneur, was able to knock that one out of the park, and today, Windrush Estate Winery is a fully-functioning facility.
Distribution is, as John states, one of the essential factors for a successful winery. But he points out three others that are just as important. First, you need quality grapes. Because Windrush Estate Winery was established only three years ago, this is not enough time for the newly planted vineyard to begin growing its own grapes. Windrush therefore imports some of the highest quality grapes from the Niagara region to process onsite. Second, you need to invest in the science of processing grapes, and John and Marilyn have invested several million dollars into a state-of-the-art-facility.
The third essential factor is, as John puts it, the magic. “The magic is the winemaker,” he says. “We have two outstanding winemakers.” Jonathan Boyle, Windrush’s chief winemaker, is a graduate of the Winery and Viticulture Technician program at Niagara College, and has worked in wineries both within Ontario and around the world. Jim Warren is also a veteran winemaker in the industry, having established his own wineries in Ontario before moving on to other ventures—including teaching at Niagara College for nearly a decade.
Today, Windrush offers wonderful VQA pinot noirs, pinot grigios, chardonnays and rosés that you simply have to try to appreciate. If we’ve tempted you to whet your whistle, visit Windrush Estate Winery at 3100 Concession Rd. 3 Adjala, in Palgrave. For information, call (905) 725-0060, or visit Windrush online at www.windrushestatewinery.com.
Story by Katherine Ryalen