Oxley Estate Winery was an idea that we talked about, dreamt about and researched for several years before buying the old Matos vegetable farm (17.8 acres) in the hamlet of Oxley on April 1, 2010. Oxley Bluff Farm, as it is now known, is a lovely piece of land, located on the top of a high bluff over Lake Erie, where it gets abundant sunshine and breezes off the Lake. There is one row of cottages/homes on the south, along the Lake, a bush (a “woods” for our American friends) on the east, a Catholic retreat house on a large property across the street on the west, and County Road 50 on the north.
Our first grapes were planted with the help of the crew from Colio Estate Wines and equipment from Viewpointe Estate Winery in May and June 2010, and the root stock, asparagus, Haskap and Saskatoon berries were planted then, too. They were all in the same sandy loam soil, but the grapes, root stock and asparagus took off like agricultural rockets. The summer of 2010 was a scorcher and our vines grew and grew, happy to stretch out along the new trellising. The Haskap and Saskatoon berries didn’t flourish that first summer (which we attribute to the quality of the young plants we got from the grower in Saskatchewan), but have since come along very nicely indeed.
We tended the Regent grapes in eight rows on the old Euro Nursery and Vineyards property on the 3rd Concession north of Harrow in 2010 (since torn out and now a corn field) and got permission from the Grapes Growers of Ontario to claim them as ours. Those grapes made the first Oxley wine, our 2010 Regent.
By June, 2011, another very hot summer, we knew we were going to get a partial crop of grapes in the fall. Puzzled, but delighted, to have grapes in the second summer, we set about buying and borrowing an odd assortment of tanks and a small press, ready to have “a practice year”. That practice year produced some terrific wines and the rest, as they say, is history. In early 2012 we scrambled to renovate our 1920 barn into the winery retail store and event centre (“The Barn at Oxley”), reluctantly taking off the old, weathered wood siding and putting on new red cedar. The two small lofts were torn out and replaced by a larger space, “The Loft”, for events and meetings. We kept the old roof, enclosed the open lean-to on the north (where we used to park the tractor and wagon) to create restrooms and a storage closet, and added a kitchen on the west and small entry on the east. The Barn opens to the Wine Garden, with its large wood-burning fireplace built with bricks made by Jack Miner and salvaged by all the Wilsons, young and old, from the Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary.
2012 was a big year for us. In addition to The Barn renovation, we had our first crops of white asparagus (called Spargel in Germany) and Haskap and Saskatoon berries. And we bought a second farm with 20 acres of sandy loam soil within 100 metres of Oxley Bluff Farm in January 2012 (we weren’t really looking, but we knew we’d never find anything closer). After months of cleaning up, Corner Ridge Farm, as the “new” property is now known, was planted with 1½ acres of grapes. It will eventually all be vineyards but, remembering our mantra, patience is the root of good taste, we’re going to take the time to get it right.
We finished the first phase of our gardens in 2013, completed The Wine Garden (as we call our patio), built our outdoor entry and trellised structures from old barn beams, added two tents and shade sails and began hosting events (Sip, Swirl and Twirl; Vintage Sessions Acoustic Theatre; a Harvest Dinner in the Vineyard under the Full Hunter’s Moon; Christmas and Valentine’s Day Dinners; EPIC’s 19th Annual Vintage Tasting; and various live musical performances throughout the year).
Our Story Wall, in the hallway behind the tasting bar, tells the history of the Farms and has before and after photos, along with information on us and our grapes, crops and wines.