Niagara here we come: Essex County winery touting world-class wines in Lake Erie North Shore region

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Windsor Star/Sharon Hill

Steve Mitchell of Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery will head into Ontario wine country later this month with two cases of his best vintages to tout Canada’s southernmost wine region on a Hamilton television show.

Lake Erie North Shore: Wallflower of the wine world no more.

“I’d say we need to be bold. We have to be bold,” Mitchell said Wednesday.

Mitchell, the Amherstburg winery’s president and co-owner, is scheduled to appear on CHCH TV’s Morning Live show Nov. 30 at 8:30 a.m. He’s travelling and promoting his family’s winery and wines about 30 per cent of the time which includes heading across the border to Michigan and going up to the Niagara and Niagara-on-the-Lake region with its almost 90 wineries.

He said it’s not an in-your-face move from the County Road 50 winery that is one of 17 in Essex County. It just makes sense.


“The highest proportion of Ontario wine lovers and the highest proportion of people happen to be close to the other wine country,” said Mitchell, who also serves as president for Essex Pelee Island Coast (EPIC) wine grower’s association. 

He has one main message. “We make world-class wines down here.” 

Karen Thorne, the winery’s representative at LCBO stores, said people have heard about Pelee Island but don’t know about the other wineries in the Lake Erie North Shore viticultural area. She wants to change that. She’s been holding wine tastings for Sprucewood at LCBO stores for three years in Niagara, Hamilton, areas around Toronto and in Muskoka.

“Every time I am doing a tasting everybody would say ‘Are you from Niagara-on-the-Lake?’ No. No,” Thorne said of why she pushed CHCH for a live spot. “So I’ve been telling everybody Niagara-on-the-Lake, here we come.”

On Wednesday, Mitchell served as tour guide on a 14 C day in mid-November by Lake Erie. Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery workers were pressing grapes picked Tuesday for Cabernet Sauvignon.

It was a good year for grapes thanks to timely rains, he said. His sister Tanya Mitchell, who was the youngest winemaker in Ontario when she started but now has more than 14 years experience, politely declined a handshake because of the grape stains marking a road map of hard work on her palms.

This is where there’s good wine at a good price, she said. “It’s growing. We’d love to see it even more though.”

Her brother wants Ontario wine drinkers who have probably already done the Niagara wine routes to visit a new one. Windsor-Essex is surrounded by water on three sides, has natural beauty and superb growing conditions, he said. And he makes sure to tell potential visitors they’ll see a lot less traffic as they drive down to Essex County.

Mitchell has already done TV spots in Detroit including Live in the D on Channel 4. “We’re reaching into Detroit now. There’s 5½ million people that live there. You want to talk about opportunity for markets for local wine in the industry as a whole, there it is,” he said of Michigan wine drinkers within an hour’s drive.