When you think of Ontario wines, Niagara and Prince Edward County usually come to mind, but there is one of international notoriety near Tweed. Potter Settlement Artisan Winery has award-winning wine and has been putting Tweed on the map as a good place to grow grapes.
Owner Sandor Johnson says the winery is very small but has been making great strides to create high-end, boutique quality wines. His team produces more than a dozen different wines, most of which are made with grapes grown on the Tweed property. The winery only purchases grape varieties that can’t be grown in the cooler climate of Tweed and they never buy finished wine from elsewhere. If the grapes are not grown on site, the wine label will indicate where they were grown.
As one of the northernmost vineyards in Canada, the temperature is known to drop to -27o C during the winter. However, being further north has its benefits, as the soil is rich in minerals.
Potter Settlement makes a unique wine that was accidently discovered during the McClure Arctic Expedition in 1850. The wine, referred to as Portage, was named in honour of the sailors who pulled barrels of Port across the ice after their ship’s passage through the Northwest Passage was halted by winter weather.
One of the expedition’s participants was Henry Gaun, at that time the ship’s carpenter, and who eventually settled near Tweed in Ivanhoe, and is the founder of Ivanhoe cheese. Gaun had recorded in his diaries how he and the other sailors created Portage. The Port that they had taken with them on their journey froze. They discovered that when the Port froze due to the extreme cold, the bitter acids disappeared making the port very smooth to drink. Then the Arctic summertime midnight sun cooked the port in the barrels. According to the diaries, the resulting wine was fit for Queen Victoria’s consumption. Based on what Johnson read he felt compelled to recreate Portage.
Another example of Potter Settlement’s creativity is their Triple Rare Ferment Chardonnay, which was aged in barrels made of wood from Ontario butternut and extinct American chestnut trees. In order to make the chestnut barrels, logs had to be salvaged from the bottom of Lake Superior.
At Great Britain’s 2022 London Wine Competition, Potter Settlement was awarded gold medals for the Potter Settlement Cabernet Franc and Potter Settlement Portage fortified wine. Each received 92 out of a possible 100 points. Last year Potter Settlement won two gold medals and a silver in a competition in Bordeaux, France, at the Challenge International Du Vin competition. They were the only Canadian winner of the 3,579 wine entries from 27 countries. They won gold for their Marquette and Pinot Noir, and silver for their Cabernet Franc.
Construction has started to make a cave in the rock on the property that will be used to store the wine. Once completed Potter Settlement will be the only winery in Ontario with a real cave. They plan to rent storage space to high-end wineries.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any indication of Potter Settlement wines ever being for sale in wine stores. However, their wines are available on their website at pottersettlementwines.ca or by visiting them, as I did, at the winery near Tweed, Ontario. I found the wine tasting, which was hosted by Sandor Johnson, to be both entertaining and educational. As well, I got to sample some excellent, unique wines; several of which have now found a home in my cellar.