Adamo Winery: Hands-on the business of wine-making

September 29, 2016   ·   0 Comments

The Adamo Estate Winery, Dufferin’s first,  located a kilometre south of the Hockley Valley Resort, looks the business.

An elegant, thoroughly modern building houses the barrels and equipment, and the hospitality on offer, which, as Julie Adamo-Cass pointed out, is what the Adamo family is all about, after all.  A wall of windows facing west gives a view of the vineyard, true and beautiful, the plants robust, heavy with fruit.

A mere five years ago, Mario Adamo and his best friend, Frank, hand planted those first 32 rows of vines, founding Mr. Adamo’s dream of establishing a winery in Hockley Valley near to his beloved resort. Sadly, Frank died before the job was complete but Mr. Adamo carved one of the large limestone rocks pulled from the ground for the planting, as a monument to his friend, which is placed between the vines and the building.

There have been many reactions to the notion of this one and, so far, only winery in the area, few of them positive, declaring that growing wine grapes successfully at this high elevation and its cold climate could not work.

Being awarded the Platinum Winner of the 2016 National Wine Awards of Canada (one of only five) for Adamo Winery’s 2014 Wismer Foxcroft Oaked Chardonnay came as a surprise for everyone in the  trade, including the Adamo family members themselves.

“We didn’t expect it,” John Paul Adamo admitted, still thrilling somewhat with the honour of the award.

In addition, they were are given high ratings from Decanter Magazine for two of their other wines.

Julie Adamo-Cass and John Paul Adamo (owners of both the Resort and the winery), sister and brother, discussed their own roles in making wine as we talked over coffee in the lounge area.

“We are totally hands-on,” they explained. Said Mr. Adamo, “We were out in the vineyard picking grapes this morning with the rest of the crew.”

The vineyard is planted, guarded and raised in an interesting combination of old and new techniques. They now plant mechanically, which makes the rows “dead straight.”

However, harvesting is still old-fashioned hand picking and foot stomping – along with wine presses, of course – to crush the grapes. Tradition – old true methods to create the best wine possible – was accompanied by attention to detail, intense times of learning in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Prince Edward County and, most importantly, Italy itself.

It is an Adamo family tradition to use the best ingredients, surround themselves “with the best possible people” and be involved in their business. Since their parents, Nancy and Mario Adamo, purchased the property in 1972 that became the Hockley Valley Resort, they have been known for the quality of their food and hospitality.

From those first plants to vines that now cover 20 of the 30 arable acres on a 75-acre site where otherwise there is woodland and meadow, the Adamos are cultivating an impressive list of cold weather varieties: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the majority of the crops, Riesling next with Vidal, Cap Franc, Merlot and Gamay Noir.

All the vines are provided by Vinetech, the grower who produces vines for all the wine industry in Ontario. Since their vines are still small and young, the Adamos bring whole grapes in from two other vineyards, Foxcroft and Chateau des Charmes.

All the grapes arrive in refrigerated trucks and all the processing takes place at the Adamo winery.

Mr. Adamo talked about their barrel program: “Using the best ingredients,” he began, “importing barrels from France, making notes about the cooper, forest, the toasting [of the oak]. We use new French barrels for the majority of our wine that is fermented in barrels.”

Overall, it is the quality not the quantity that concerns them.

The area where we were sitting at the front of the building is the entrance, lounge and tasting bar. The plan is to invite guests from the resort, people visiting the area and those of us living here to come and, for a modest price, try the wines, have a “small plate of food – wine is meant to be drunk with food,” Ms Adamo-Cass pointed out. Altogether, a pleasant and potentially enlightening time in a charming environment. Also, it is not like any other spot around – so, a different experience, a special time to exercise the nose and palate, perfect for the wine buff or the person longing to know more about the subject.

Meanwhile, the plans for future planting go on – thousands more vines to put in, with a view to growing more Chardonnay, which is the great champagne grape, and this is the next ambitious goal: to make champagne.

Mr. Adamo invited me to take a walk among the vines. We stood by the original 32 rows of his visionary father’s first planting. They are fine, healthy plants, full of fruit. Walking along further to the pinot noir, he showed how the plants are protected by webbing and very low to the ground.

As we all know, this region is subject to winters that can be very severe. Two years ago, Niagara vineyards were decimated by the severity of the cold and lost large portions of their crops.

As one means of guarding against such losses, in Prince Edward County there is a system of burying the vines. This is done by growing them initially close to the ground and when the harvest is done they are actually lowered into the ground beside them and covered with earth.

Thus was the buried crop at Adamo Winery protected and saved entirely from the onslaught of that same extremely cold winter. Last year and this, some of the vines are protected by geotextile blankets specifically made for the purpose.

The final leg of this wonderful tour of the Adamo winery was guided by their assistant, Anthony Iannacchino, who took us downstairs for the view of the barrels and stainless steel tanks in which the grapes become wine. The new building stands on the grounds of the old barn, from which antique boards and interior doors have been used with great artistry. Every inch has been thought through.

Upstairs is a meeting room with a difference – overlooking the barrels and tanks, the mechanics of the art of wine making. Once again, elegance and comfort rule the decor and here is a place for discussion and decision making like no other, where refreshments can be served away from the possible distractions of town or the resort. To another side, another stupendous view of the vineyard and hills gives pause for thought, a cup of coffee, a glass of wine.

This winery is an Adamo family establishment where quality and hospitality are all.

It is located at 793366 – 3rd Line EHS, just south of the Resort, up the hill. Tours and tastings at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., can be booked, especially for groups, at 519-942-3969, as well as any other inquiries. Drop in for a tasting any time.

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