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First Ontario-Owned Indigenous Winery – First Harvest of Grapes


Caldwell First Nation Proudly Announces First Ontario-Owned Indigenous Winery With First Harvest of Grapes

Caldwell Traditional Territory, Leamington, Ontario Caldwell First Nation has announced the first-ever harvest of the Nation’s grapes as part of the development of one of Canada’s few, and Ontario’s first Indigenous-owned winery. The winery was identified in the Nation’s Economic Development Plan (voted on in January 2020) after the Nation discovered that one of its purchased properties contained approximately 2 acres of grapes. The Director of Operations, Nikki van Oirschot identified an opportunity for Economic Development and with support from Tecumseh Community Development Corporation, secured funding to conduct a feasibility study. Market research showed a gap in Indigenous-owned and operated wineries, which made the decision one worth exploring for Caldwell Council and Administration.

The Economic Development Officer, Kyra Cole, and Culinary Advisor, Chef Billy Alexander from Caldwell teamed up with renowned wine experts, Peter Gamble and Ann Sperling, and in conjunction with a relationship with Cooper’s Hawk Vineyard, conducted the feasibility study and the first harvest of Caldwell grapes in fall 2020. Subsequent years will involve planting a larger vineyard, licensing, and developing the wine production facility and winery infrastructure.

This year’s harvest will produce two rare and trendy varieties- the naturally fermented and sparkling pét-net, and an orange wine, which despite what the name suggests, does not contain the citrus fruit, but is rather a process by which white wine grapes are processed with the skins on. The Nation will also produce a Riesling under its Three Fires brand.

“We are thrilled at the opportunity of Caldwell being the first Indigenous community in Ontario to own a winery.” stated Caldwell Council. In fact, the winery will be one of only two fully Indigenous owned and operated wineries in Canada. “We know that this development will go a long way towards not only enhancing the wine scene in the EPIC wine region, but will also progress our goal of becoming a national gold standard in Indigenous tourism. This opens many doors for future partnerships, tourism, and creating jobs for Caldwell members and the Leamington community.”

While the winery is in development, Caldwell’s wine will be exclusively sold at Three Fires: An Indigenous Tourism Experience, the Caldwell-owned restaurant led by top Chef Billy Alexander, Three Fires is set to open in early summer 2021.

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