These days the story of Strewn can be found mostly in Prince Edward County where a home winemaker has that dream of doing something bigger, but back in 1989 it was the path of many of Niagara’s future winery owners and winemakers.
Joe Will, president and founding winemaker, “had been a longtime amateur winemaker in Alberta, in 1989 he left his corporate job in Calgary to explore commercial winemaking in the Okanagan Valley. After a year working at Hainle Winery in Peachland, Joe decided he would benefit from formal training and headed to Australia’s Roseworthy Agricultural College for a one-year graduate program in oenology and a vintage placement at Yalumba Winery. When Joe returned to Canada, he wanted to gain additional real life winemaking experience before establishing his own winery with a focus on Bordeaux reds and classic French varietal whites.” The reason Ontario became his winery’s home is because of love – the emotion that drives many us to do the things we do.
Strewn Winery opened its doors in June of 1997. Today the winery is made up of 27 acres: 5 acres at the winery, known as the “Home Farm” and another 22 acres in the Four Mile Creek sub-appellation. The home vineyard is white grape focused with Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, while Four Mile Creek houses all the reds Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot plus some Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Vidal used primarily for Icewine.
The winery likes to focus on it is vitis vinifera varieties particularly the three classic Bordeaux reds – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, made as single varietal wines and blends. The top tier wire reds, including the flagship Bordeaux style blend Strewn Three, are only made in exceptional vintages – the most recent being the 2016.
These days the reins of winemaking have been passed on to Marc Bradshaw “a transplanted Aussie (and now Canadian citizen since 2011). While Marc was completing his PhD in wine related subjects, his advisor suggested that winemaking rather than academia might be a great fit. [He then] complete vintages in Australia, South Africa and then Niagara. What was meant to be a stay of several months became home for two reasons: First, Marc is fascinated by the variability of weather conditions in our cool climate region, he says ‘if you can make great wine in Niagara, you can make it in any wine region’, and second, he met his partner here and they now have two children.” Adding yet another piece to the love-puzzle that was the foundation for the creation of Strewn in Ontario way back in 1997.
The real surprise is that Joe was convinced to stay in Ontario considering his affinity for “bigger Bordeaux style reds” his most favourite to date that he has made is the , the previously mentioned Strewn Three from the 2010 vintage (the name for the wine was inspired by California winery Cain and their “Five” Bordeaux blend) … while Marc’s favorite wine is Pinot Noir, which ironically Strewn does not make as a still wine, though their first traditional method sparkling rosé made for 100% Pinot is set for release this summer.
Over the past 25 years Joe has seen a few notable changes in Niagara, including: improvement in vineyard and winery quality; homegrown training through programs such as CCOVI (Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute at Brock University); [and the influx of] winemakers from outside Canada who are attracted to Niagara and the style of wine that can successfully be made here; finally, he mentions the changing consumer attitudes towards Niagara wines and preference for medium-bodied, balanced beds with lower alcohol.
Marc Bradshow would also like to give his “other winemakers he respects” shout out to Derek Barnett (former winemaker at Southbrook, Lailey and now current winemaker of Karlo and his own project Meldville), Marc calls Derek “a brilliant winemaker and a genuinely good bloke.” Something only an Aussie can get away with. I would have to say that the art of winemaking is in very good hands indeed at Strewn.
The top selling wines according to the winery are…
Chardonnay Barrel Aaged
Two vines Riesling-Gewurztraminer
Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc Cuvee Clos
Strewn can be found at…
1339 Lakeshore Road
And on social media at
Facebook : @strewnwinery.niagara
Twitter : @StrewnWinery
Instagram : strewn_winery
Michael Pinkus is a multi-award-winning journalist as well as national and international wine judge. He is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in numerous publication both in Canada and internationally. He is also the sole writer for his eponymous website MichaelPinkusWineReview.com (formerly OntarioWineReview.com), and past-President of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada (2010-2015).
You can also follow him two ways on Facebook: (Michael Pinkus