The Savvy Team loves connecting with Canadian wine & cider makers all year long to talk about the latest products being released & the changing consumer trends & winemaking techniques. It’s no surprise that autumn is the busiest season for anyone involved in making these beverages – from the vineyard & orchard crews growing the fruit to the winemakers and their support teams.
One very busy winemaker these days is Yvonne Irvine at Creekside Estate Winery in the Niagara region.
Fourteen years ago, Yvonne arrived at Creekside as a co-op student from Niagara College’s winemaking program. Today, she holds the title of Assistant Winemaker, working alongside Creekside’s head winemaker Rob Power, whom Yvonne credits for mentoring her through the years. “We’ve now developed a very cohesive working relationship,” says Yvonne, “and are like ‘yin & yang’ when we work together.” Yvonne now oversees Creekside’s ‘Red Tractor’ brand of wines as well as the winery’s Chardonnay program and what’s more, this year she even started up her own ‘virtual’ winery with her husband!
When we chatted with Yvonne in late August, she was bracing for the busiest three months of her year. Even before the grape harvest begins (usually in September, depending on the region & the grape variety) Yvonne and the Creekside team were very busy trying to get all the tanks & barrels in the winery emptied & thoroughly cleaned as well as ordering in all the wine-making supplies needed before the fruit could start coming in.
Creekside has twelve acres of different grape varieties in its vineyard and its sister winery, Queenston Mile, has roughly thirty-five acres of vines. Yvonne also works closely with other grape growers in the Niagara region that provide Creekside with more fruit for some of their wines. Both she & Rob check in with those growers regularly before the harvest to talk about any potential problems as well as the ripeness of the grapes, tasting and helping the team make decisions about what will be harvested first. “There are certain grapes that are picked based on sugar levels & acidity levels,” says Yvonne. “But there are other grapes, like Sauvignon Blanc, where the flavour profile is more important, especially for the range of wines we make with that grape.”
A few months ago, Yvonne & her husband Rob Wallace made the decision to start up their own business as well – a virtual winery called Maenad Wine. Virtual wineries are becoming more popular in Ontario, with up & coming winemakers renting space & equipment from well-established winery operations.
Along with making interesting natural wines, like a Piquette, a Pet Nat, and a skin-fermented Chardonnay (also called an orange wine), Maenad Wine also celebrates women in the wine industry. Yvonne says ‘Maenads’ were female followers of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and Yvonne’s wines – completely unfiltered – reflect a certain lifestyle that resonates with her. You can check out more about the Maenad Wine Company and order all of its current wines through www.DrinkCollab.ca
Good luck to Yvonne and all of those involved in the 2021 harvest – we can’t wait to see what new bottles are created in the coming months!