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Lighthall Vineyards: A One Man Show

Lighthall Vineyards

 

Lighthall Vineyards in Prince Edward County, ON, is owned by Glenn Symonns who is the winemaker, vineyard manager, Sommelier, chief marketer, distributor, tractor driver, creator and sometimes the delivery guy. It is a stark contrast to his previous career as a pharmacist. While both winemaker and pharmacist are connected through chemistry, it is the ability to create that Glenn enjoys the most. ‘I truly think that I have a great job. I get to play in the cellar and make interesting wines.’

I first met Glenn not at his winery, but rather when he was serving me wine during his final exam for his Sommelier Accreditation. These role playing practical exams can be un-nerving for the Sommelier ‘students’, yet I succinctly recall that Glenn handled the mock situation with panache. When he began demonstrating the 23 step process and etiquette (or is it a ritual?) of opening a bottle of wine, I could not believe my eyes that in his hands was a bottle of Huff Estates Lighthall Chardonnay VQA 2007 from Prince Edward County. Glenn did not know that I was a huge fan of this wine. I was equally amazed the he was serving a $30 bottle of wine while other Sommelier hopefuls where uncorking $10 wines as the judges weren’t going to sip and savour the wine – after all, the exams took place at 10am!

Curious and impressed, I commented about his wine choice and Glenn smiled back and proudly announced, ‘I just bought Lighthall Vineyards and I will be building a winery.’ That is not something you hear every day! Intrigued, I kept a lookout for Glenn on my visits to Prince Edward County. That spring, I visited his winery for the first time and have been enjoying his wines ever since.

The Story of Lighthall Vineyards

Glenn bought Lighthall in 2008 after he sold his Pharmacy – yes you read that right. As a graduate of the Sommelier program at Algonquin College and an amateur winemaker (in his own home), he learned more and more about the wines in Prince Edward County (PEC). Glenn’s temptation to buy a vineyard property in PEC became a reality, he dramatically changed careers.

Since 2008, Glenn has doubled the size of Lighthall’s property. In addition, he changed the business from a grape growing operation where he grows grapes for other wineries, to a winery in its own right. Since then, Glenn claims that there has been no time to look back!
Being September & October, it took Glenn and I a while to connect since it was in the height of harvest. And this year, harvest was 3 to 5 weeks early. When I did finally reach him, he explained that harvest is his favourite time of year. The last of his Vidal grapes were being picked ‘as we speak’ (these grapes are not for late harvest wines). The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir came in to the crush pad the week before.
There was no doubt in our interview that Glenn was enthused about this past growing season since it was the warmest since 1968. Glenn predicts that 2012 will be an exceptional year for PEC wines and for that matter Ontario too and even broader Canadian wines too.
Overflowing with passion!

As stated earlier Lighthall Vineyards is a one-man show. Other than some seasonal workers, for whom Glenn built a house, Glenn does all the work of vineyard management and winemaking by himself. For the past three seasons, he has put in 12 to 18-hour days. In the winter, he can be found tending the 25-acre woodlot which he uses to heat the buildings on the premises. And what comes next? Glenn has plans to try his hand at planting vines. He has his eye on a vineyard of 1 acre of just Gruner Veltliner. This varietal is an Austrian staple and is one of Glenn’s favourite types of wine. While Gruner is not planted in PEC, Glenn explains that it would be well suited to The County’s clay soil and environment. We look forward to his results. Cross your fingers!

Lighthall Vineyards Tasting Bar


His passion for his winery is obvious in its design. His tasting bar is located in the middle of his production area. This gives Glenn the ability to share and give his visitors the opportunity to ‘see’ all aspects of the winemaking process. What a terrific experience!
Glenn makes harvest a family affair by involving his children in the crush.
The wine Glenn is most proud of (to date!) is Lighthall Pinot Noir Reserve Particuliere VQA 2009 – Les Grands. Our Savvy Team was impressed too & we offered it as an optional wine. It is hard to believe that this wine was the first red wine that Glenn ever produced…and his two eldest sons helped too!
There is no doubt that Lighthall Vineyards is a small operation with big dreams. The purchase occurred in 2008, the winery was built in 2009, the first Lighthall Vineyard wine was produced in 2009 and last year it opened to the public. When you are next in The County, be sure make a visit.

Tasting Notes

Lighthall Vineyards Progression Sparkling VQA

Vidal is a hybrid grape of Ugni Blanc and Rayon d’Or. It’s thick skin and hardiness in cold climates make it an ideal grape to grow in Prince Edward County and Niagara. This particular sparkling wine was made with 100% Lighthall grapes using Charmat method (winespeak: uses a tank second fermentation to create the bubbles).
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Very pale with aromas of white grapefruit and lime with an undertone of minerality. This dry, light sparkler has persistent light bubbles and flavours that mimic the nose with a bit of white peach and apricot thrown in. It is a refreshing wine with a pleasant mouth coating feeling and persistent zesty finish.
Suggested Food Pairing: This sparkling wine is a great starter wine on its own, or could be paired with seafood such as oysters. The tasting panel recommends it with a prosciutto and arugula pizza.
Cellaring: An excellent sipping wine that could be enjoyed now or it could be cellared for a year or two for a special occasion.

Lighthall Vineyards Gewurztraminer VQA

A classic Gewurztraminer made with high quality grapes sourced from Vineland. This is one of Glenn’s favourite grape variety.
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This wine has hallmark Gewurz pale yellow with a hint of pinkish colouring. Its floral and exotic fruit aromas of lychee, rose petals, pineapple and hard candy. “I just want to keep my nose in the glass” stated one of the Savvy Sommeliers during the tasting panel. “I can’t help myself from swirling and sniffing again and again because it smells so good!”
Slightly effervescent, medium to full wine with a complex palate. You may detect lychee, honey and Turkish Delights taste as the finish lingers.
Suggested Food Pairing: This Gewurztraminer would be perfect with spicy foods such as Indian curry or Asian dishes. ‘Or even with smoked salmon’ commented one of the Savvy Sommeliers. It would also make a tremendous accompaniment to dessert. Enjoy with a pear & cream cheese tart – the recipe follows on the next pages.
Cellaring: This well structured wine is enjoyable now. You can cellar it, however the noteable vibrant aromas and tastes will tone down dramatically.

Lighthall Vineyards Pinot Noir VQA

Although Pinot Noir is known as the heartbreak grape, this red wine will only bring you joy, proudly stated Glenn.
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A clear pale cherry-red colour with a typical Pinot bouquet of tar, earthiness ripe berries and warm spices. This medium-bodied, dry wine delivers sweet flavours of cherry, blackberries, white pepper and a hint a vanilla with a medium finish.
Suggested Food Pairing: This is a perfect fall food wine and would pair well with classic stuffed turkey, pork tenderloin or a selection of hearty cheeses. Savvy Sommelier Debbie discovered a new recipe of Roasted Califlower and Swiss Chard that she experimented with for her Thanksgiving feast. The recipe is on the following pages.
Cellaring: With 14.5% alcohol this wine is capable of aging another 3-5 years but drinks very well now.

Lighthall Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve Particulière – Les Grands VQA

Glenn’s pride and joy. This rich Pinot Noir was part of an extremely low yield and as you can imagine the wine is in VERY short supply. Members of our tasting panel emailed me the following day after our Savvy Selections tasting telling me they were still dreaming about this wine so we had to offer it as an optional wine!
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A bright ruby colour with a pleasing earthy, smokey, cherry and mushrooms on the nose. The deep flavours give you tart yet ripe cherries, smoke and earthy mushrooms fill your mouth and leaves you with a pleasant woodsy, vanilla finish.
Suggested Food Pairing: Everyone agreed that this wine was a must include for October. It is versatile and would make a lovely ‘meditation’ wine on its own or a great food wine with brisket or game meat. Then when the mushroom risotto was suggested, there were many oohs and aaaahs of delight with this pairing.
Cellaring: This medium bodied wine still has time to develop so feel free to lay it down if you like.

Recipes to Pair With Lighthall Vineyards Wines

With Lighthall Progression Sparkling VQA…

Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza

Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza

From: Epicurious.com
Serves 4

Ingredients

1/2 cup small to medium arugula leaves
3 very thin slices prosciutto
2 ounces mozzarella (preferably fresh)
All purpose flour for dusting
Pizza Dough for one 9-inch pizza (click here for a good recipe)
1/2 cup Pizza Sauce – recipe below

Method for pizza sauce
  • Take a 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes in puree (about 3 1/2 cups) and mix with 3 Tablespoons of olive oilIn a large non-reactive saucepan bring tomatoes and oil to a simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, simmer for 20 minutes, or until sauce is reduces to about 2 1/2 cup
  • Season sauce with salt and cool to room temperature. This sauce keeps, covered and chilled in the fridge for 5 days and freezes well

Assemble the pizza

  • At least 45 minutes before baking pizza, put a pizza stone or 4 to 6 unglazed “quarry” tiles arranged close together on oven rack in lowest position in oven and preheat oven to highest setting (500°-550°F)
  • Trim any tough stems from arugula and thinly slice cheese.
  • On a lightly floured surface pat out dough evenly with your fingers, keeping hands flat and lifting and turning dough over several times, into a 9-inch round. Do not handle dough more than necessary and if dough is sticky, dust it lightly with flour.
  • Dust a baker’s peel or rimless baking sheet with flour and carefully transfer dough to it. Jerk peel or baking sheet once or twice and, if dough is sticking, lift dough and sprinkle flour underneath it, reshaping dough if necessary. Working quickly, top dough with sauce, spreading with back of a spoon to within 1/2 inch of edge. Arrange mozzarella slices evenly over sauce. Line up far edge of peel or baking sheet with far edge of stone or tiles and tilt peel or baking sheet, jerking it gently to start pizza moving.
  • Once edge of pizza touches stone or tiles, carefully pull back peel or baking sheet, completely transferring pizza to stone or tiles (do not move pizza).
  • Bake pizza 6 to 7 minutes, or until dough is crisp and browned, and transfer with a metal spatula to a cutting board. Scatter arugula over pizza and arrange prosciutto slices on top.

 

With Lighthall Gewurztraminer VQA…

pear tart

Pear & Cream Cheese Tart

From: Desserts by Bonnie Stern
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

Base
½ cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all purpose flour

Filling
2 ripe pears (preferably Bartlett)
4 oz cream cheese
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
¾ cup cream
½ tsp vanilla
¼ cup sliced almonds

Method
  • Preheat oven to 425. Butter a 9 or 10” pie plate with removable sides.
  • For the shortbread base, cream butter and sugar together until light. Beat in flour and pat into pie plate – no need to roll it out.
  • Peel, halve and core pears and slice and arrange in circular rows on top of base. Stir cream cheese until smooth then beat in sugar, add eggs one at a time, beating mixture smooth after each addition then add cream and vanilla. Pour over pears & Sprinkle with almonds.
  • If there is any leftover custard, bake separately with any leftover pears or other fruit for a little treat for the chef. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 and bake for 25 to 30 minutes longer, or until fruit is tender and custard is set.Serve warm or cold.

 

With Lighthall Pinot Noir VQA…

Swiss Chard Salad

Roasted Cauliflower and Swiss Chard Salad

From: Long Nights and Log Fires Cookbook
Serves 4

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil
1 small head of cauliflower, separated into large florets
1 tsp ground cumin
6 large Swiss chard leaves, roughly chopped into 1 inch wide strips
1 red onion, cut into wedges
2 garlic cloves chopped
14 oz can chickpeas, rinses and drained
1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 Tbsps freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
sea salt

Method
  • Over high heat in a cast iron pan or large skillet, put in the oil. Add the cauliflower florets and cook for 8 to 10 minutes turning often (you will want some brown or burnt looking marks – this is a good sign!). Then add the cumin and cook stirring for 1 minute, add the Swiss Chard, onion and garlic to the pan and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes. Add chickpeas and stir. Season to taste with salt.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the tahini, lemon juice and pepper. Add a little salt to taste. Whisk to combine. Transfer the vegetables into a bowl and drizzle the dressing over the top to serve.
  • Enjoy as a rustic vegetarian dish or a side accompanying pork cutlets, baked ham or turkey.

With Lighthall Pinot Noir Reserve Particulière – Les Grands VQA…

mushroom risotto 1

Mushroom Risotto

From: The Essential Rice Cookbook
Serves 4

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons dried porcini mushrooms
1 litre (32 fl oz) vegetable or chicken stock
2 Tablespoons butter
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 ¾ cups risotto rice
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup mushrooms, sliced (a variety of mushrooms would be good)
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Method
  • Soak the porcini mushrooms in 2 cups (500 ml/ 16 fl oz) boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid then chop the porcini and pass the liquid through a sieve. Pour the stock into a saucepan, bring to the boil and reduce keeping it at a low simmer.
  • Heat the oil and butter in a wide heavy saucepan to cook the onion and garlic until soft but not brown. Stir in the rice until it is well coated.
  • Add the fresh mushrooms and nutmeg; season and cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes. Then add the porcini and their liquid, increase the heat and cook until the liquid has been absorbed. Add ½ cup (125 ml/4fl oz) of the stock and stir constantly over medium heat until all the liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding stock a bit at a time until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender and creamy – which should take about 25-30 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan and parsley and serve

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