In 2012, Kitchener residents Mat and Melissa Vaughan purchased a 23-acre former tobacco farm in beautiful Clear Creek, ON. At first glance, the the farm didn’t look like much. The house had been abandoned, the lawn was overgrown with weeds and the lands were being farmed for corn and soy beans.
After moving in on March 6, 2012, the couple set to work first fixing up the house, then the landscaping and then in the spring of 2012 shifted their attention to the farm. The first experiment involved planting a small test vineyard to determine what grape varieties would grow best on their land. The test vineyard consisted of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Riesling. In 2013, Pinot Munier and Syrah were added, which were later replaced in 2014 by Frontenac Blanc, Marquette and Petite Pearl (2015). For more information about our vineyard please read our vineyard webpage.
At the same time, a small test heritage orchard was planted to advance plans for future hard cider production. Between 2012 and 2017, the orchard has slowly been expanded to now include 22 different types of heritage hard cider apples.
The hard work experienced on the farm has been shared by many friends and family anxious to help the Vaughan’s dream come true. Family and friends have been very helpful and an important contributor to making this dream a reality. From planting, to pruning and even hilling up and preparing the vineyard for winter, they have been there every step of the way.
In late 2015, the virtual Hounds of Erie Winery company was established and our first commercial product Top Dog hard cider was released and sold online, in our host winery (Blueberry Hill Estates), and through various local Norfolk County restaurants. Approximately 1000L of Top Dog hard cider was produced and was sold out by mid-summer.
By 2016, many of the original vines planted were now mature enough to bare quality fruit capable of vitrifying to test wine quality. To date, we are now aging 3 red wines (Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and a red hybrid blend) in french oak barrels, and will have samples of Riesling and Frontenac Blanc for testing in 2017.
2016 was also the first year we were able to use our own apples to craft our estate hard cider blend “Best in Show.” A total of approximately 3,000L of hard cider was produced including Top Dog, Best in Show and a third product release called Sassy Bitch.
In 2016, we also introduced a new segment to our integrated pest management program by utilizing the foraging of chickens to reduce insect pressure in both our orchard and vineyard. Not only do the chickens keep the insects in check, but they are also fun to have around and each have their own personality.
In 2016 we also partnered with a local apiary called Hunt’s Honey. We are now housing approximately 20 hives within our vineyard/orchard. Besides providing our winery family with a supply of local honey, the bees play a critical role in the orchard for pollination purposes. We have noticed a very dramatic improvement in apple production levels because of our little bee helpers. In addition to having the on-site apiary, we have also provided planned wild flower planting strips in our marginal agricultural areas and in buffer areas to provide a food source for both the honey bees and local bee and pollinator populations.
In 2017 we expanded the vineyard to over three times its size, and also expanded the integrated pest management system to include more chickens, and through the ALUS program are now providing blue bird, brown bat, and kestrel habitat.