Parm Parmar, Blue Planet Adventures
Grey County…… It’s the smell of the fresh country air and breathtaking views that get me each time I visit. There are acres of fruit trees and grazing cows dotting the landscape. It’s peaceful here, no traffic jams – even on weekends it’s possible to get a restaurant reservation. To the west, you have Owen Sound and in the east Collingwood, Thornbury and Meaford reside in the middle.
This is my second visit and this time I’ve decided to check out the regions Apple Pie Trail. The Apple Pie Trail is a Culinary Adventure Trail, bringing together culinary shopping, farms, and artisans, all in celebration of the glorious ‘APPLE’ – inspired by South Georgian Bay’s apple-growing history.
Grey County, located on Georgian Bay and the Niagara Escarpment, creates a perfect growing environment. It’s also become known as an emerging wine region with Georgian Hills Vineyards and Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery gaining prominence. Let’s not forget the heritage ciders produced by Beaver Valley Cider and Thornbury Village Cidery all made with local apples.
It’s the harvest season, apples hang ripening in orchards waiting to be picked, eaten and transformed into pies and chutneys.
Here’s a look at some of the places I visited on the Apple Pie Trail:
It’s my first tasting of the day and I start with ciders made from Heritage apples. Owned and operated by John Mott and Judy Cornwell
Cider is fermented in small batches from select varieties of heritage apples grown in the orchard, very much like the apples that were found growing here 100 years ago… they have about 750 apple trees on the property.
Cider tastings are held in the retrofitted barn originally built in the late 1870s; it’s beautifully decorated with vintage art. Judy Cornwell pours a tasting of four different ciders Bumbleberry, Dry Pear, Cranberry and Flagship Cider which is dry and light tasting perfect with chicken or as an aperitif.
These ciders are styled after white wine as apposed to beer.
Andrews Roots Restaurant was opened in 2015 – by Meaford native, Chef Andrew Barber. It’s a Saturday night and the restaurant is packed. Chef Andrew, well known in the area, is cooking up a storm in Meaford. His culinary style is casual fine dining using fresh local ingredients – and its here I indulge in much of the Counties bounty.
Baby Arugula Salad with julienned local apple, shaved fennel, quinoa and toasted almonds with orange sumac vinaigrette.
Emerging Wine Region
On the wine front, I was surprised to hear that Grey County has become known as an emerging wine region. I’ve tasted wines in Prince Edward County, Niagara, and Quebec but this news came out of left field; I didn’t know they grew grapes in Grey County!
The Winery officially started bottling wine in 2009, under the capable hands of winemaker Lindsay Puddicombe – after years of testing grape varieties.
They focus on the hardy grapes originally from northern Europe. Grey County climate (cool nights and sunny dry days) and unique soil are perfect for these grapes and produce vibrant, refreshing, aromatic white wines. Add the shorter growing season to the cool climate and you have the perfect mix of influences for their style of lighter red wines.
I tasted several wines, under the expert guidance of Andrea O’Reilly, the vineyards Marketing Manager – Marechal Foch and my favourite, Seyval Blanc. I next tried the Ardiel Cider which I had first come across at the Toronto Cider Festival a few months earlier – simply delish. It’s a full-bodied cider with a vibrant fresh apple taste.
These paired so nicely with their Charcuterie and Cheeseboard (using locally sourced products). They also produce a selection of dessert wines, not ice wine but very similar, along with their other wines and ciders.
If a location could make a winery look picture perfect it has to be Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery. While looking over the vineyards you’re rewarded with distant views of nearby farms, Georgian Bay, grazing cattle and soaring birds – it’s truly a serene scene.
The owners, Neil and Gwen Lamont carefully researched winter hardy varieties of grapes before the hand planting, to produce their high quality, small batch wines. They have a modern Winery tasting room, set back from the road and surrounded by an elevated deck. At this winery, I had the pleasure of tasting their signature wines: 2016 Riesling Bone Dry (best seller), 2014 Marquette and Resurrection Rose (skillfully produced by winemaker Steve Byfield) along with their signature cider, Forbidden Hopped Cider. They make about 500 liters of specialty ciders and they sell out – almost immediately.
I sipped the wine with their signature ‘charcuterie and cheese board’ made from a combination of Quebec and Ontario cheeses as host Kiri explains the wines.
Grey County produces 23% of the apples grown in Ontario
an award-winning apple producer has been growing apples since 1933 when it was founded on, 10 acres of Beaver Valley land, by Nazarino and Clelia Ferri. This family business and their values are the perfect representation of the area and its agricultural riches.
Today the Orchard is managed by Tom and Karen Ferri and encompasses 22 acres with over 58,000 trees. Each acre yields a tremendous crop of apples due to their “Spindle” planting style, which looks very much like tomato or grape vines. They have a variety available in season including Honey Crisp, Mac, Mutsu, Ambrosia, Gala, Cortland, Golden Delicious and a TK Ferri exclusive, Bay Beauty. You can find T&K Ferri apples in high-end grocery stores in Toronto.
They have an on-farm pressed cider – Grandad Jack’s Apple Cider – quite well known in the region and for good reason, it’s natural and quite delicious.
For a great taste of apple pie stop in at Thornbury Bakery Café, right in the heart of Thornbury. Their apple pie is delicious with flaky pastry and huge chunks of apple slices that retain their texture and flavour. This café is a great stop for breakfast, lunch and sweet treats.
Grey County is also home to many artisans no visit to the county would be complete without a visit.
I stopped at Beaver Valley Glass and had a lesson on Glass Beadmaking with artist Tanya Zaryski, who moved to Clarksburg in 2014. Glass beadmaking requires steady hands as you work coloured glass over a burning flame. Tanya explains the process very thoroughly and displays much patience as my hands work to create a pretty bead. It’s not an easy process.
Tanya’s studio adjoins her home, where she engages in her painting, sculpture, functional clay work and glasswork. Glassblowing and beadmaking classes are offered year round by appointment.
Visit Tanya’s studio and many others during the annual autumn leaves studio tour– held at the end of September.
For more information about the Grey County and the Apple Pie Trail visit: www.visitgrey.ca
Catch the entire encounter here -