How does a pharmacist become Ontario’s first small-batch winemaker/artisan cheesemaker? Lighthall Vineyards and Dairy owner and winemaker Glenn Symons can explain:
He has been making cheese for personal use for the past two years, discovering new recipes and perfecting techniques along with Heather Robertson. She is a longtime friend and a 15-year cheese industry veteran. She has worked in cheese retail and cheesemaking another cheese producer.
Symons had been a home winemaker since age 19. He started in pharmacy in 1993, taking over the Lighthall vineyard in 2008. Lighthall produces one still wine, one dessert wine and three sparkling wines, including 2014 Lighthall The Fence Rosé. This is the first rosé from its own vineyards. It is 100% Pinot Noir, refermented using the Charmat method.
All the wines are produced in a non-interventionist manner. Non-interventionist winemaking consists of doing as little as possible to the grapes from their growth to their eventual vinification.
Lighthall Vineyards and Dairy endeavours to produce the highest quality wines, primarily from their own grapes, with all employees and family members involved in every step of production, including vineyard work through to final bottling, said Symons. With the tasting bar inside the production area, they aspire to share this enriching experience with every customer who comes to visit.
“It’s much like making home vintage, but on a larger scale,” said Symons. “In some ways the commercial equipment makes the process easier.”
Cheesemaking has proven to be so much fun and the cheese so delicious that Symons and Robertson are sharing their talents with the public. They sell their three sheep’s milk cheeses at a farmers’ market in Kingston and at the winery. They produce three varieties:
- Runner – a soft ripened cheese, the rind washed in Lighthall Chardonnay,
- Cocotte – a rustic, earthy unpasteurized blue,
- Brie de Milford – a soft, surface-ripened cheese with a hint of Prince Edward County terroir flavours.
Symons is planning to expand his facility. For now, he and Robertson make the cheese off-site, but hope to soon have an on-site commercial kitchen. They will keep to the three current varieties, said Symons, producing in quantities sufficient to sell at the winery and in Kingston. They may try some seasonal cheeses or a more aged cheese in the future, said Robertson.
The winery is located at 308 Lighthall Road, Milford, in Prince Edward County, Ontario, and is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information on Ontario’s newest artisan cheese producer, please visit Lighthall Vineyards and Dairy’s website www.lighthallvineyards.com
The fifth anniversary Great Canadian Cheese Festival—the biggest artisan cheese show in Canada—takes place Saturday and Sunday, June 6 and 7, in Picton, Ontario, at the Fairgrounds. For complete information and tickets, please visit CheeseFestival.ca.
Joanne Fralick is a cheese lover and freelance writer who lives with husband and son in Prince Edward County.