Redstone Winery mixes its award-winning fare with music for its annual Summer Concert Series…
The warm sunshine over a sprawling Ontario vineyard. Patrons enjoying conversations over glasses of white wine. Both pair visually, all while complementing each other experientially.
But when joined with instrumental and lyrical brilliance of some of Canada’s finest musicians, these items merge into a singular experience for wine-loving music fans, and it’s the lure of Redstone Winery’s idyllic annual Summer Concert Series.
Nestled in Beamsville, Ontario and owned by vineyard veteran Moray Tawse (of Tawse Winery), Redstone has made its name on delectable meals and hand-crafted wines. Its restaurant has become a must-visit for foodies craving the unexpected variety of its lunches and its seafood-accented two-course dinners; and its 2013 Chardonnay and Riesling were chiefly responsible for the locale being named 2017 Canadian Winery of the Year by WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada.
The tandem has served Redstone and its weekly patrons well. But throughout the summertime, Tawse and his team wanted to offer something a little different. He’d had success with larger live music events at his nearby Tawse location, so he wondered whether he could bring the same element to Redstone, albeit in a smaller helping.
Enter friend, collaborator and legendary TSN personality, Dave Hodge. Aside from his decades-long love affair with hockey—which he covered for both CBC and TSN for more than 40 years—Hodge is a longtime music aficionado, with many professional and personal connections throughout the Canadian music scene. This proximity to talent helped conceive an idea between Hodge and Tawse: the Redstone Summer Concert Series.
“The music came because we were really interested in it. It wasn’t really part of a larger plan,” says Tawse. “It was more, hey, here are some bands we’d like to hear. Let’s bring them here.”
Now in its third year, the series—which will run through its September 7 season finale with Canadian roots act, Skydiggers—teams a three-course dinner with a select menu of Redstone Wines and revered Canadian artists, performing against an expansive vineyard backdrop. With crowd capacity around 150, attendees are able to experience intimate live sets with the likes of singer/songwriters like Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea, Ron Sexsmith and female trio, The Good Lovelies, all while feasting on medium-rare servings of grilled beef striploin and sweet pea risotto.
It’s all served as a new take on the once-cherished dinner theatre, with talent selection key to its ongoing success.
“We haven’t had a dud show here. I can safely say that,” says Hodge. “I’m not sure how many people come out because it’s a lovely night, they want to eat dinner and they’ll stick around for the music. For the most part, it’s the crowd knowledge of the musicians that drives the traffic.”
A night at Redstone’s first concert of Summer 2018 shows Hodge to be correct. Radiated by a fading sunlight, diners and drinkers of all demographics enjoyed appetizer arugula salads with the winery’s 2014 Cabernet Franc and 2016 Sauvignon Blanc. At outdoor tables shaded with red and white umbrellas, attendees clad in casual sandals, sunglasses and sundresses shared bottles through their main courses and strawberry rhubarb desserts—all as a precursor to the night’s performance by legendary Toronto rockers, The Sadies.
Noted for its hybrid rock-country sound and high-profile collaborations with fellow Canadians Neko Case and the late Gord Downie, the Dallas and Travis Good-led act are likely not the first band most would think of teaming with servings of sangria. But throughout two sets of rollicking rockabilly, country ballads and Good brother guitar duels, the band proved an ideal component to an al fresco dinner veering into evening—and one able to shake patrons from their seats.
And that’s the fun of an inventive event series like Redstone’s. It joins the exceptional benefits of a beautiful Canadian restaurant and vineyard, and combines it with another of its host country’s greatest exports—its music. Put it all together and, according to Tawse, it provides a different—and complete—experience.
“This provides a bit of everything,” says Tawse. “Experience of the restaurant, experience the food, experience the wine, and experience a band, all on a nice evening.”
By Mike Farrell