“We took open fields and created a wonderful vineyard”
Just an hour away from Toronto can seem like a world away in Niagara’s Twenty Valley. Just ask Grant Westcott and Carolyn Hurst, owners of Westcott Vineyards. Amongst the natural beauty of the Niagara escarpment, on top of the picturesque Twenty Mile Bench in Jordan, you’ll find their slice of paradise. One look and it’s easy to see why they “gave up retirement” to set up a whole new way of life with their family-owned and run small-batch winery—welcome to Westcott.
With their children in tow, the former corporate IT professionals took the plunge and left their city lives behind in 2006 to make their foray into the world of winemaking. Knowing very little about wine, those closest to them were baffled, but they were determined to make their dream a reality and say goodbye to the stress of the city.
“I grew up here, but I didn’t appreciate the beauty of Twenty Valley until I came back as an adult”
says Carolyn. “We lovingly call this region ‘Niagara-off-the-Lake’ as we’re situated off Lake Ontario and also off the beaten path.”
On a typical day, you’ll find Carolyn and Grant walking their dogs through the vineyards. “We breathe in the clean fresh air, expand our minds to wide-open blue skies and drink in all the atmosphere. The stress of the world and noise disappears,” shares Carolyn.
It’s not just Carolyn and Grant who are drawn to the magic of Twenty Valley, it’s all in the family. Their son Garett joins them in the vineyard to help guide their viticulture practices, while daughter Victoria leads customer experience. The newest addition to their family, Golden Retriever Nellie also plays perhaps the most important role in the business—welcoming guests with tail-a-wagging. Don’t be surprised if you spot a few other puppies playing while you sip on your Pinot, as dog lovers Grant and Carolyn welcome all friends to Westcott—including your furry ones too!
While Carolyn admits running a business with family has its joys and challenges, it’s their shared philosophy that life is to be lived, to push boundaries and to find comfort in the discomfort that keeps them going.
Although the couple’s original plan was to grow grapes and sell them to other wineries, they became inspired by their fellow winemaking neighbours and their cool-climate Chardonnays and Pinots. Twenty-eight acres of grapes later, they too were on their way to making bottles of their own.
Today, Wescott Vineyards produces award-winning wines, most of which are featured in Michelin Star restaurants in the United Kingdom and independent wine shops. Their signature offerings include Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Not only are these Carolyn and Grant’s two favourite varietals, but there’s even more method to their madness— the microclimates of the Niagara escarpment create the best place in the world to grow these grapes.
Just a brief browse through their website and it’s no surprise many of their wine offerings are sold out. Their 2016 Westcott Vineyard Estate Chardonnay, for instance, highlights pit fruits, honeycomb and a touch of caramel. Perfect for anyone who revels in a buttery Sonoma Chardonnay, don’t be shy to ask for a full glass from the Westcott’s themselves, who will often be pouring these mouth-watering tasters for you.
Situated in a 200-year-old Mennonite barn, their tasting room is cozy with windows that open to extraordinary views of their vineyards that once upon a time, were bare fields. It is this view that makes Carolyn most proud— “we took open fields and created a wonderful vineyard, built a beautiful winery and our wines are well-loved by people that understand how hard it was to do all that,” she says.
After a day of tasting, close the evening at their unique Fireside Friday Dinner Series. Running from October until the end of March, indulge in decadent delights prepared over the fire by visiting chefs while sipping on award-winning wines. Selections like smoked duck and brisket ravioli served around harvest tables make this an experience you won’t forget.
Carolyn and Grant love watching the connections and relationships that blossom during Fireside Fridays. “Guests start their meals seated next to strangers, but usually by the end of the evening they’re laughing together like family or old friends,” she tells us. “It’s really special to see.”
It’s extraordinary moments like that which make it all worthwhile. Although new to winemaking when they started, Carolyn and Grant soon found it’s a labour of love that takes year-round dedication to hand tending grapes and vines.
“The work is hard at times— in fact, heart breaking,” says Grant. “During harvest season we work through the days and into the night and barrels start to fill up and the wine begins to take shape. It’s the payoff for all the hard work of the season. The team is tired but happy, and another vintage is stored in the cellar. We take a sip of our latest vintage and the smiles break on our faces and it all makes sense again.”
The payoff doesn’t just come in the form of wine, but also in being surrounded by the natural beauty of their surroundings. Carolyn explains, “The best thing about living and working here is that we wake up every morning in this beautiful place. We live a healthy lifestyle with plenty of fresh air and locally produced foods. Our commute to work is just five minutes, seven if we get stuck behind a tractor.”
Once the chaos of the harvest season begins to settle, Carolyn and Grant enjoy the calm and stillness in the early mornings while they wait for spring to come.
“We love the Valley”
Carolyn says. “But really the best way for us to share why we love it here so much is to have you come and visit.”
Even if you’re just packing up your life in the city for a weekend or the day, come experience “Niagara-off-the-lake” at Westcott, and savour many a stress-free moment as you melt into a glass of dreamy Chardonnay and take in life at a slower pace.
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3180 Seventeenth St, Jordan Station, ON L0R 1S0
Phone: (905) 562-7517
3180 Seventeenth St, Jordan Station, ON L0R 1S0