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A vineyard for the environmentally conscious

Southbrook Vineyards is an organic winery participating in Ottawa's Somewhereness dinner party

Bill Redelmeier’s Southbrook Vineyards, an organic- and biodynamic-certified winery and vineyard in Niagara-on-the Lake, emphasizes environmentalism. Credit: Courtesy of Southbrook

We’re not sure Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and pleasure, would approve, but for Bill Redelmeier moderation is key.

Redelmeier’s Southbrook Vineyards, an organic and biodynamic certified winery and vineyard in Niagara-on-the Lake, emphasizes environmentalism, and Redelmeier himself is a big believer in imbibing moderately. He also knows that some people are intimidated by wine, which is one of the reasons he enjoys events like Somewhereness, which brings together 12 Ontario wineries at a cocktail dinner prepared by Dish Catering. The event takes place April 7 at Ottawa’s Orange Gallery. 

Redelmeier tells Xtra more about his passion for wine and the concept of Somewhereness in this edited interview.

Xtra: Where did you get the idea to transform your family farm into a vineyard?



Bill Redelmeier: The old family farm was in Richmond Hill, and in 2005, my wife and I decided to really break with tradition and purchase a vineyard at that point. Even though I’d been a farmer for all my life, this is actually a new location.

Why does Southbrook Vineyards take a strong stand on using less water and producing wine without synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizer?

Somebody has to. The best way to teach what’s possible is to prove what’s possible. We were in a position where we could make a statement on what we believe in, and just to show people what’s possible.

For the body-conscious wine lover, how can you imbibe while staying healthy?

Alcohol is something we’ve been consuming for thousands of years, and in moderation, it’s not an unhealthy thing. Anything in moderation isn’t. I’m not calling wine a health food in particular, but as long as you’re conscious about what you’re consuming and trying to stay away from as many modern, artificial chemicals as you can, I think it’s probably a little bit better than otherwise.

If you’re throwing a dinner party and have a few fussy guests, what are some pointers for pairing wine with food?

I have a very precise system that almost always works, and that is eat what you like, drink what you like and there’s a pretty good chance that it will go together. One of the easiest ways to pair food and wine is remembering that wines have been developed over centuries and usually there’s a relationship between where that wine was developed and the food that’s local there. Sauvignon blanc originally came from the Loire, which is known as the garden of France. Wonderful vegetables, asparagus and greens, and it’s most famous for sheep and goat cheeses, so they’re naturally paired together. Burgundy is famous for its lamb and its beef, and again the food goes with the wine that’s produced there.

Why are some people intimidated by wine?

Wine for years was kind of looked on as an old boys’ club, and they wanted to make it hard to get into, so there was a whole snobbishness about it. Intimidation is a great word for it, and it’s awful. What I love is when you eat in Italy they don’t say, “Would you like wine?” They say, “What wine would you like?”

What’s going on at Somewhereness on April 7?

Somewhereness is 12 small, family-owned wineries that are really passionate about quality, and they’re passionate about Somewhereness. The word Somewhereness came from Matt Kramer, an American writer. There’s a French word, terroir, that’s really hard to translate into English, and he said the best translation of the word terroir, which is all about climate, soil and the individuality of a location, is “somewhereness.”