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Our History: From bovines to grape vines

The Redelmeiers have deep farming roots in Ontario. A timeline shows the evolution of
a third-generation family farm into one of Canada’s most innovative and forward-thinking vineyards and wineries.

1941: A Gentleman Farmer

Iska & William Redelmeier in 1950s Established in the 1860s at the head of the Don River by the Patterson family, Don Head Farms is purchased by William Redelmeier (current owner Bill Redelmeier's grandfather) in 1941. At its peak, Don Head Farms maintains the largest herd of Jersey cattle in Canada on hundreds of acres of fertile land north of Toronto.
 

1980: A Popular Farm Market

Southbrook FarmsBill and partner/co-owner, Marilyn, evolve the family business from a roadside stand in the 1980s to a thriving farm market. Bill upholds his grandfather's credo: To celebrate the excellence of fresh, local products and value the heritage and beauty of the land. The market’s commitment to supporting Ontario producers foreshadows the locavore movement yet to come.


What’s in a Name?

Don Head FarmsAs Bill gets ready to register a name for the new farm market, he looks to the land, or at least to a map. The individual parcels comprising Don Head Farms each have individual names such as South, North, East, West, Home, Mitchell and Brook. Bill goes to the registry office with several combinations prepared in case he finds the name already registered. He submits “South” and “Brook,” they are available, and Southbrook Farms is born.


1991: Birth of Southbrook Winery

The original Southbrook WineryAn appreciation of gourmet foods and wines lead the Redelmeiers to create a boutique winery and unique special event location, housed in the farm’s century-old barns. In 1991, having sourced some of the Niagara region’s finest grape varietals, Southbrook produces the first 2,000 cases of wine. They are ably assisted by the craftsmanship of Derek Barnett (later winemaker at Lailey Vineyard).

 


1992:  Necessity is the Mother of Framboise

Canadian Framboise in London, 1997It rains nearly every weekend in the summer of 1992. Customers of the pick-your-own raspberry patch stay away in droves. Staff pick the ripe fruit during the week with the idea they will make jam. Yield exceeds three tons. Bill’s love of fortified wines sparks a different idea. He decides to make a dessert wine he names Framboise. Intense, “just-picked” fruit flavour is a hit at home and abroad. Major awards ensue.

 


Food and Wine Destination

Aerial view of Southbrook FarmsThe winery grows; annual production climbs to 5,000 cases using VQA grapes from growers in the Niagara Peninsula. The combination of farm market, winery and event location becomes a big success, regularly attracting 125,000 visitors per year. Pick-your-own berries and school pumpkin tours are a specialty.

 


2007: Ontario vs Bordeaux Tasting

2002 Poetica Cabernet Merlot“A Niagara red few people have heard of edged out an illustrious lineup of Bordeaux, including Château Lafite Rothschild 2001 ($349) and Châteaux Margaux 2001 ($339), two trophy labels venerated the world over by people with apparently more money than time to do comparison shopping.” So writes Beppi Crosariol in the Globe and Mail on Feb. 24, 2007. The little-known red he mentions is Southbrook’s 2002 Triomphus Cabernet Merlot (later re-christened Poetica).

The event was an Ontario versus Bordeaux contest, judged by 12 respected wine writers. The wine has since sold out, with only a few library bottles being shared from time to time at Poetica tastings.


Southbrook Vineyards at Niagara: The Dream Realized

Southbrook Vineyards Grand OpeningSouthbrook has always sourced grapes from Niagara-on-the-Lake, so Bill is excited about operating his own vineyard there. Brought on as a winemaking consultant in 2005, Ann Sperling introduces Bill and Marilyn to an excellent opportunity. A 74-acre parcel in the warm Four Mile Creek sub-appellation of Niagara-on-the-Lake is on the market, complete with 36 acres of ideally planted, well-selected varieties and top-notch clones. The couple realizes its potential, and decides on the new location to build the winery of their dreams. They convince Ann Sperling to sign on as full-time Director of Winemaking and Viticulture.

Expansion of the vineyard is planned and planting starts. The design of a winery with associated facilities
and a hospitality building are entrusted to Jack Diamond of Diamond and Schmitt Architects of Toronto.
The Redelmeiers commence creation of a fully biodynamic, organic and environmentally responsible winemaking operation.

Ann is ready to make wine in Niagara-on-the-Lake by 2006 and the architects’ attentions turn to the construction of the hospitality pavilion. The wine shop move is undertaken in the fall of 2007, while the family’s Richmond Hill presence lives on in the form of the Pumpkin Patch and Country Store until it was decided to close it in early 2013. An adjoining 75-acre parcel is purchased to provide an area for pasture and for future vineyard expansion. The new enterprise is re-named Southbrook Vineyards to reflect the Redelmeier’s new role as vineyard stewards. The opening celebration of the Hospitality Pavilion takes place on the Summer Solstice of 2008.


Pictures of an Evolution

Southbrook’s history speaks thousands of words in pictures. From Jersey cattle farm to vineyard, it’s all there to share.

 

Ernest Redelmeier receives a trophy at the Royal Winter Fair Ernest Redelmeier receives... Don Head Farms CNE Diploma... Don Head Farms CNE Diploma... International Live Stock Exposition Award International Live Stock... Prize Pumpkin Prize Pumpkin
10th Anniversary Of Southbrook Farms 10th Anniversary Of... Derek Barnett, Bill and Ernest Redelmeier Derek Barnett, Bill and... Southbrook Farms Store Southbrook Farms Store Canadian Framboise Canadian Framboise
Old Southbrook Farms Store Old Southbrook Farms Store Early Bottles Early Bottles Winemakers Dinner At Southbrook Farms 2006 Winemakers Dinner At... Marilyn meeting with Architect Jack Diamond Marilyn meeting with...
Bill and Marilyn meeting with design & architecture team Bill and Marilyn meeting... Richmond Hill staff toast to the new Southbrook location in Niagara-on-the-Lake Richmond Hill staff toast... Southbrook Hospitality Pavilion Construction Southbrook Hospitality... Grand Opening Ceremony Grand Opening Ceremony