How passion and opportunity led our partners to open up shop in apple country The origin stories behind Grey & Gold Cider, Georgian Hills Vineyard & Rusty’s at Blue
While on vacation in Prince Edward County, a couple from the city decided to make a major life change. They traded out their jobs where they sat behind desks, in for a more rural life where they felt they could join a community and contribute something unique to it. For this family, that meant brewing cider. David Baker was ambitious and experimental – his first batch of cider was made from store-bought apple juice! But Baker was dedicated. He began studying the craft, attended the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Conference, and learned about how the art of cider making is being revived in Ontario. Baker bought an apple grinder and a small press, and one day drove a U-Haul to Blue Mountain and bought 1,600 from T & K Ferri Orchards. He told the folks at T & K Ferri Orchards that he was planning on driving all those apples down to Toronto so he could grind, press and ferment them in his basement press. They thought he was crazy!
In a short time, Baker needed an orchard of his own, and knew there was no better place to go than the Georgian region. The moderating effect of South Georgian Bay combined with the protective cover of the Niagara Escarpment creates a unique microclimate which is perfect for apple growing. The Baker family relocated to a beautiful and enormous farm in Beaver Valley, surrounded by neighboring apple orchards and cideries. Soon enough, his ciders became locally renowned for their character, always leaving those who tried his beverages with this thirst for more.
Today, their award winning ciders can be enjoyed at a number of restaurants around the province. The folks at Grey & Gold believe that cider tastes best when it has minimal intervention in the growth process, meaning they don’t use sulphites or commercial yeasts. The native yeasts that do the hard work of fermentation offer the drink its organic quality. The “Spruce of the Bruce” dry heritage cider has received numerous gold medals, spreading the Grey & Gold name even further. The selection also consists of sparkling and sweet offerings. Visitors to the farm can enjoy a sample cider, and gaze out at the sun shining on acres of orchards. Take the chance to chat with the passionate and generous people behind the cider mill. See for yourself what it is about the heart of apple country that makes the cider taste just so.
While some were led to Georgian Bay for the orchards, others came to begin vineyards. This area is often overlooked as a location for a vineyard, as it is assumed grapes can’t grow this far North. But in 2004, the founding partners of Georgian Hills Vineyard recognized that Georgian Bay’s unique microclimate could allow not just apples to grow, but grapes, too. The hills from the Niagara Escarpment moderate cold temperatures flowing in from the lakes which would normally freeze the grapes. The limestone escarpment traps the moderating lake effects, and this protection allows the grapes to grow safely each year into a delicious wine. Seizing this opportunity, the founding partners John Ardiel and Robert Ketchin were excited to begin this adventure in Georgian Bay.
The partners wanted Georgian Hills Vineyards to be a pleasure to interact with from the time a visitor arrives at the vineyard to the final moment the taste of wine leaves their mouth. This means each individual staff member is passionate about the vineyard, devoted to greeting and guiding a visitor so they can have the best experience possible, and the wine itself is elegant and fresh. The vineyard has received particular acclaim for their Wild & Inspired collection, which aims to tell a story about the naturally wild and rich soil that the vineyard relies upon.
The same cider revolution which so motivated the Baker family inspired the vineyard to produce an impressive selection of Georgian Hills Ciders. The Ardiel Pear Cider is a customer favorite for those who visit the vineyard patio and favor a cider to accompany their charcuterie board. For Georgian Hills, and their founders who invested in the microclimate and soil of this region, “tasting is believing”.
The trio of creators behind Rusty’s love cider as much as anyone. But it was Southern Barbeque that these culinary entrepreneurs had in mind when they opened their restaurant in Blue Mountain.
Stephen Perrin is the Executive Chef at Rusty’s, and a Canadian barbeque pit master. Perrin drove all over the U.S. to master the technique of barbeque, participating in professional competitions and receiving feedback from highly trained BBQ chefs. He has worked to take all he learned in the professional circuit and apply it to Rusty’s, offering a dining experience unlike any nearby. Though the southern BBQ is mouth-watering, Rusty’s offers quality dining and a diverse menu. Their philosophy towards food is to purchase the highest quality of ingredients while keeping their dishes very simple.
The trio also created Rusty’s to help foster community, to offer a place for people to gather, share delicious food and drink. A place to celebrate with each other. It’s no coincidence that Rusty’s is one of the best places to dine and dance on the Apple Pie Trail. At this trail stop you can always find music, a full menu, and someone to cheers.
Every trail stop and founding partner was inspired in some way by the beautiful region that we know as apple country. They cherish the community, hosting visitors, and of course our stunning backdrop of Georgian Bay.