There's a surprising lot of interesting stuff going on around here, and this space is devoted to discovering and sharing it. We'll post regular updates on merchants, activities and events. Look in often and soon you'll see why Meaford calls itself "The other Big Apple".

posted July 27th, 2012
Sample more local Meaford wines at Georgian Hills Vineyards

After visiting the Creemore Springs village brewery and sampling the unique maple mellowed warmth of Collingwood Canadian Whisky, it’s time to return a little closer to home for a visit the uniquely local wines and ciders available just down the road.

We’ve already introduced Thornbury Village Cidery and the delicious Thornbury Premium Cider.

And we’ve paid a few visits to Coffin Ridge, which brought home two double golds from the All Canadian Wine Championships a couple of months ago. Coffin Ridge also has a very delicious (your blogger can vouch for it), fairly dry and tart cider. Their website describes Forbidden Fruit Hard Cider tastily: “Made from 100 percent organic Grey County apples this artisanal cider is cold pressed and filtered to preserve the fresh, crisp, new harvest apple flavours. Robust with a pleasantly intense finish and complex flavours of juicy apple and lemon Forbidden Fruit embodies the essence of autumn harvest.”

But there’s another new winery in the Southern Georgian Bay area, and like Coffin Ridge, it’s less than 15 minutes from Meaford Haven.

Georgian Hills wines

Back in 1998, founding partners Robert Ketchin, Murray Puddicombe and John Ardiel began conducting tests at four sites in the area to determine the best locations for a vineyard and which viticultural methods and grape varieties would prosper in the Georgian Bay region. In 2004, they planted a five-acre commercial vineyard on John Ardiel’s farm on the west side of the Beaver Valley, and eight years later, the estate-managed vineyard is producing more than 12 tons of grapes a year. Three years after those first vines were put in, the team planted a little more than 12 acres of vinifera and hybrid vines at Victoria Corners, just southwest of Sideroad 21 and Grey Road 2 near Ravenna. They harvested the first full crop there in 2010.

Winemaker Lindsay Puddicombe

Georgian Hills Vineyards winemaker Lindsay Puddicombe

Under the guidance of winemaker Lindsay Puddicombe, the winery is already reaping the fruits of their labours. In fact, this year, Georgian Hills Vineyards earned the Silver medal in the red hybrid category for its Marechal Foch 2010. This well-balanced, complex red has flavours of black current, plum, and spicy oak nuances balanced with soft tannins and refreshing acidity, says the website’s tasting notes. “It pairs perfectly with lamb, duck, game meats, and burgers!”

Georgian Hills Vineyards tasting

Vanessa McKean talks about a Georgian Hills white with a visitor.

Plan your visit for the afternoon any day except Monday and Tuesday. The cozy cottage tasting room at Victoria Corners is open from noon to 5 p.m., and you can sample the wines (and buy your favourite), while enjoying a view of the vineyard set among the rolling hills, with the glint of Georgian Bay in the distance.

posted July 20th, 2012
Take a scenic drive to Creemore to tour Creemore Springs brewery

Next on our 30-mile spirits tour of the area around Meaford is Creemore Springs, which opened 25 years ago in the tiny village of Creemore, south of Collingwood. Start by enjoying the scenic drive that brings you there. From Meaford, head south on Grey Road 7, or as it’s known locally, the 4th line. This road climbs steeply out of town, and if you stop at the top, you can enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of Georgian Bay and the sweep of Cape Rich. (By now, you’re probably familiar with it – though we hope still in awe of it.)

Continue along the road and down into the wide Beaver Valley until you reach the stop sign at Grey Road 13, below the looming face of Kimberley Rock or “Old Baldy”. Turn right here, and proceed through the quaint hamlet of Kimberley before climbing back out of the valley toward Eugenia. The Beaver Valley Lookout on your right might be worth a stop to enjoy the view. Then, through Eugenia until the stop sign at Grey Road 4. Turn left, and head east for 10 minutes or so until you reach another stop sign at Highway 124. Turn right here, and about 8 kms. later, turn left at Simcoe Road 9. This winding road descends through tree-shaded curves to the village of Creemore.

A right on the main street of town, Mill Street, brings you to the Creemore Brewery. Back in 1987, retired ad man John Wiggins decided the town’s old hardware store, which he owned, would make a perfect place for a brewery. A friend, who was a retired bottle manufacturing executive and soon-to-be-co-founder, had an artesian well on his Creemore property. Another partner, also retired, who happened to be a pipe fitter and welder – handy for all that copper equipment – came on board, and the team hired brewmaster Doug Babcook to create the original Creemore Springs Premium Lager.

Creemore Springs Premium Lager

Creemore Springs opened its doors on August 15, 1987 (which makes its 25th anniversary just a few weeks away), and the original batches of beer sold out in four hours. But as the beer was welcomed throughout the province (and eventually Quebec and Alberta, and even further afield), the brewery expanded to accommodate.

Your blogger enjoyed his first taste of Bohemian-influenced Creemore Lager a year after its launch during a visit to Collingwood, and declared it delicious. But more reputable beer tasters were already noticing. Michael Jackson, world-famous beer writer, soon declared Creemore one of the two best lagers in North America (the other no longer exists).

Since then, the brewery has introduced such beers as it’s UrBock, a heavier winter beer, launched in 1996; a Pilsner, introduced as a summer beer in 2007, but now made year-round; and Kellerbier, an unfiltered German-style beer, first produced in 2009.

In 2005, beer giant Molson bought Creemore, but the distinctive brews continue to be produced in the village, and the quality and flavour of the beer doesn’t seem to have suffered.

Take a tour of the brewery while you’re there, and enjoy a sampling of the Creemore offerings. And don’t forget to bring some home with you.

posted July 13th, 2012
Collingwood Canadian Whisky made locally

A couple of weeks ago, we related the tale of a Meaford spirit – the ghost that haunts the Meaford Museum. Today, we’re going to embark on a quest for another kind of local spirit.

The area around Meaford has a remarkable number of craftspeople producing unique and delicious alchoholic beverages. Whatever your “poison”, you can find a 100-mile spirit to wet your whistle. Actually, there are at least a half-dozen unique vintners, brewers, distillers and others within a 30 mile (or 50-kilometre) radius of Meaford. Get your thirst on, and get ready for a tour.

We’ll start with one of the newest flavours on the scene – though it comes from a long-established Canadian distiller. Back in 1968, Barton Distilleries built the Canadian Mist distillery on the east side of Collingwood. Three years later, Kentucky-based Brown-Forman purchased the distillery, and more than 40 years later, the company says that the Collingwood mist location is the longest-continuously-owned distillery in Canada. Most of the Canadian Mist bottles find their way to the states; it’s the second most popular Canadian whisky brand in the U.S., after Crown Royal – though whisky writer Davin de Kergommeaux says it doesn’t get enough respect, and is“probably the most underrated and misunderstood of Canadian whiskies.”

But a recent push by independent and major distillers to create more distinctive, “craft”, smaller-batch whiskies has taken root at Canadian Mist. In early 2011, Brown-Forman debuted Collingwood Canadian Whisky, which distinguishes itself as the only “maplewood mellowed Canadian whisky” available. The whisky is aged in oak barrels, and then rests with toasted sugar maple staves as a finishing step.

The whisky, which uses Canadian grains and fresh water drawn from Nottawasaga Bay (that’s the water you gaze out upon from Meaford), has been available in Canada for less than a year.

Collingwood Canadian Whisky

Collingwood Canadian Whisky and Nottawasaga Bay (photo: Canadian Whisky,

De Kergommeaux describes Collingwood this way: “Dark fruits, Concord grapes, roses and spring flowers with a rich and creamy mouthfeel. Split cherry firewood with earthy rye and tingling hot pepper. Floral & Fragrant.” He also gives it a “highly recommended” four out of five stars.

You can pick it up at your local liquor store, or why not enjoy a dram by the waters of Nottawasaga Bay in Meaford?

posted July 6th, 2012
Radish Bahn Railway winds through Meaford garden

Barry Altman is the Manager of the Meaford and District Chamber of Commerce, but he’s also the chief designer, architect and engineer; head landscaper; and station master of the Radish Bahn Railway. If you’re a Swiss rail traveller, the name might ring a bell – but we’re not talking about the Rhatische Bahn, the dramatically scenic Swiss rail network. The Radish Bahn railroad winds around the beautiful gardens of Barry and Bonnie Altman’s heritage home in downtown Meaford.

A remarkable feat of engineering and passion, the “G” scale (or garden-scale) railway features multiple tracks (and trains), Swiss farms, stations, houses, and an operating cable car system. (Oh, yes, there’s also a castle guarded by a ferocious dragon!). The scale is 1:22.5, so the denizens of this magical world stand around 3″ high. A total of 590 feet of track runs through an area roughly 90 x 80 feet.

Recently, Barry hosted a Chamber of Commerce After Five/Tradeshow in his gardens, where we took the photos here.

To learn more about how Barry built this amazing railway, visit