August 20, 2018 – Paul Morden, The Sarnia Observer
Lambton County’s pioneer estate winemaker has a new look.
Alton Farms Estate Winery, which opened five years ago on Aberarder Line, celebrated the release of a new label design with a weekend of special events, including hay rides, live music and wine tastings.
Anne Kurtz-Alton, who runs the winery with her husband Marc Alton, said the new label was the idea of friends Jim and Elly Vergunst who run Grafiks, a marketing and communications company in Sarnia.
“Jim just kind of looked at our label and said, ‘It really doesn’t say anything to me about the Altons.’”
That led Elly Vergunst to design a new logo that is appearing on the new wines being released at the vineyard and winery that opened in 2013.
Kurtz-Alton said Jim also made a new roadside sign from wood and stone that was completed in time for the launch of the new logo.
“We’re so lucky that we have such good friends,” she said.
The couple created what remains Lambton’s only estate grape winery on a 90-acre farm that included a former gravel pit and, they believed, the right conditions to grow grapes.
They moved out to the farm in 2005 and began to plant vines and figure out what types of grapes could grow there.
“I respect them very much,” said Matthias Oppenlaender, a Niagara-on-the-Lake grape farmer and president of the Grape Growers of Ontario, who attended the logo unveiling Saturday.
“They are pioneers.”
He came to the Niagara region from Germany 35 years ago when farms growing wine grapes there were considered pioneers.
“I give them a lot of credit,” Oppenlaender said about the owners of Alton Farms.
Alton Farms is part of an emerging wine district along Lake Huron, he said.
“Obviously, they have challenges but I’m convinced that they can meet them,” Oppenlaender said.
“Marc and Anne, they don’t give up easily.”
A few more small wineries have followed the Altons to the Huron shore, he said.
“They’re finding their niche, they’re finding what will grow well here.”
Alton said two new wineries are expected to start up in the area, adding to the three there now, including Alton Farms, Dark Horse outside of Grand Bend and Maelstrom near Clinton.
Alton said the two new wineries are planned for Goderich and Bayfield.
“I expect there will be a couple more in another couple of years,” he said.
The company will be very welcome, Alton added.
“We need tourists and for that we need a (wine) route, and we need more wineries and breweries.”
Alton said there was some winter damage in the vineyard this year but it turned out to not be as bad as he initially feared.
And, he said, new wines being released by the winery have “turned out wonderfully.”
As well as selling its wines from its own store and tasting room, Alton Farms has two wines in the LCBO and a third is expected to joining them in the New Year. It also sells its wines at farmers markets in the region.
Wine is an important industry and an “economic driver” in Ontario, Oppenlaender said.
“The grape and wine industry contributes $3.3 billion to the economy,” he said.