You’ve probably heard of farm to table, a delectable movement sweeping across restaurants and kitchens that sees farm-fresh, local ingredients as the star of each meal and supports sustainable food production. What you may not know is that craft drink makers across Ontario’s Highlands are taking this one step further by incorporating local resources into mouth-watering beverages; something we like to call ground to glass.
With a brewer drawing water for production from a natural artesian spring on his property; a winemaker using the geology of the land to add the perfect terroir; distillers partnering with a local mill to source grain for their spirits; and a cider-making couple adding to their repertoire of flavours by incorporating ginger grown just 7km up the road; it doesn’t get more local than this.
Wander through Ontario’s Highlands’ rolling countryside, soak in breathtaking natural views, and discover the passion behind each production as you delight your palate with local flavours during a visit to one of the following.
Naturally Flowing Spring Water at Cartwright Springs Brewery
Taking locally-made to a whole new level, this craft brewery uses the natural water from an artesian spring located on the property, just 15 metres away, in each and every brew. Take in the sight of the spring water flowing out of the ground at 4 litres per second beside Cartwright Springs Brewery before sampling the beer made from that very water. Specialty brews also highlight the notes of local spruce tips from Cedar Hill Christmas Tree Farm, maple harvested from the sugarbush onsite, local honey, and chocolate nibs from Hummingbird Chocolate Maker in Almonte. Book a guided tour and wander the trails, discover the environmentally friendly initiatives engrained in this bubbling business, and of course, let these suds delight your taste buds in a taproom decorated with wood finishes handmade from trees that have fallen on the property.
Suggested Food Pairing: This brewery is along a backroad and feels wonderfully secluded in nature, but don’t let your tummy worry as food is not far away. Onsite is a freezer chock full of pasties from The Great British Pasty & Pie Co., made just 15 minutes away in Arnprior. Our favourite would have to be the Steak and Stout pasty, which incorporates Cartwright Springs’ very own Chocolate Stout in the filling, but we certainly wouldn’t turn down any of the other delicious flavours. We’d recommend stocking up to fill your freezer with a variety of these flaky and hearty treats.
Mineral-Rich Soil at Potter Settlement Artisan Winery
Located on the southern edge of the Canadian Shield, the area is certainly not known as wine-country, but the unique mineral-rich geology of the land creates the perfect terroir for flavouring grapes and is the secret weapon behind the award-winning wines crafted by Potter Settlement Artisan Winery. As you turn the corner past the original hilltop tasting room – its copper roof sparkling in the sun – and see the rows of the vineyard below, surrounded by colourful rock outcroppings and glistening ponds, we wouldn’t blame you if your breath catches just a bit. Book a tour and let owner, Sandor, walk you through the history of the winery as you sample these unique wines. Discover the passion that drives this business and marvel at the antiques, handcrafted décor, and gems that decorate the winery’s main building – many of which, like fluorite, sodalite, and tourmaline, were found on the property or neighbouring lands.
Suggested Food Pairing: If you have the opportunity to book a night at Black River Retreat, we have two words: do it. Not only will you get exclusive use of this wilderness property to soak away your worries in a hot tub, take a leisurely paddle in a kayak, and roast s’mores over a pre-built campfire; you’ll also have your taste buds jumping for joy at the flavours presented by your personal chef. We’d recommend bringing along some wine from Potter Settlement to make this an absolute perfect evening.
Locally-Milled Grains at Top Shelf Distillers
With barley, rye, and corn from Ontario growers being milled just around the corner at Dodds & Erwin into a fine flour-like powder for distilling, Top Shelf Distillers is passionate about sourcing ingredients locally for its fine spirits. We can pretty much guarantee that just one sip of their Apple Pie Moonshine and your head will be swimming with memories of flaky, buttery pie crust and gooey, sweet apple pie filling. This is just one of the many flavours of moonshine at Top Shelf Distillers, which include blueberry, cherry, strawberry, butter tart, and, in paying homage to its Canadian roots, maple. Stop in for a tour to learn more about the distilling process, pick your favourite moonshine flavour, and sample their gin and vodka.
Suggested Food Pairing: With such a variety of spirits made, there are certainly a large number of cocktail combinations, but for a true Canadian pairing, we’d have to suggest grabbing a barbecue sauce from Shamrock Gardens in Almonte and firing up the ‘cue when you get home. As the name infers, the Maple Moonshine Barbecue Sauce has Top Shelf’s own maple moonshine in it, and with these sauces sold in the retail space of Top Shelf, it’s pretty convenient to pick up your spirits and your seasonings at once.
Fresh from the Farm Ginger at Kings Mill Cider
Taking locally sourced seriously, the Ginger and Hopped Ginger ciders at Kings Mill Cider not only take a unique twist on a classic drink, but also use ginger grown only 7km down the road at Small Spade Farm. Nestled amidst rolling farmlands along a back-country road, lies this small home-based cidery, celebrating local flavours in each and every bottle. Stop into the tasting room on a weekend and let the fresh green accents lift your spirits while you sample ciders made from Ontario apples and discover the passion of owners Kees and Margaret.
Suggested Food Pairing: We’re big fans of apples and cheese. For the perfect pairing here, we’d suggest upgrading your cheeseboard to a full-blown charcuterie board with just a couple extra stops – all within 5km of the cidery. Stop into the Buff Stuff Store at Ontario Water Buffalo Co. to pick up some summer sausage and buffalo milk cheeses (we won’t judge if you spend a few extra minutes taking a selfie with some of these friendly animals), then head to The Apple Store up the road to finish your board off with Maple Dale Cheese.