Gleason Brook Winery is a small, family owned operation. We use a blend of our own grapes and grapes from a variety of regions to attain a consistent taste, including grapes from other growers in Grey County, the Niagara region and international sources. Grey County experiences considerable year-to-year climate fluctuations, so in some years it may be necessary to add grapes from different regions to obtain the right balance of acidity, tannins, sweetness and fruit flavours. The vineyard is located on the “Dolomite Cap” of the Niagara Escarpment. Our wines are made in the natural style, containing only grapes and yeast for fermentation, with no added sulphites, clarifying agents, or chemical additives. The farm is owned by Jackie and Tim Dixon. The winery is operated by Jackie and Tim, and Tim’s sister Mary Ann Dixon.
“Our goal is to make fine wine in small batches in the natural style, for family, friends, neighbours, and local charities. Most of our production (limited to a few thousand bottles a year) goes to support a once per year “Feast in the Field” supporting local environmental or charity groups (see “Events”).
INTERVIEW WITH JACKIE, TIM AND MARY ANN
Who are you and what do you do?
Jackie: Geochemist, studying water and carbon dioxide in the Earth’s deep mantle. These two compounds that our critical for life on Earth, and scientists want to understand the “budget” for these compounds (where do they reside, how much do we have, how fast are we “spending” them). I am currently Dean of the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa.
Tim: Geologist, using satellite data to study earthquakes, volcanoes, coastal subsidence and flooding, and melting of the Greenland ice sheet. Currently a professor at USF, received his Bachelor’s degree from Western University in London. Recently published a book (Curbing Catastrophe, published by Cambridge University Press) about Earth’s natural and human caused hazards.
Mary Ann: works for the federal government, writes screen plays on the side. Currently working on a crime novel set in wine country. All fictional of course!
Why did you start the winery together?
Several reasons, but one is the (possibly naïve) belief that a small boutique winery could support environmental causes. Two examples: First, we are hoping to use the winery as an event space in support of certain environmental causes. A winery dinner for one such event is actually planned for this summer. The date is August 10, it will support NeighbourWoods North, a group focused on restoring local forests and wetlands, and re-foresting urban habitats. Their current project is the Healing Path, a nature walk around Owen Sound Hospital. Dinner will be prepared by Zachary Keeshig, a local celebrity chef that apprenticed with Michael Stadtländer. Second, a winery that is all-organic can showcase some sustainable farming practices, for example using sheep and mechanical tilling instead of Round-Up to keep the weeds at bay.
Why do you love the Georgian Bay Peninsula (compared to another region where you could have started a winery)?
To be honest it’s not the best place for a winery – winters are still a bit too cold and long. But it has so many other attributes – amazing natural beauty, and it retains some unspoiled natural wilderness, an increasingly rare commodity (thank goodness for the Bruce Trail). We also have great neighbours!
What is your purpose beyond making money?
Well you don’t start a winery to make money! Our original concept was not to have a commercial winery at all, but rather just to make wine for friends and family, and sponsor a once-per year winery event as a fund-raiser for local environmental groups. But it turns out that to do this for large groups you do need some licensing. Once we started down that road, we decided to go all the way.
Who is your customer, and what are they like?
We’d like to think that people who don’t currently enjoy wine would give ours a try and have a new experience. Hopefully these are also the type of people that support the environmental and charitable groups whose events we host.
What are the guiding values and principles for the winery?
No chemical additives, none! Our wines are just made with grapes and yeast. So they can vary a bit from year to year – it all depends on the grapes, which also vary from year to year, depending on the weather.
What is your vision for the business in the next year? Five years?
First year’s vision is pretty modest – we just need to learn the ropes. Hosting large events is definitely a learning experience. Five years from now-pretty modest also – we hope to not be losing too much money.
What wineries in Ontario do you admire?
Locally (Georgian Bay region), Coffin Ridge, Georgian Hills Winery, and The Roost have all done an incredible job growing specially adapted, cold-hardy varietals and carving out a business where none existed before.
In the Niagara region, our three favourites are Tawse (an amazing organic/biodynamic winery), Cave Springs (world’s best Cabernet Franc!) and Hidden Bench (a truly delightful Chardonnay).
What feeling do you want people to walk away with after spending an afternoon at Gleason Brook? Or alternatively what feeling do you wish them to have when serving & enjoying your wine with friends and family? If you could be a fly on the wall what would you like your customer to be saying about Gleason Brook over dinner?
The wines we’ve made so far don’t taste like commercial wines – they are easy-drinking, on the lighter side, and seem to appeal to a large group of people, some of whom would not call themselves wine lovers. We’d like to think that people who might not normally enjoy wine could have a glass of our wine and say “Hey, this is pretty good!”