By Tas Fraser
We often forget that some of the most interesting places to visit (for cider and wine) are right in our own backyard.
I recently visited Puddicombe Estate Farm and Winery for a tasting, which is less than 10 minutes from Grimsby and en route to Niagara Wine Country. It is the perfect stop before visiting all of the amazing wineries the area has to offer.
Puddicombe blast to the past
Puddicombe Estate Farms and Winery has a long history that many of us wine (and cider) lovers are not aware of. The property is a 214-year-old family-owned and operated fruit farm, with the first vineyard planted in 1940. Puddicombe farms almost 300 acres of fruit (how amazing is that!). Here are some of the key milestones throughout Puddicombe’s history:
• 1997 — Purchased the train “Little Pudd” from the world famous Crystal Beach Amusement Park. This train surrounds the property and you can actually ride through the orchards and vineyards. It is a popular attraction of the farm and is open usually from May until fall.
• 2009 — Opened Puddicombe Farm Stay (bed and breakfast) in the train’s caboose. I definitely recommend checking it out, such a unique place to stay (and take photos in front of).
• 2010 — Puddicombe Cider Company is established.
Cider and wine tasting
Sadly, it was a little on the cooler side outside on the day I had visited. However, the smell of campfire was in the air just like a nice country fall day. My family and I had our tasting in the back of a truck on the property, right in front of the famous caboose. The truck was like a large table so we could all see each other and have a place to rest our drinks. There are currently three flights you can select from for tastings: the dry wine flight, the sweet wine flight or the cider/spritzer flight (I bet you can guess what I chose). In my flight I was able to try the hopped pear cider, cherry cider, fruitilicious spritzer and peach spritzer. The spritzers were made with Vidal wine and fruit juice. The colours were absolutely gorgeous and ranged from yellow, deep red, rosé, and peachy orange. My favourite out of the four was actually the hopped pear.
At first I was unsure, but the flavour grew on me. It was slightly sweet and crisp pear with the hops present on the finish. The cherry was on the sweeter side and the spritzers were somewhere in the middle. I did not have a lot of time to explore the rest of the property, however, I did venture into the country store and retail store.
They have wines and ciders available for purchase as well as so many local items. Another unique (and adorable) feature of the store was the farm cat Leo. Leo has a nice little nook overlooking the shop, however, he did came down to visit us. He jumped on my boyfriend’s back and used him as an Uber for a short time. Leo loved roaming around and of course all of the attention.
I first tried Puddicombe’s original Apple Cider back in 2018 as one of my first cider reviews. It’s a pale yellow colour and made with 12 Ontario apple varieties. It’s a semi-dry cider and had a nice apple taste. All of the ciders (even the new ones) are gluten free with no added sugars. Puddicombe recently released a plethora of new additions so there’s a cider style for everyone. Here are some of the ciders I tasted:
Apple Cranberry: Made with the same 12-variety apple blend of their original with fresh cranberry juice. It’s cranberry forward with a subtle tart finish.
Apple Pineapple: Again, made with the apple blend, however, it has fresh pineapple juice. It is a cloudy yellow colour with a sweet pineapple smell and soft acidity.
Peach: This one is made with 100% Ontario peaches and shows and apricot colour in the glass. I found that this one had a light spice to it with a hint of orange.
Cherry: The cherry is also available in their tasting flights. It is a gorgeous deep red colour and on the sweeter side. It is made with six Ontario cherry varieties grown right on the farm. It has a dark berry taste and sweet finish.
All of these come in at 5.5% ABV except for the Pineapple which is 4.5%. I quite liked the pineapple if I were to pick a favourite.
Hopefully they add some of these to their tasting flights in the summer months. You can order them online here. Just note that the minimum order for the cans is six of one flavour. Aside from the ones mentioned, they also have the hopped pear, hopped apple and Sir Isaac’s Pear available. If you aren’t able to order online … definitely drop into Puddicombe as the shop has all the flavours mentioned — and it’s always good to incorporate some adventure into your day.
Note: Masks must be worn inside the retail store and while walking through the property. They are open Wednesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. I recommend booking a reservation in advance especially on weekends.
More to offer
There is so much to do at Puddicombe and so little time to explain everything. Aside from tastings of wine and cider there are other things to see and do. Depending on the season, they have a farmers market and you are also able to pick your own fruit. They list the season of each time for fruit picking so you can check their website to see what fruits are available here (http://www.puddicombefarms.com/farm.html). They also have their country store and cafe where you can get some tasty treats. Once it warms up, they have plenty of tours, including walking tours and a train tour. This was definitely one of the most unique experiences I have had at a cidery and it was the perfect getaway from the city.
Note: Go here to read Tas Fraser’s bio.