MANITOWANING—A friend once told Rick Krasowski that it was impossible to grow grapes for winemaking on Manitoulin Island; he saw this as a challenge that he could not refuse and, along with his wife Justice Louise Serré and her parents, bought some land on Manitoulin and started a vineyard. Today that vineyard, located in the High Falls area of Highway 6, is known as the Angry Antlers Vineyard.
Last Wednesday the hobby winemaker was a guest speaker at the Assiginack Horticultural Society’s monthly meeting. The Grade 7/8 Assiginack Public School teacher and grape grower was invited to share his knowledge of grape growing as well as the story of how he and his family got into the vineyard business.
In his presentation, Mr. Krasowski spoke of the research and preparation that went into starting a vineyard, including research into the effects of local temperatures and weather conditions on grapes as well as possible diseases. Research included watching the weather over a five-year span in order to get a good sense of what types of grapes would be best suited to the area. After this initial research, the family began experimenting with different grapes, including six whites and six reds. Four of the varieties grew well and some of the most successful results came from two reds, a Frontenac as well as a Sabrevois from the Minnesota area, which Mr. Krasowski explains ripens quicker and is characterized as being “extremely hardy and very sweet (grapes), which make an excellent wine.”
The vineyard, which is in its tenth year, got its name from the phenomena of deer getting their antlers stuck in the wire fencing surrounding the grapes, which the deer would then rip out in an effort to get to the clover that was planted to help increase nitrogen levels. There are eight kilometres, or 5,000 vines over 48 rows and, according to Mr. Krasowski, can reasonably be expected to produce 12-20 tonnes of grapes, or in more relatable terms, 1,500 or more cases of wine. The vineyard, however, is not yet at the point where it’s able to produce this much wine on its own but Mr. Krasowski expects that in the next phase they will acquire the equipment necessary for a small-scale winery so that they may produce wine that can be sold on premise. In the meantime, the owners are exploring the possibility of greenhouse grown grapes, growing a variety of fruit trees which they’re keen to blend with their grapes to make new and interesting wines as well as experimentation with grafting in order to make new varieties of grapes.
It’s a good thing Mr. Krasowski enjoys a challenge as there have been a number along the way and surely there will be more to come on his journey to being a wine producer, which he’s clearly excited and passionate about. He’s proud of the fact that the vineyard is a family-oriented organic vineyard and he’s pleased to now be a full-time member of the community who calls Assiginack Township home.
The Assiginack Horticultural Society, which hosted the presentation, meets monthly on the first Wednesday of the month at Knox United Church in Manitowaning. The society is open to anyone interested in horticulture and welcomes new members to join them at any of their meetings. They are responsible for the flower gardens at the museum as well as the community flower barrels.
There were just over 20 Horticultural Society members at the presentation, many of whom mused that they weren’t necessarily interested in growing their own wine grapes but had a fond appreciation for the end result!