From Wine to Cheese – Lighthall Vineyards

Glenn Symons is a North Bay native who is now making wine – and putting down new roots – in Prince Edward County. Trained as a pharmacist, Glenn worked at Teasel’s Drug Store in Picton, the oldest pharmacy in Ontario (and quite possibly Canada) for eight years before turning his long-time hobby of winemaking into a full-time career.

In searching for potential land to build a winery on, Glenn looked at New Zealand, the south of France and Prince Edward County. Despite the allure of the first two, Glenn chose The County for its potential and, frankly, to be close to home. His four children were young and Glenn loves Canada.

In 2008 he bought the established Lighthall Vineyard south of Milford. He was living in Ottawa at the time with his young family, but they threw everything into the new venture and moved – not to the County, not until the kids finish high school – but to nearby Kingston. They will make the move to the County as soon as they can and build a house on the 16 acres behind the vineyard. “I feel more connected here in the County than I do at home in Kingston,” he says. “I sleep in Kingston but I live in the County.”

Glenn has transformed the basic vineyard property into a fully operational winery with winemaking facilities onsite. Remarkably, he runs it seven days a week as a one-man operation for three seasons of the year but has help in the summer. Lighthall Vineyards currently produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Progression wines, the last of which is a unique sparkling wine, and the best seller of them all.

You can read extensively about the distinctiveness of County wines elsewhere, but in a nutshell Glenn explains how his poor, stony soil produces beautiful wine. “The vines work extra hard in this kind of soil to find the micro-nutrients that they need. They send roots deep and far and the result is something unique with high quality. “

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Somehow he has found the time to make make cheeses to compliment his wines. He had been making his own cheese – mainly for his own lunch – for years, but it was customers in his wine-tasting room who inspired him to go bigger. They noticed his lunchtime cheeses and, after being offered a taste, many wanted to buy some. Glenn couldn’t legally sell it, but their encouragement inspired him. He began producing cheese in a commercial kitchen in the Mystic Dandelion Bed & Breakfast here in the County, buying sheep milk on a weekly basis to produce brie, washed-rind, blue, pressed manchego, and feta cheese. Response was enthusiastic enough to justify building a new facility at the winery to expand his cheese production. It includes a commercial kitchen, a storage area and aging room, and – more importantly – allows him to run the winery and make cheese at the same time. He wants to have three or four kinds of cheese always available. Right now his brie sells out to local buyers as fast as he can make it.

Glenn has big plans for his business. He is in contact with a cured meats provider from Quebec about offering their products. Glenn hopes to have picnic tables by the winery so he can serve a bistro dish of wine, cheese and cured meats that will draw more people to the south end of the County. He has a lot of dreams: maybe a small craft beer brewery, maybe purchase his own sheep and pigs to make cheese and cured meats. His goal is to be self-sufficient. He has the land, and lord knows he has the dreams.

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