Guided food, wine tour finds home in WC

By Jake Davies - West Carleton Online

CARP – Who knew there was so much great food and wine hidden in West Carleton?

Constance Bay resident Ruth McKlusky knew, and her new business La Vida Local looks to share those hidden gems with visitors and locals alike.

“We offer guided food and wine tours across the Valley,” McKlusky told West Carleton Online in the KIN Vineyard tasting room near Carp on a sunny Friday, July 6.

McKlusky says there are more than 20 local vineyards, craft distilleries and cider makers in the area. She said it was a natural to add the West Carleton Tour to her company’s three others – the East Ottawa Tour, South Ottawa Tour and Southwest Tour.

“This region is where a lot of wineries are starting to take off,” McKlusky said. “We’re going to be the first to offer air-conditioned bus tours of the area.”

McKlusky, who has more than 35 years’ experience in event planning and communications, has been an avid vineyard visitor her whole adult life.

“That’s what our family does,” she said. “We rent a bus and visit vineyards. It’s good times. Crazy fun.”

So, it made sense for her and her business partner Iona Green to get in to business and show off the bourgeoning wine scene in the Ottawa Valley.

“It’s an emerging market,” McKlusky said. “I like wine, I like food, I like farmers, they’re my type of people. I’m a huge advocate for shopping local.”

The West Carleton tour is an exploration of the wine and fruit trail starting off with a visit to KIN Vineyards on the Carp ridge. KIN is the rare Ottawa Valley vineyard that not only grows the hearty grapes popular in this climate such as Marquette and Frontenac, but also puts in the challenging work of growing more sensitive grapes like Pinot and Chardonnay. In total, KIN grows eight different variety of grapes at their two vineyards. From there the tour will head towards Galetta to visit Farmgate Cider where Jim Davies crafts British-style sulfite-free ciders from craft and organic apples hand-picked from the Farmgate orchard.

The tour wraps up with a hike across the highway to Needhams Market Garden to sample their Highway 29 fruit wines along with Aung Marg’s jams and the Needhams’ famous corn salsa.

“It’s a responsible way to see the emerging market in the Valley,” McKlusky said. “We do private tours as well with pick up and drop off at your door.”

McKlusky says the wine tour market is a $644 million industry in Ontario. She’s done her research and now she’s ready to share her knowledge with people looking for a unique tour of the Valley.

“I’ve been having a ball going to all these places and hearing the stories and learning the history,” McKlusky said.

“We want to try and make the Ottawa Valley the next Prince Edward County,” KIN Retail Manager and Sommelier Mélanie Hotte said. “We make our wine in the French style. Most of our wines are dry. I take them through the vineyard, explain the history and then we go inside and do a tasting.”

Hotte says it is a bit surprising, but West Carleton residents don’t know all the options for locally-produced wines and ciders in the area.

“When we opened the tasting room, I would say the majority of Carp didn’t know we were here even though we had been growing grapes for four years,” Hotte said. “We went to a lot of events and we grew our brand personally because people had a lot of questions. We have grown so fast, we’re busy here every weekend.”

KIN produced 1,500 cases, or 18,000 bottles of wine for the 2017 vintage. They produce eight different wines, one cider and one sparkling wine.

For more information on La Vida Local, click here.