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SUMMER 2018

P R I N C E

E D W A R D

C O U N T Y

A N D

Q U I N T E

R E G I O N

INSIDE: Our very own botanical gardens, a barn haven for writers, a model vintner, singing with Frank and Ray, and nectar of the Donini family, plus so much more. FREE - please take me home


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PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY AND QUINTE REGION

ON THE COVER

Sandor Johnson, vintner, model, actor, sixth generation agrarian at Potter Settlement, photographed at his artisan winery by Daniel Vaughan.

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QUINTE BOTANICAL GARDENS A seasonal treasure by Jennifer Shea

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SKYBARN Inspiration in the sky

by Kelly S. Thompson

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COUNTY & QUINTE LIVING SUMMER 2018

IN THIS ISSUE

EACH ISSUE AVAILABLE ONLINE AT: www.countyandquinteliving.ca

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SANDOR JOHNSON A Model Winemaker by Jennifer Shea

36

ILA VANN Recording artist by Vic Schukov

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DONINI CHOCOLATE Old World chocolate crafted in Quinte

@ HOME WITH ALAN GRATIAS Grant van Gameren and Sunny Stone

by Catherine Stutt

by Alan Gratias

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SIGNPOSTS The Hilton Breakaway

GRAVITAS Anthony Lemke

by Lindi Pierce

by Alan Gratias


country and quintie living half page:Layout 1 2018-05-25 10:53 aM Page 1

PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY AND QUINTE REGION

GENERAL MANAGER Adam Milliagan amilligan@metroland.com EDITOR Catherine Stutt editor@xplornet.com

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we’ve never seen, ask questions that are none of our business, and then tell complete strangers all about it. The good ones do it with integrity, compassion, and without hummus. Maybe without hubris. These are real stories we’re telling, and they make a difference. They should. Back to Mr. Drew.

ateline Bracebridge, Santa’s Summer Ho-Ho-Home. Flashback to June of 1980. Our grade 12 class was about to be released upon the world. Many of us were returning for the now extinct grade 13 (oh, those days of elitism), and we were saying goodbye to classmates and friends, some we’d known since kindergarten, who were heading off to college or the real world. For perhaps a dozen of us, we were graduating from Mr. Drew’s grade 12 enriched English. The year before, enriched English was introduced to the curriculum. Most of the students who chose this path did so because they were fond of English as a subject. Me, I was fond of not having to read Shakespeare. Save the letters to the editor, I get enough grief from our friend Bill Murtha, former head of English at East Northumberland Secondary School in Brighton, who can equate Bonnie and Clyde to Ode to a Grecian Urn, neither of which are Shakespeare, but he’s a fan. Grade 11 enriched English was fun. Mr. Denomy let my best friend Barb and me loose on the faculty and students for a linguistics project. No Shakespeare there. We sampled and tested and ran amok and landed an A+, thanks to Barb’s scholastic genius and my ability to ask questions that were absolutely none of my business. Nothing like a journalist in training. A few years ago, someone asked me to describe the work of a journalist. It’s easy. We go places we’ve never been, meet people 6

COUNTY & QUINTE LIVING SUMMER 2018

Before we made our mass exodus, Mr. Drew shared words of wisdom, of which he had many. Mr. Drew had a wish for us. He wished we could, sometime as adults, which we all thought we were and looking back hope we are, take a summer and read. Just pick up a book, read it, and see where it led. Maybe it would lead to another book, maybe to another country, but he hoped we would have the opportunity to pursue a summer through literature. He also hoped we’d buy hardcovers. A prolific author, his timing was spot on. After Star Wars debuted to insane acclaim, Mark Hamill eschewed the dark side and instead starred in Corvette Summer. Yes, that Mark Hamill, of Luke Skywalker fame. Corvette Summer was a fun summer date night movie, and those of us at Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes Secondary School spent a smug season telling everyone about our intimate connection with Star Wars, Luke, and Corvette Summer because Wayland Drew wrote the movie novelization. We had no idea what that meant, but to us, it was gold. A few years later, Mr. Drew did the same treatment for Dragonslayer. He was a very cool guy. Not to trend toward the Hollywood elite, Mr. Drew had balance. When we went carolling, we would hit his house and be invited into his library and treated to homemade fudge. One day in class, he told us of a summer excursion in Algonquin Park, where he and his photographer buddy and co-author of several books Bruce Littlejohn tried to ride a moose. Unsuccessfully, with no harm to Bullwinkle, but the story stuck. Years after I miraculously graduated from three years of Shakespeare-free enriched

English, I met Mr. Drew on the street. He introduced me to his good friend, Dave. Somewhere a bell was ringing, and it wasn’t the famous clocktower in downtown Bracebridge. “Mr. Drew, would it be okay if I called your friend Dave Dr. Suzuki?” I asked. That was Mr. Drew. Golden Globes with Luke Skywalker Saturday night, a class full of grade 12 students Monday morning, whipping up a batch of fudge for carollers, and strolling main street with David Suzuki, all with the same wonderful smile, the same thirst for life. ALS took Mr. Drew, and his funeral was held at a packed gymnasium at a now abandoned high school. The memories are there. Words to Mr. Drew were important. They were how we conveyed ideas, how we saved the planet, and stopped tyranny. They were how we connected as societies, and a tool for change. Mr. Drew would have loved the challenges of Twitter, cringed at the ability to be harmful in 140 characters, and rejoiced in social media used for positive change. He would have been surprised this student is writing from the editor’s desk, and maybe gently noted some typos, sent some suggestions, and smiled that famous wonderful smile as he challenged us. Mr. Drew would be happy with my library of hardcovers. He would be happy I was considering a summer of reading and adventure, and I think he’d be okay knowing we at County and Quinte Living were using words for good. He’d be happy you’re still reading this. So am I. Thanks for that. Google Wayland Drew, grab some shade, and from both of us, thanks for turning the page.

Catherine Stutt, Editor, County and Quinte Living editor@xplornet.com


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Quinte Botanical Gardens: A Seasonal Treasure North of Frankford Story by Jennifer Shea Photos courtesy Quinte Botanical Gardens When Deanna Groves and John Riedl were living and working in Mississauga – she in accounting and human resources and he in information technology – they dreamed of moving to a country property where they could spend every spare moment creating a botanical garden. It had become obvious as the married couple spent many years creating their own gardens as a hobby, then helping design and build gardens for neighbours, friends, and family members, that they were in the wrong professions. They decided to turn their hobby into a new livelihood and start their own landscaping business.


The first step for Deanna was going back to school. She graduated with honours from a landscape design certification program at the University of Guelph. From there, the pair worked on a detailed business plan for the landscaping business and their future vision – a botanical garden for the public to visit and enjoy.

“Landscaping is not only our business – designing and building outdoor areas is our passion,” they share on their website. Clearly the pair loves helping people realize the potential of their own properties, and 255 residential gardens have been completed by The Garden Place to date. “The work is very gratifying, and we affect people’s day-to-day In 2007, they made their dream a reality by lives in such a positive way,” says Deanna. purchasing and moving to a six-acre property “We get emails from previous customers sending us photos of how wonderful their north of Frankford. gardens look years later.” A lot of deliberation went into the selection Deanna and John also believe in giving back of this property. It had to be located centrally to the community; they have done volunteer between Toronto and Ottawa with easy access from main highways. It had to include landscaping work for Habitat for Humanity a low maintenance house and sufficient open, in Trenton and Frankford, Home Build for flat, or gently graded land for the envisioned Health Care, Community Living Quinte West gardens. The soil and water had to be of good (a sensory garden) and a local church. quality and capacity. With patience and time, While establishing their landscaping Deanna and John found, purchased, and business and getting to know their new moved to 664 Glen Ross Road and established community, Deanna and John were their landscaping business, The Garden Place. conducting market research for their

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envisioned Quinte Botanical Gardens. They learned about the type of gardens people would be interested in visiting. They also realized how important gardens are to people. “The Quinte Botanical Gardens started as an idea of, ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be nice to build gardens where people could come and enjoy and walk around,’” says Deanna. “The constant question I was asking from all the research I did was, ‘If we build it, will you come?’ Along the way, we received so much information about the physical and mental health benefits of gardening or being in a garden. It’s a destressing place. It puts balance back in your life.” Deanna adds, “Helping people feel better, encouraging them to get outside more often, interacting with others, and sharing their own experiences – these are a few of the reasons why we were motivated to create the Quinte Botanical Gardens.”


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After nine years of research, planning, and dreaming, the Quinte Botanical Gardens bloomed with several large gardens built on four-and-a-half of Deanna and John’s sixacre property. The tourist attraction officially opened on August 1 last year and remained open for two months as a trial run. Many visitors enjoyed touring the gardens last year, coming from throughout Ontario and the northeastern U.S. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and Deanna and John proudly share them. “There’s nothing like this in the area.” “We drove here from Niagara just to see your gardens – well worth it!” “We all had a great time and will return.” “We came as soon as we heard the news! Well done!” “What a great place to de-stress!” “I can’t believe the details of all the beautiful gardens!” “Love everything you’ve done. Interesting and informative.” Deanna and John were thrilled with the response they received. “As visitors were here, they stayed longer. They talked to us. We had tons of fun with them. We were exchanging stories and experiences. The humour among gardeners is fantastic.” With the first year’s success under their belts, Deanna and John expanded to 19 gardens, including a formal knot garden, an oriental garden, a white garden, a colour wheel garden (believed to be the largest of its kind in the world), a rose garden, an edible garden, and Deanna’s personal favourite, a bird, bee, and butterfly (BBB) garden.

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“There’s so much life in the BBB garden. I just love walking down there and seeing the bees and the birds singing away and eating away, and there’s so much colour and things happening all the time, all critter-related.” Building the gardens was a significant undertaking. Sandy soil had to be removed or augmented with a special clay/ black soil mix – 32 truckloads full. Two water features were built, 40,000 plants were purchased and planted, 17 different structures were designed and built, and 23 benches were installed. They then added 104 different garden statuary pieces. A lot of the work was done by hand – Deanna and John’s hands – with the assistance of digging equipment for just two of the gardens. The pair recycled what they could – old bricks found on the property became edging material for the edible garden, a crate for a hot tub was rejuvenated as a roof for the BBB garden, and the frame of a massive broken satellite dish (11 feet in diameter) was scraped 14

COUNTY & QUINTE LIVING SUMMER 2018

and painted as a dome for the stone patio in the rose garden. Deanna used a computeraided design program to lay out the various gardens, with detailed guidelines for placement of features and plants. Even she was surprised at how much the finished gardens resembled her designs. The colour wheel garden took the longest to design. It includes a meande ring path winding through eight pizza sections of garden, each of which is planted by colour, delineated with arbors. “I had to pay attention to height, form, bloom time, and everything, so I developed a plant database with a search engine that I can find something particular. If I wanted a plant that was a foot-and-a-half tall and bloomed from July 15 to July 25, liked full sun, was a particular pink, and had this specific form of bloom, I could find it in my database.” Although the gardens are set up for self-guided tours (with a $10 admission fee to cover the cost of annuals, repairs, and maintenance), Deanna says


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they are hoping to host some special events on-site this year and in the future. “John and I don’t know everything about plants, but we want to use the gardens as a venue for professionals who are in the know to pass on information because that’s their area of expertise, like health professionals, photographers, painters, cooks, people who know vitamins, herbalists – all kinds of people are welcome to come and toot their horn and pass on important information to the public.”

There’s an educational component to the Quinte Botanical Gardens, with placards and posters of information for visitors to read. The edible garden presents a great opportunity to teach people about healthy food. “We would like to show by example all kinds of healthy plants people can grow, and that you can garden in a small amount of space.” Deanna envisions hosting a cooking competition involving the edible garden, in which area chefs will only be able to use what is growing in the garden to create a dish.

The rose garden, with its sheltered area and white pillared interlocking stone patio, is also available for outdoor wedding bookings, and a couple of inquiries have already been received.

All the vegetable and herbs grown in the edible garden were started from seed. Visitors are welcome to taste the produce. Deanna and John also harvest some for themselves and last year, they donated a truckload of squash to the Gleaners Food Bank in Belleville.

Memorial plantings are offered for those who want to honour the memory of a loved one, and awspecial dedication garden has been built for soldiers, police officers, and firefighters. 16

COUNTY & QUINTE LIVING SUMMER 2018

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distributed internationally. The gardens are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., six days a week (closed on Wednesdays for maintenance) from May 31 to the end of October. There are washrooms on-site and the gardens are completely accessible. There’s even space for a picnic. Deanna dreams of one day having a butterfly sanctuary registration and of hosting a tulip festival in the spring. She also continues to dream up additional garden designs for the asyet unused portion of the property toward the DOCKET # road, when budget allows. “Don’t tell John, ” she 129-301 says with a chuckle. DOCKET # 129-301tans Deanna and John both have farmers’ and ruddy complexions suggesting a lot of time spent outdoors. At the same time, they portray the contentment of people who have discovered their passion and are living it every day.

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Inspiration in the Sky

SkyBarn reno creates a writing retreat

Story by Kelly S. Thompson Photography by Daniel Vaughan Many of us want to tell a story. Some even say everyone has a story within them. At SkyBarn, home and literary refuge for owners Sarah and Ryan, they help writers do what they were born to do; put words on the page. You see the newly renovated SkyBarn before you arrive, peeking out from the surrounding trees, glowing with warm yellow paint and backlit by nearby Picton. Inside, the barn is several spaces wrapped into one – home, writing studio, workplace, dance hall, yoga sanctuary, library – with artistic details that speak to its owners, Giller-prize-nominated writer Sarah Selecky and her husband of 10 years Ryan Henderson. Together, and in cahoots with


their builder, Peter Sage of renowned Sage Design and Construction, the barn emerged from its reno with new purpose: to provide everyone who enters with the time, space, and desire to live in the moment and connect through the power of the written word.

love for their work? Ryan and Sarah bought a barn, renovated it, and turned it into an epicentre for a wildly successful international writing school.

Sarah and Ryan used to be city dwellers, both employed in Toronto. Sarah, who always loved writing and had a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the esteemed program at the University of British Columbia, had been hosting writing workshops in her home, with students gathered around her living room table to discuss elements of craft and

Sarah had hopes of being a writing instructor, but after a professor told her he felt it was a disservice to teach writing as a career choice – a sentiment Sarah disagreed with – she decided to approach teaching from a different, more compassionate angle. “Then I started to get this seed that, maybe that’s not the only way to teach,” Sarah said. “If you’re

SkyBarn was a dream neither Ryan nor Sarah knew they had.

based on her around-the-living-room table styled model. With Ryan’s help, Sarah set up her digital writing school, Story Is a State of Mind (now Sarah Selecky Writing School) in 2011, creating a then unheard of online platform. The course allows scribes all over the world to workshop their pieces by trading critiques of manuscripts while learning technical skills, like building character and description using the senses. She also started the Little Bird Short Story contest, which has hosted an impressive lineup of literary writers to serve as judge, cementing Sarah’s place on the list

I wanted to build a school around people loving their own work and loving the writing process

skill. Ryan, on the other hand, was an outdoor education teacher who found joy in his job of showcasing Canada’s forests to urban children, some of whom had never interacted with the outdoors before. They loved their jobs, but something was missing. So, what’s a pair to do when craving a slice of country life, yet still captivated by a

called to do it, you can learn the skills.” Sarah of literary masterminds making a business in dreamed of a writing teaching experience the world of CanLit. that was supportive and encouraging while With their program in place and being simultaneously teaching craft. “I wanted to self-admitted wanderlusts, Ryan took a build a school around people loving their sabbatical from his outdoor education job own work and loving the writing process,” and the pair spent time exploring the world, she said. Noticing this type of learning wasn’t observing, and working wherever they had a available, Sarah set out to create it online, all Wi-Fi connection. “Once we had the location

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freedom, we got hooked on that,” said Ryan. The school turned into a huge success, allowing the couple the liberty of travel and life experience, while passing on their knowledge to the next literary generation. “This job also allows us to travel and is in service to all these amazing writers who are excited to learn this craft,” said Ryan. The couple returned to Toronto from their 18 months of exploring, feeling slightly adrift as they returned to work. After the release of her successful book of short stories, This Cake is For the Party, Sarah was invited to speak at a book club. There, she was offered a chance to housesit for one of the members as the owner went away each winter. Sarah spent four winters in the County and soon found the area was more than an escape from the rigours of the city and a quiet space to write. Ryan was also more and more engaged in the online writing school, and as a natural creator himself, he easily slotted into his current role as Program Director of the Sarah Selecky Writing School. Prince Edward County now felt like home, and all Sarah and Ryan needed was the perfect space to move into; but to get the perfect space, it had to be created.

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The couple bought SkyBarn in 2015 when cork floor tiles. Most importantly, nothing it was just a barn, roughed in for the previous feels stuffy or overdone, with a piece of the owner’s vision not yet actualized. They hired owners built into the walls. Every surface is Sage Design and Construction, and owner, a tactile, artistic experience, which was the Peter Sage, quickly got to work. “They had goal all along. “I think I was able to listen particular wants and wishes for the space and then translate the spaces into something beyond the usual residential abode,” said they love,” said Peter. Why call it SkyBarn? Peter. “This allowed us to collectively create Well, not only can the sky be seen from some great multifunctioning spaces that every room but the structure itself reaches will allow them a home for their creative for the stars, higher than any other building pursuits.” After 10 months of renovations, that surrounds it. Ryan and Sarah were finally able to move Staging such a large-scale renovation into their new 3,300 square foot space in might be daunting for some, especially in an June 2016. “We’re more connected to nature antique barn that lacked any real living space. out here. I don’t miss the push of Toronto And yet the structure seems fitting for Sarah, and trying to be on the cutting edge,” said Ryan, and their writing school business. Ryan. They admit to craving an analog life, which Stepping into the oasis of SkyBarn is like they feel is better suited to the mission of the walking into a dream. The duo’s passion school, “To help people become present and for openness and the outdoors is evident observe without judgment and to practice in every corner, from the cozy living space and express empathy within prose and write complete with fireplace and library, to the as healthy writers,” said Sarah. The essence rescued wooden beams. While the main of the mindful writing environment they floor is their living area, the second floor have created requires students to often write is dedicated to offices for both Sarah and with pen and paper, remain present, and Ryan, a gorgeous bathroom, and the library engage with their art on an intimate level. turned cozy reading nook. The top floor is “I love analog because it keeps me closer to open entirely, which has accommodated my body, and when I’m on the computer, everything from guests to writers, yoga mats, I’m detached,” said Sarah. “Everything we and dance classes, all skimming across the do, online, needs to bring people off their

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computers. Our point of being online is to bring people to their bodies.” The effect is an intimate connection with the words on the page and the emotion behind them; key to creating resonance in any piece of writing. True to form, the analog dream is evident in their home; there is no television, blankets are tactile and snuggly, and barn boards are polished to a smooth but rustic feel. It might seem like an oxymoron: two people who love the outdoors and country, hate computers, and yet run an online writing school. Yet clearly, there is a magic ingredient that brings everything together. If light is at the heart of SkyBarn and the origins of its name, then it only makes sense Sarah’s first novel, Radiant Shimmering Light, which released with HarperCollins on May 8, might be the perfect play on words. The novel’s protagonist focuses on an artist who is essentially learning how to brand herself, and examines, as Sarah puts it, “What happens when commodification takes over everything.” The parallels with Sarah’s own artform of writing are all too familiar, with authors now expected to help market their own books. Sarah is a selfadmitted limited user of social media, but she employs it solely to promote the school and her work. At SkyBarn, analog wins every time. Aside from new books going to press, the school itself is thriving and growing, now with

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more than 10 instructors, and students flock from all over the world to learn from one of Canada’s best writers. SkyBarn itself will grow too, with several other phases of expansion planned, including a deck for those lazy sunsets worth writing about. After hosting several online courses and retreats in places like Florida and Florence, Ryan and Sarah hope their barn will be a home for writing retreats in the future, returning to the around-the-living-room table concept. That’s not the only thing on the horizon. Sarah’s passion project, the Little Bird Writing Contest, is now in its eighth year, and this year, local Picton-based publisher, Invisible, will print the collection of longlisted stories produced by the contest. Sarah and Ryan’s SkyBarn creates a roster of writers as well as a community of art-lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Not only are they providing paid working positions in the arts, but they cultivate the artistic dream in others, and having that seed of creation nurtured is a gift amongst any writer. Ryan and Sarah are what happens when two people have a dream actualized, proving that with the right words and the right ideas, literary magic can be made. As long as there’s some Wi-Fi.

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Sandor Johnson:

A Model Winemaker Story by Jennifer Shea Photography by Daniel Vaughan A guided tour of Potter Settlement Artisan Winery north of Tweed combines a detailed explanation of the science of grape growing and wine making in a most unlikely location, and geography and history lessons, too. The tour guide and winery owner, Sandor Johnson, is full of enthusiasm about what he and his family have built on the former dairy farm his great-great-great-great grandparents settled in 1836. This 100-acre property on the southernmost edge of the Canadian Shield is not what anyone would consider wine country. In fact, a large section of the vineyard was previously occupied by a quarry, where a mix of rock and fine sand comprised of multiple minerals was extracted to build highways in the area.

Rock outcroppings of varying colour make the winery’s location uniquely beautiful. The rugged rock formations form a dramatic backdrop for the lush, green vineyards of trellised grape vines. The original wine tasting room is in a gazebo-style building at the crown of the property. The view from there includes the winery building set on top of a large rock formation into which a cave has been blasted for cold storage. The building is adjacent to two large ponds. One of the ponds was dug by Sandor, while the other is an aquifer recharge pond 105 feet deep and fed by an underground river flowing east to west. The exterior of the winery building is awaiting finishing touches, including


The mineral soil gives more complexity and depth and really amps up the flavour profiles.

charred wood siding. This shou sugi ban technique originated in Japan in the 18th century as a way to treat wood and make it weatherproof. It involves charring the surface of the wood to render it a deep charcoal black. Describing the wood siding makes Sandor’s eyes sparkle with delight. He’s excited by finishing details like these that make his winery unique, which it is, in many ways.

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describes his great-great-great uncle Charles Henry Labarge, who owned and operated several cheese factories, including Chateau Cheese in Ottawa. Charles was also an innovator who invented and patented powdered cheese and powdered milk. He sold his cheese factories (in Tweed, Bogart, Otter Creek, and Ottawa) and patents to Borden’s (now Kraft Foods, Chicago) in 1928 for $3 million – about $300 million in today’s dollars – becoming the richest man in Hastings County at the time. The Labarge ancestors were the original owners of the Potter Settlement property in the 1830s.

It is the first and only vineyard/winery in Hastings County and one of the most northern latitude vineyards/wineries in North America. When he began the business, Sandor was teased by other winemakers, Winemaking also runs in the family. “What are you making up there – Chateau “Since day one, with my grandfather making de pine needle?” wine when I was a child and my Dad in the Hastings County is known as the Mineral ’80s and then my kid brother bringing more Capital of Canada, at the apex of goldmines, knowledge with his education, I was there sulphite mines, an actinolite mine, and with them every step of the way. So, 30, 40 limestone mines, all of which were active for years of knowledge making wine, that’s what generations. “The mineral soil gives more I bring. My brother had the education and complexity and depth,” says Sandor. “It really the professional experience. I brought a chef amps up the flavour profiles. It truly fleshes who’s also a mead maker and beer maker out what the grapes give to the wine. This is on board. As a group, including my cellar like a mineral jackpot and it really adds to hands – they’ve been doing this for years our tapestry in terms of our complexity of and they’re family – when you’re in a valley different wines.” His fellow winemakers are for 180 years, you’re related to everybody, so jealous, saying, “Your wines are mineral on I hire a lot of family.” steroids. It’s not fair.” Sandor has an intense attachment to the Why take on the challenge of growing land and the immediate area. As a child grapes and making wine where it had never growing up with his siblings in Hornpayne, been done before? Sandor is an innovator Ontario (northwest of Sudbury in Algoma and doesn’t shy away from a challenge. District), he could not wait for summer Innovation is in his genes. He proudly vacation. Their mother was a teacher and


she brought them south to the family property on Potter Settlement Road for two months each year. “This was always an escape,” says Sandor. “I grew up in northern Ontario. The winters were brutal there. Coming here in the summertime, we were escaping. We were on the family farm. All our cousins were here. They were waiting all winter for us to come down. We’d run around barefoot with the chickens; be up at 6 a.m. to do chores and work at night to do hay.” As Sandor and his three siblings (two brothers and a sister) grew up and pursued various education and career paths, they remained attached to the family homestead. Despite having top marks in science as a student, Sandor was attracted to the arts, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English at the University of Western Ontario. While there, he learned of a modelling call from Ford agency. On a lark, he pursued it. He ended up winning in the men’s category, attracting attention from modelling agencies globally.

This side gig supported his education, including a master’s degree in Journalism and Communications from Carleton University. Sandor worked as a financial reporter for CNN in Tokyo, then worked for other television networks in North America. Modelling was generating more income than his journalism career, so he turned to modelling full-time for almost 20 years. He is the face of many luxury brands and can be spotted on runways in the top fashion capitals around the world. He is represented by 46 modelling agencies and still gets regular calls for modelling jobs. The bonus of travelling around the world routinely is the opportunity to visit winemakers, learn about their techniques, and even acquire some of their yeasts for use at home. The income from his modelling work made it feasible to pursue a winery business.

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a vineyard. That took 10 years and included moving large boulders one by one to build a ramp up to the peak of the land, where the original tasting room was built. Then came the challenge of finding vines that could survive the harsh climate (particularly subzero degree winters) in this location. Sandor first tried European varietals, assuming if grapes could grow in Austria and Germany, they could grow here. For the first several years, every vine died. Through his ongoing research, Sandor found Peter Hemstad, a grape breeder at the University of Minnesota. Peter and his team had developed the Marquette grape in 2006 after pioneering the Honeycrisp apple. “They married European Vitis vinifera with North American varietals from Quebec and ended up having the toughness of Quebec and the disease resistance of our natural grapes that 30

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grow here in North America, but they have yeasts, but he would only work with the best the flavour profiles of France,” says Sandor. of materials. His brother said, “I promise you “It’s a remarkable grape. It’s great because you I’m going to make the best wines of my life don’t have to spray chemicals to keep that for our family, for my grandparents, for you. plant alive. It can handle the cold as well, and Because my reputation is on the line and our you don’t have to bury the vines in the winter.” family reputation is on the line, but I’m going Since the Marquette grape was so new, to need you to be really patient; this is going Sandor was uncertain about whether it would to take a lot of time. And I need you to spend produce a good wine. The first step was see a lot of money.” how it grew in the Potter Settlement vineyard. “It was serendipity,” says Sandor. “All the Planted in 2007, it and the previously planted stars aligned. We have a winemaker in the Frontenac Gris varietal both flourished. family; we have family land in an area with Sandor approached his brother, a chemist high mineral levels adding a lot to the wines; and professional winemaker, with his long- my career took me all over the world where I germinating dream of making wine from could get great winemaking techniques and grapes grown on the family homestead. recipes and yeasts. Being in an area where I His brother was skeptical and admitted he have family; we’re from here. When I’m here had no idea how to make wine out of these working, and my cousins are all here, we’re grape varietals. He agreed to work with thinking of our grandparents. We miss them. Sandor to experiment with styles of wine and We love them. We want to make them – their


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memory – proud. There’s a lot more at stake when you’re a family-owned winery on a property that’s been in the family for 180 years than just showing up and trying to make a buck. That’s where we’re coming from.” The Potter Settlement Marquette wine has not disappointed. It’s the wine Sandor has the most affinity for, “because that’s the one that kind of saved us.” It’s also his biggest seller, and an international award winner. “That is a world-class wine,” says Sandor. “That’s why I was invited to serve Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It holds its own. This is one of the grapes that has promise for Hastings County. We can grow it here. It’s a prolific producer. It makes gorgeous reds. That’s one of the challenges we have in Ontario, especially in the northeast, making big reds.”

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Sandor was also invited to the White House as part of a trade mission for American innovation that spurred economic growth outside of the United States. He had a few moments alone with President Obama. “We had a lovely conversation and within a few minutes, one of his aides came by and said, ‘The President would like your address.’ Then I got this lovely seal and a Christmas card.” The seal, card, and a picture of the pair are framed and displayed proudly on the winery wall.

table were more than convincing. Sandor’s wine work at the edge of the Shield, combined with the hybrids developed at University of Minnesota, have opened a whole new spectrum of potential Ontario grape growing acreage. Potter Settlement makes great wine on a beautiful site.” The winery opened to the public in 2015, and many of Sandor’s wines have been selling out each year. He now offers 13 different wines, most made with grapes grown on the property. When he uses grapes from elsewhere (sustainable growers in the Niagara region), Sandor acknowledges it with the GPS coordinates of where the grapes were grown included on the label, along with signature, meaning he has signed off on the quality of the raw material. Potter Settlement wines now have a bit of a cult following, according to Sandor. People are attracted to his organic approach with no sulphites or pesticides and the unique flavour profiles of his wines. “Being an artisan winery is like being a winery in France or Italy, where you’re small and you’ve got families making it, making small amounts of really good wine. That’s lost in the corporate winemaking world. People are getting kind of tired of bulk wine.” “We’ll always be little,” says Sandor. “I don’t want to be big. There’s beauty in being small.”

Sandor calls his wines artistic creations. “I was a disbeliever when I heard “Being an artisan winery, like painting, our about Sandor producing great wine at wine palette has different colours and Tweed, of all places,” says Peter Ward, a styles you won’t get somewhere else.” founding governor of the National Capital Sommelier Guild and long-time wine Sandor is also all about transparency. critic for The Ottawa Citizen. “The day I Unlike many wineries, he is building a spent with Sandor and time at the tasting new tasting room on the second floor of


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the winery with windows overlooking the production area. He wants his customers to see how their product is made, as messy as that may be. The new tasting room will also include a kitchen where Sandor will display his copper pot collection and where guest chefs will be invited to cook and serve at special functions. A future greenhouse is planned where fresh herbs and vegetables will be grown for use in the kitchen. The new tasting room will be surrounded by the vineyards themselves, so when people visit, they will be totally immersed in the grape growing experience. “We have so much to lose being alone here in this entire County and being the

pioneer. You want to set the bar and set it high.” At the same time, Sandor is working to encourage others to take a risk and invest in grape growing in Hastings County. Two other families have already joined him. He’s hoping to offer seminars about grape growing techniques for the area. “Instead of going through Belleville down to Prince Edward County, I want to see tourists coming north from the 401 to Hastings County. It’s exceptionally pretty here. We’re the ones with the minerals. We have the grapes that can grow. We pioneered them here in Hastings County. I think that we would all benefit.”


Recording artist Ila Vann: In the end, family comes first

Story by Vic Schukov Photography by Daniel Vaughan When she agreed to meet with me, Ila Vann insisted that I come in the afternoon because she slept to noon. The elegant songstress, who had just celebrated her 80th birthday, greeted me with a smile as beautiful as her singing voice, and looked far younger than her age. The first question I asked her was, “Why do you have the sleeping habits of a teenager?” I wanted to hear her laugh and succeeded.

it. Music fills my heart with joy. I always have a song in my heart, and it never goes away.” Ila Harriet Fields (stage name Ila Vann) was born into an impoverished family in the small town of Long Branch, New Jersey. When she was four years old, they moved to Durham North Carolina, a town that was brutally segregated.

“My mother always said to us, you can’t Then, with a pacific voice that seemed say you’re poor. Look at the talent God gave to rise straight up from her heart, she you. I had to stop saying I was poor, but we answered, “Because of the business. My were. At five, I started singing gospel in our mother played piano by ear and taught all church. After that, I sang in every church my sisters and myself to sing gospel. My in the Carolinas and Maryland. My mother brother Hampton played piano and he was booked us all over. We even had our own really good. He played for 34 years with the radio show. I had to stand on a milk crate Mighty Clouds of Joy, a quartet who won to reach the microphone,” she laughed. many Grammy awards. Music,” she paused, “When I was eight, Mahalia Jackson heard taking an emotional breath. “There is me sing in Raleigh and asked my mother nothing like music. Ever since I was a little if I could open for her. I went on the road girl, I could really sing, and I knew I loved professionally with Mahalia for the next


I was just 23 when I recorded with Louis Armstrong. He was such a nice man and so wise. He told me, “You will never make a million in the business because you are so focused on your family, but you will be popular.”

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four years. In Durham, I opened for big names like Sam Cooke, the Coasters, Blind Boys of Alabama, and the Staple Singers.” “At 12 years old?” I asked with a stunned look on my face. She laughed, “Younger than 12. When I turned 13, I told my parents that after I graduated from high school I wanted to move to New York City and sing rhythm and blues. My mother was not happy, but she said if I went I was going to make it.” At 20, Ila left with her sister and shared an apartment just down the street from the Apollo Theatre. “I was so fortunate. I didn’t even have to go to the Apollo. I was working as a waitress on 48th and Broadway, and Sam Cooke came in. He recognized me after I explained to him who I was (eight years older.) I told him I was really interested in recording rhythm and blues, and he said he would be back in a week. He came back with a producer who was very interested recording a young black artist, so we talked. A week later, I was in the studio. A week later I recorded What’s the Matter Baby. It went to number one in England. I enjoyed recording at Liberty because all the writers allowed me to sing the songs as I wanted to.” The biggest writer assigned to Ila was Helen Miller who wrote hits for such artists as Gene Pitney, The Shirelles, Bobby Vee, and Neil Sedaka. “I never copied,” said Ila. “I had my own voice.” Helen Miller fell in love with Ila’s voice and got her into countless recording sessions with big names such as Frank Sinatra, Kenny Rogers, Ray Charles, and Louis Armstrong.

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“She took me under her wing and looked after me. We became close. I considered her my sister. I was so young and meeting all these stars. I was in the studio four times a week. I even turned down work with James Brown and Phil Spector. (They were considered difficult to work with.) I was just 23 when I recorded with Louis Armstrong. He was such a nice man and so wise. He told me, ‘You will never make a million in the business because you are so focused on your family, but you will be popular.’ He was right. I turned down a lot of tours because of my children. I would never leave my family for long. I couldn’t do it. I loved my children too much. I am so thankful I had the sense because my children now tell me how grateful they are I didn’t leave them with a sitter for long periods.” Ila last recorded in New York City in her late 20s with Roulette Records. “Bad news, they paid nobody. I recorded a lot of 45s there.” She asked and was released from her contract. Throughout her 30s, she turned exclusively to live performances close to home, all over New York City where she met her first husband. After 14 years of a loving marriage with four kids, she was suddenly widowed when he was murdered. “After he died, I thought, what am I going to do now? You know, I realized I was talented. A producer in New York gave me the phone number of a booking agent in Jonquiere, Quebec. From there, I toured the province for three years, before meeting my second husband, Gaetan Levesque. I was performing near Bagotville where he was stationed at the military base. He came to hear me sing and told his


brother he had to meet me. His brother said, ‘she’s not going to talk to you.’ He came over and he didn’t speak English very well. I could hardly understand a word he was saying. He told me he wanted to take me out. The next day, he took me and my daughters for lunch.” Three days later, Gaetan was back, with an invitation for Ila. “I have been telling my parents about you and my mother wants to invite you and your daughters (who were travelling with her) to her house for supper,” she recalled Gaetan saying. “I loved it and said okay. He picked us up two days later and took us to the house. His mother was a great cook, but they didn’t speak English at all. Still, I managed to get along with them, and started seeing Gaetan forever.” There were always flowers from him waiting for her at the hotel rooms she stayed in while touring the province. Long distance was tough on the two love birds. He visited her often in New York. Finally, she moved to Quebec three years from their first meeting and got married two years later when she acquired permanent resident status. “I made friends with the base’s padre and his wife Vicky while talking her aerobics classes. The first record she put on was my song. I thought I was going to faint. I asked where she found my record and she said, ‘Oh my God, that’s you?’” The couple came to Trenton in 1987 when Gaetan was posted here. He died in 2002. “I miss him. We loved each other so much, and again I had to ask myself, ‘What am I going to do now?’ My children were all grown up, and my son suffered from multiple sclerosis, which was another reason I wouldn’t take off for a long time. He died in 2010 at 50,” Ila sighed in remembrance.

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Ila continued to perform weekly for the next four years with the R and B Boys out of Belleville. Then, for the next three, she settled into a regular spot at Brandees in Kingston where the owner hired a tight band to back her. There, she met Ian Kojima, the sax player from the Fade Kings, and consequently she did many shows with them before retiring last year. Drummer Dave Impey said, “It was a privilege and an honour to have had the opportunity to perform with Ila over the last few years. Speaking on behalf of the Fade Kings, we all recognized that even after all those years performing she still worked very hard on stage; simply quite inspiring. Ila is the real deal, a true professional with a wonderful

“I have had a long career and I am so grateful I am 80. I am happy with the decisions I made. I loved my first husband and my second husband. I loved my family more than I did my career. They were always more important than me going on tour with any big star, but if I didn’t have music, I would be dead today from thoughts I had when my first husband was murdered and thoughts when my son Emory died so young.” Pausing in solemn appreciation of the riches in her life, she offered advice. “Be kind to people and know how to forgive. Without kindness, joy and forgiveness…you gonna’ walk around unhappy all your life.”

“ ”

I am going to find a church to go to and sing.

rapport with the audience – not afraid of showing her warm personality and great sense of humour. People loved her, and Ila loved them right back.”

“Canadian people are the best in the world for me,” Ila continued. “I fell in love with them in Bagotville. When I came to Trenton I fell in love with them here. They loved me and let me know it. I have been so happy living in Canada and it’s not because of your weather. The people here are so kind.” Speaking with the clarity of a master vocalist and the warmth of a sincere heart, she added,

Ila has finalized plans to move to Richmond, Virginia to live with one of her daughters. “I don’t want to live alone anymore. I am going to find a church to go to and sing. I am going to do some background recording again. Two studio engineers have already approached me. I am going to sing until I die. Music is a part of me forever.” She saved her last interview words for a very special message. “I want to say that I can’t express enough how I love Canadians. I am really going to miss it here.”

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Donini – Old World Chocolate crafted in Quinte Story by Catherine Stutt Photography by Daniel Vaughan Indulgence. There are so many ways to satisfy and indulge in this area home to artists, vintners, brewers, and foodies. Taste, scent, texture, allure. Magic. There are so many ways to find magic, to experience what lies beyond science; what mystery is left unexplained when chemistry and biology have had their say. Terroir. Not the terroir of Prince Edward County’s established wine country – another terroir, as old as the wines, as craved as the nectar.

Chocolate. Yes. Chocolate. Crafted here in the Quinte region. Chocolate. Artisanal chocolate contrived, created, crafted at the hands of a third-generation master chocolatier with four decades of experience, trained as a young man by another master in Italy, enchanted by the ideal of Canada, establishing his own reputation in a modest yet mighty atelier in Belleville. This is not a traditional studio, although certainly it is a creative workspace, renowned for its unique and consistently superior products. Vigilio Salvoni, chocolatier at Donini Chocolate in Belleville, is happy to reveal many of the secrets learned during his


lifetime of taking a few simple ingredients, blending them, and creating one of the most craved delights in the history of the human existence. Maslow would probably add it to his hierarchy of needs – one of the core needs without which the others cannot be achieved. Not to be overly dramatic, but chocolate for many is an essential ingredient to a happy life, and therefore, really good chocolate can be life-changing. At least, that’s Donini’s goal, and has been since the company started in 1950. The Donini family launched the company in Vigevano, a town in the Lombardy region of northern Italy. Nello, the patriarch, worked in chocolate factories throughout nearby Milan, perfecting his craft, adopting what he liked, making changes where he felt they were needed, and developing new ways to enjoy his products. After working for famed chocolatiers, including Ferrero, Nello opened Cioccolato Donini Spa, offering artisan chocolate for everyone to enjoy, with an emphasis on holidays. His specialty was a line of hollow eggs filled with surprises called Sorpresino. He also made chocolate bunnies, and Christmas ornaments like lanterns, snowmen, and Santas, perfectly sized to decorate a tree. Nello took traditional Old World European recipes and made them accessible for all to enjoy. Working in chocolate factories since he was a child, Nello especially wanted children to enjoy his confections. The New World was calling the family, and in 1980, Nello and his son Franco came

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west, settling in Belleville. Vigilio made the move as well, coming to Canada to set up the new site. Other than a change of address, everything remained the same, with three generations of the family involved in the business. Vigilio learned from the master, and when Nello passed away in 1987, he took over as senior manager and head chocolatier, working alongside Franco, who now was the owner and financial administrator of the factory. Franco was lost in a tragic accident in 2006. His experience with the company, the family, and the two worlds offers a glimpse into cultural differences and economic necessity. While still in Vigevano, Donini was exporting the Canada, the United States, and all over Europe. “When we came to Canada, we learned it was a different market,” recalled Vigilio. “When we started here, we tried to introduce what we made in Italy – novelties for Christmas and Easter. Our specialty was hollow chocolate; we quickly learned Canadians like solid chocolate.” Donini quickly adapted and learned there was an extensive market for liquid chocolate, a raw material for companies who would incorporate it into their products, like coatings and fillings, retaining the European style and taste. They added one retail product to the line, making chocolate bunnies for Lions International, and Donini is still the official licencee of chocolate for the organization. “It was a huge part of our business,” smiled Vigilio. “We exported them to Lions Clubs

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around the world. Our chocolate, made in Belleville, went to the Caribbean, throughout Canada and the United States, and we even sent a container to Australia.” The allure of Donini chocolate comes from the simplicity of the process and the complexity of its taste. “At most, we use only four ingredients in our chocolate,” revealed Vigilio. “There is cocoa butter, and cocoa liquor (a blend of the cocoa butter and cocoa solids after the bean is ground – not to be confused with chocolate liqueur, which

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and blending it isn’t feasible. We stick with one source, and we felt the West African region was most consistent with our goals and quality standards,” explained Vigilio. “Terroir isn’t just for grapes; what you grow With so few ingredients, their quality is will breathe the character of where it is grown.” paramount. Vigilio travelled the cocoa world, What Vigilio does with the raw materials one taste at a time, sampling in Brazil, Asia, Central American, and chose a mild cocoa adds to the magic. Currently Donini has 14 from West Africa, with cocoa butter from distinct chocolate formulations – the result the Ivory Coast and cocoa liquor from Ghana. of adjusting the percentages of each of the “We’re a small artisan chocolate maker and ingredients – resulting in three qualities of sourcing our cocoa from multiple regions chocolate – white, dark, and milk. The dairy has alcohol. Cocoa liquor is also known as unsweetened baking chocolate), sugar refined onsite, and sometimes we add vanilla and milk.”


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is sourced within Canada. From couverture – a high grade chocolate made with extra cocoa butter to give it a gloss – to industrial chocolate, which is typically the liquid form provided to wholesale customers, Donini knows the science behind its hundreds of products. Couverture demands a minimum of 32 per cent cocoa butter, but the range is small. “We can go up to 40 per cent, but after that, you can feel it; it becomes waxy,” explained the chocolatier. After blending a formulation, the chocolate churns for 24 hours, slowly moving the ingredients, letting them get to know one another, often in huge batches. A newly acquired milk chocolate machine can make 3,000 kilograms a day. While the chocolate is working, the rest of the plant is busy. Donini imports cane sugar and refines it once more in a specially designed room. “The extra step develops subtle caramelized flavours,” shared Kim Bushell, Donini’s Director of Operations, adding the sugar arrives in 1,000 kg sacks. Working with commodities has its challenges. Dairy, because of the marketing board, is stable and predictable. Vanilla, cocoa, and sugar are commodities and present an unknown factor. A recent worldwide vanilla shortage created a massive rise in its cost.

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Donini adapts. It’s what the family and company does. With the increase in demand for industrial chocolate, Donini began to specialize in products to non-producers. The company makes chocolate confectionary for Ovation, wafers, blocks, and shapes and sizes in demand by pastry chefs. In 2017, Donini produced several million kilograms of chocolate, including almost seven million chocolate inserts for croissants. It also shipped a good portion of its liquid chocolate to other confectionary companies, with more than 80 per cent used by their commercial customers to enrobe almonds. Impressive numbers, but it’s still very much a small batch artisan producer. “We are unique because we are semi-automated, but after a certain stage in production, we’re still hands on,” explained Vigilio. “No two pieces are alike. The chocolate is

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Summer ...starts here Collections . . . Red Coral . . . Renuar . . . Habitat removed from the molds, stacked, packed, and sealed by hand.” In the Donini retail outlet attached to the factory, hundreds of confections delight a visitor, and all are finished by hand. White chocolate is swirled into dark by hand; crushed toffee is added individually; each marshmallow is coated one at a time. The product is highly consistent, but never identical. Donini is available in the wine community, featured at wineries in the County and throughout Ontario’s wine regions. Colangelo’s in Bayside – probably the first winery in the area and a pillar of the local wine scene – carries Donini. “We enjoyed working with Vigilio to develop chocolate for the store,” said Dan Colangelo. “What’s better than wine and chocolate, and it’s just two local Italian family businesses working together.”

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Family to family, and throughout the region, working with the community is paramount to the Donini ethos. They partnered with the local humane society for a fundraiser, making custom molds, which they also did for the City of Belleville and Bay of Quinte Tourism. They work with Gleaner’s Food Bank, donating chocolate and items for raffles. Donini can also be found in disguise. “We produce private label chocolate bars for major grocery chains,” shared Kim. “If you see a store brand in Canada or the eastern United States, chances are we made it in Belleville.”

integrating its clients on the line an hour a day for a week. “We have the flexibility to respond to these opportunities because we are a small family company,” reiterated Vigilio. Through its connection with Quinte Economic Development Corporation (QEDC), Donini found another reason to love being part of the Quinte region. QEDC has been pivotal in our growth,” said Kim. “They present us with opportunities, include us in training sessions, provide introductions and exposure to fellow manufacturers and clients, and enable us to move forward. When we were looking for funding for a new machine, QEDC was there to help.”

With 25 team members – up to 50 during busy seasons – Donini understands the With the world craving chocolate, Donini need to be a good corporate citizen, and found ways to make it accessible to a large to help and ask for help from community consumer base by making it acceptable. partners. The company works closely with The company rigorously sought and keeps Loyalist College, participating in training its Kosher certification and is GMO-free. courses, and offering tours for the summer All products coming into the process are day camps. Donini works with Community confirmed Kosher, tested where necessary for Living Belleville’s competitive work program, GMO, and the everything Donini produces

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is subject to a daily microanalysis. When a finishing ingredient is added to the chocolate, its ingredients are scrutinized as well. Although chocolate has few components, once something is added to the product, the label changes. “A pure chocolate bar might have three or four items on the label, but we bring for the ingredient deck for all the additions as well, and then we need a much bigger label,” noted Kim. The retail store is proof of that. Located at 335 Bell Boulevard on the corner of Hanna Court, it is unassuming from the exterior, and a burst of scents and colour inside, and there is little hint that on the other side of the wall, magic and madness is occurring, huge machines are churning, refining, molding, and creating. What happens behind the scenes at Donini is reflected in the joy of the simple confection that puts a smile on any face. After all, they’re just making chocolate.


signposts The Hilton Breakaway

Story and photography by Lindi Pierce

The Hilton Breakaway We never quite get over them, those ‘natural events’ reminding us our grip on mother earth isn’t so secure after all. The big ones, with their terrible loss of life and property, stay in our memories forever. Closer to home, folks still recall the 1973 Brighton tornado, the 1998 ice storm, the 2017 spring floods. Residents of Hilton, part of the former Brighton Township, can recount their own brush with geophysical uncertainty – the Hilton Breakaway of 1852. The area’s hills of sand and gravel left behind by retreating glaciers were once again on the move.

shallow 100-acre lake which once lay west of today’s County Road 30, its southern extremity close to the HiltonDundonald road (now County Road 21). A high ridge of gravel, once used as a road, dammed the north side of the lake, and a creek flowed eastward from it. The closely drawn contours on the topographical map indicate precipitous ravines along that small steam, now known as Breakaway Creek. Back in the 1850s, the creek powered the sawmills of Lewis Shearer and Willet Simpson.

On April 21, 1852, at 10 in the evening, the lake’s north bank suddenly gave Local forest stewards Bud and Jill way, likely due to underground seepage, Guertin have been known to take a augmented by snowmelt and several visitor on a golf-cart junket through days of heavy rain. With a great roar, their heavily-treed acreage (well over the lake water surged down the valley, 50,000 trees planted during their 50- gouging a deep ravine, tearing into year residency to anchor the sandy soil) sand ridges, careening off gravel banks, in search of the stone steps belonging and spreading over the countryside to the Thompsons, early settlers who downstream. Mill owner Lewis Shearer once lived beside a gentle tributary of and worker John Herrington were killed. Cold Creek. Those steps now lie hidden, Willet Simpson’s house was damaged, 30 feet above today’s creek level; the his barn destroyed, his cattle washed Thompsons wisely moved their timber downstream. The story is unsettling, frame house well back from the edge 166 long years later. Today’s visitor to the site needs maps, after a harrowing experience there. That new foundation adjoins their later brick informed locals, and a keen eye to detect signs of this dramatic long-ago house, where Jill and Bud reside. Bud shows a 1953 aerial photo, Jill event. Thanks to local historians, an displays a topographical map. Each interpretive panel in a small roadside document tells the story of The park at Cedar Creek recounts the story Breakaway. The dark shadow in the of the Hilton Breakaway. photograph shows the location of a

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at h

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me with

COUNTY & QUINTE LIVING SUMMER 2018

’s Alan Gratias


Richard Grant and andSunny Vida Photography by Daniel Vaughan

A home, like a family, has lineage. As a physical structure and shelter, a house’s ancestry is a declaration of its singularity and evolution. My own homestead, Cressy House, on County Road 8, at the eastern reach of Prince Edward County, has welcomed a new custodian. After 20 years I have bid adieu to the old abode. Grant van Gameren, his wife Sunny Stone, both in their thirties, and their one-year-old son, Wylie, have assumed ownership of my Loyalist waterfront farm just below the Rock Cross Road. Grant van Gameren is a celebrated chef and restaurateur in Toronto. I have heard it said the he is the hottest young chef in the Big Smoke. Toronto Life recently named him 38th on their list of the most influential Torontonians. His current collection of restaurants includes Bar Isabel, Bar Ravel, El Rey, Harry’s, Pretty Ugly, and the Tennessee Tavern. In addition, he opened two Mexican eateries this past spring. They are all buzzy kinds of places where the drinks are as important as the food. His wife, Sunny Stone, tall, slender, and beautiful, is his partner in the compulsively hectic life of a couple in the hospitality biz. She, also a chef, quickly came to see how a farm at the far end of the County would be an antidote for the craziness of restaurateur life. She could take up iron-mongering again, their two dogs would have free range, Wylie could learn to swim in the open waters of Lake Ontario, and Grant, well, he could decompress and visit the design gods for his next creations. COUNTY & QUINTE LIVING SUMMER 2018

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We know timing is everything in life. I wanted to downsize and simplify while I had the energy and the health to do it. 56

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Grant has a personal ethos about collaboration and a sharing of wealth. Every restaurant he has opened has been with former employees as partners. “I like helping people grow,” he explains. He has a tattoo on his stomach that reads, “½ Mine ½ Yours.” It came from his days as a broke cook, working at Il Fornello. “If we had one cigarette, we’d share it. By making staff owners, you have someone who really cares about the business,” Grant contends. In reality this means Grant and Sunny can be off to new ventures, like Cressy House, knowing the details and day-to-day stewardship of the restaurants can be left to another owner. I wasn’t sure at first. About selling. About the next chapter. Then one day he came down the road on a cold hard day in April. This stranger, Grant van Gameren, stood in the drizzle, taking it all in. The quiet and the serenity. The vineyard and the field of lavender. A village of reconstructed buildings and barns at the water’s edge, more Mediterranean than Canadian Shield. He stood there at the circular dry-stone wall in a trance of wonder. Grant van Gameren, handsome and confident, two sleeves of tattoos under black leather, came right to the point. “This is for me.” We know timing is everything in life. I wanted to downsize and simplify while I had the energy and the health to do it. After a few visits with Grant I became convinced he would be a trusted legatee, he and Sunny would be good custodians of Cressy House and the house-tree would have a vigorous new branch. We quickly agreed on terms, and a late closing meant I had time to attack the job of deconstructing a lifetime of acquisitions. Grant and Sunny, of course, have their own style-stamp, I quickly realized, as distressed leather sofas, oversized

harvest tables, and more than several antler heads began filling the vast empty spaces of Cressy Longhouse, the guesthouse, and the main house. Pearl button white has been replaced by fresh green on the walls, and my French country sensibility reads more northern hunting lodge. All different, but pleasing and geared to a younger generation. One of the reasons the van Gamerens’ restaurants have received such fanfare and accolades (“drop-dead gorgeous tapas bar”), is their ability to appeal to a millennial aesthetic. I have been invited for dinner several times at Cressy House to savour the charcuteries and rare-cut meats that became Grant’s signature approach at his famous first bistro, The Black Hoof. “People remember the experience and the feeling as much as the food,” Grant sums up. As Joanie and I depart the laneway for the last time, we wave farewell to Sunny who is painting the front hall, and to Grant who is building outdoor tepees to hold firewood for the plethora of fireplaces. She in a tank top and jean shorts, and he in a dark singlet and skinny Levi’s, are the picture of rural adventurers. Both keep an eye on the two dogs bounding about, and on Wylie who is learning to walk. Our bittersweet exit on this perfect May 1 moving day is interrupted when the moving truck gets stuck in the soft grass of the orchard, churning up deep ruts of mud. Grant points out a broken truck on moving day brings good luck. Something like breaking a leg on opening night at the theatre. With the newly created Waupoos flag tied to the antennae, we turn left onto County Road 8. In the rearview mirror, Grant and Sunny, young, focused, and bursting with energy, go back to work creating their country home, like their restaurants another warm, comfortable space nobody wants to leave.

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S A I TA RG ’S G R AV I TA S Q U O T I E N T Gravitas Quotient is a measure of o n e ’s r e s e r v e s o f i n n e r w i s d o m .

Name one universal rule of friendship? Be a cutter-of-slack. What makes your heart stand still? Lake Ontario in a storm. Acts of sacrifice. My wife. If you knew the truth, how would you reveal it? Slowly. Most of the time our fantasy version of the truth is a happier place anyway. We all hope there will be one more time. One more time for what? To dance with my Grandmother. To play road hockey. To hold a newborn child in my arms. The list is loooong. If you were going to launch a new prohibition, what would you outlaw? Broccoli…because then kids would take up eating it around age 16. How would you like to rewire your brain? I’d rustproof it. If you were to ask for divine intervention, what would it be for? To bring world peace, end hunger and stop climate change…or maybe just to let me beat my brother at Scrabble. Give one example of life’s absurdities? Blackflies. Why do we sometimes crave chaos? For the same reason that, as kids, we all enjoyed destroying our Lego houses as much as building them. How do you stay clear of the rocks and shoals? Get a map. When they say, ‘Follow the fear,’ what fear are you following? Fear of failure. Why should we hang onto our illusions? It amounts to choosing the better story. Read Life of Pi. Martel explains it better than I ever could. When do reality and fantasy merge? In the moment future becomes present. The best example of this is the moment a baby is born. Nine months of fantasizing becomes concrete in an instant. How do we get to the authentic self? Accept that you are flawed. What is your favourite recipe for unhappiness? Start with a pound of no sleep. Toss in a couple ounces of no exercise. Then add a dash of self-doubt. How can we escape the trap line of our own obsessions? The line between obsession and passion is a fine one. Be thankful you care enough about something to be treading somewhere near that line.

Photo by Daniel Vaughan

Anthony Lemke answers 16 Gravitas Questions with Alan Gratias

About Anthony A fixture on Canadian and international screens, Anthony Lemke has a diverse collection of credits to his name that span over 15 years as a leading actor in the Canadian film and television industry. For the past three years, he starred as the sarcastic mercenary, Three, in SyFy TV’s hit series Dark Matter. Earlier this year, Anthony joined the cast of the hit NBC/CTV series Blindspot, in a recurring role as Victor, a charming and dangerous fixer working for a questionable organization. Other projects include the hard-driving Detective Sergeant Brian Becker in CTV’s The Listener; a two-season arc on Bravo’s award-winning cop drama 19-2; as well as numerous multiple episode arcs and guest star appearances on shows like the sexy, supernatural series Lost Girl, the absurd college-comedy Blue Mountain State, and the hit-cop drama Flashpoint. Anthony’s work in French-Canada includes regular and recurring roles on some of Quebec’s most popular, award-winning television shows including Les hauts et les bas de Sophie Paquin, Mirador, Mémoires Vives, Ruptures, and 30 Vies. In November 2015, Anthony was designated as an ambassador for Humanity and Inclusion (HI), an independent aid organization working in situations of poverty and exclusion in regions such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Laos, Cambodia, and the Republic of South Sudan. Anthony’s relationship with Prince Edward County began as a detour from his regular Toronto-Ottawa, Highway 401 pilgrimage. “After the kids arrived, our detours became more frequent, drawn by Wellington’s waterfront park and the charming Tall Poppy Café. Then came the weekend trips, then the cottage. In 2014, we jumped into PEC with both feet and moved to Wellington.” One last question. What secret of a successful marriage would he like to share? “All I can tell you is what’s helped us get this far: being surrounded by a strong community of friends and family; experiencing new challenges Editor’s note: Anthony was featured in the CQL Summer 2016 issue.

By Alan Gratias

Discover your Gravitas Quotient at www.gravitasthegame.com


County and Quinte Living Magazine Summer 2018  

County and Quinte Living Magazine Summer 2018

County and Quinte Living Magazine Summer 2018  

County and Quinte Living Magazine Summer 2018

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