Here at Sarilia, we’re lucky to be surrounded by great shops, services and other amenities in nearby Langham, Borden and Dalmeny. It means we don’t have to drive into Saskatoon for a haircut, a massage, or a dentist appointment, and we don’t need to go far to find a grocery store, greenhouse, restaurant, pharmacy or even a bowling alley. The latest addition to the area is the charming Three Beans Café in Langham. Oh, and did we mention we have a cherry orchard next door?
And in a few years, we’ll be able to add a vibrant new vineyard to that list. Just a short drive from Sarilia, Nadine Ness and her husband Jonathan, have planted over two acres of grapevines, and they plan to plant more each spring until the vineyard covers about 14 acres of their land.
We recently chatted with Nadine to learn more about their plans, and what people can expect to see sprouting up at Ness Vineyards in the coming years.
What kind of grapes are you growing at Ness Vineyards?
They are cold weather varieties—hybrids. A lot of the ones we are growing are the same varieties that they’re growing in Minnesota, so they should handle our winters.
We haven’t had a winter yet though. We’ve been growing some in our backyard in Osler and they’ve been doing really well. We’ve been experimenting with some of them—we’ve got about 1,200 plants now but we’re going to be growing probably 2-4 acres more per year until we get to about 14 acres. We are going to be growing table grapes as well.
What makes this area ideal for growing grapes?
If you look at the acidic level—or the soil pH level—required for growing grapes, we need 6.1-6.7 and if you look at the map of Saskatchewan, there’s only a small portion where you can find that. It starts in the Langham area south of the river and it has that perfect acidity level.
We also needed river water to irrigate because the well water is too basic and has too many minerals. We also needed the downhill slope, because we needed the angle of the sun to be right. The other side of the river wouldn’t have worked.
The other thing is, a lot of the dirt that we’re growing in is sandy and rocky soil, which, for growing anything else is not ideal, but for growing grapes it’s actually the most ideal situation.
We also wanted to be close to Saskatoon because we’re planning on eventually having a wedding venue space that can also be used for corporate events.
What will the venue space look like and when will it be ready?
We want it to be something that can accommodate bigger events because, in Saskatoon, there’s a huge lack of that. Most places can only accommodate 200 people and I would like to accommodate groups up to 300 or 350.
We want it to feel like a castle. It’ll be a lot of stonework and wood beams, with a tower as well. We want it to be theplace to get married around Saskatoon—a higher-end experience. That’s our goal.
We’ll be adding some high-end single bedroom cabins as well. In the winter, it will be an awesome place to go for a romantic getaway, with an ice rink and a real wood fireplace in your cabin—similar to the experience you get when you go to Banff—we want to bring something like that to Saskatchewan.
The venue space will be called Chateau Ness.
Will you live there as well?
We’ve got 222 acres, and we’ll be building our home about half a mile from the venue. I think we’re going with a plantation-style home, but we haven’t finalized our plans yet. We’re working on that now and we plan to start building this fall.
When will the vines be established enough to produce wine?
The winemaking won’t start for 3-4 years. We still have to plant more—with two acres you don’t get that much wine! So, the more we plant, the more it’ll grow each year, but we should have our first harvest in three years. In the meantime, I’m taking classes in viticulture and oenology.
Do you plan to offer wine tastings?
Yes, we’ll probably have a little boutique where you can come and try the wine as well as purchase the wine. We’ve thrown around the idea of having a restaurant but that’s not in our current plans. However, we will have a fully functioning kitchen available for the venue space and have seating available for a restaurant, but that won’t be for awhile if we were to decide to proceed with a restaurant.
How do you envision your operation ten years from now?
In 10 years, I would say we will have a venue space out there and we’ll have cabins as well, and like I said, possibly a seasonal restaurant.
Another thing we may get into is grazing some animals—so possibly some buffalo, but that would be on the second quarter, not the first quarter adjacent to Sarilia.
We might also have a u-pick option at some point for the table grapes, once those are established.
How are the vines doing so far?
We thought they weren’t doing very well, but then we went to Nova Scotia a couple of weeks ago and toured the vineyards there. We learned some tricks and tips on how to get them ready for the winter, and ours are doing just as well if not better than the ones in Nova Scotia.
Tell me about the trip to Nova Scotia. Was it purely for research purposes?
Yes. We toured about 11 vineyards. We also visited some vineyards in New Brunswick because they’re a bit colder climate than Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. It was really neat to see how the vineyards are doing and we got a lot of really good information—we sat down with a lot of the owners. Eventually we’ll be travelling to Minnesota to see the vineyards down there as well.
Q. A lot of people are curious about the vineyard and are interested in having a look. Will you be providing tours in the future?
A. Yes. Once the vines are established, we’ll be providing guided tours. At this early stage, the vines are very delicate, and well-meaning visitors could potentially bring contaminants in with them, which could—unfortunately—harm the plants. It’s a brand new nursery, so we have to protect the biosecurity of the vines until they’re more established. We’re really excited to be able to share our vineyard with visitors once it’s safe to do so. We encourage anyone who is interested in a guided tour to contact us at email@example.com.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your new venture?
It’s a family-owned business. It’s going to be owned by my husband and me, and eventually our kids will be put to work—right now they’re a little too young. We have a 10-year-old, a 5-year-old and a baby on the way.