People with the exacting standards of top winemakers usually prefer their changes in small, controllable increments. But Poplar Groves’ Executive Winemaker Ian Sutherland is grinning these days, excited at all that has been accomplished on the Munson Mountain site.

“It’s been a big month for us,” he said in July, in what surely what must be the understatement of the year.

July saw the opening of the fabulous Vanilla Pod Restaurant adjacent to glass-front tasting room and wine shop. Just down the hill is the new Monster Vineyard winery and tasting room. If Sutherland is happy, customers are ecstatic, judging by the number of vehicles to be found in the parking lot and on the roadside during opening hours.

Sutherland said the partnership with Vanilla Pod wasn’t in the original plan.

“We had the space but had to renovate the building to accommodate more guests,” he explained.

With 100 acres of Poplar Grove vineyards now planted and 70 of those in full production Sutherland, with a well-earned reputation as one of the province’s most accomplished winemakers, has plenty of fruit to work with. The same dedication to quality remains, though. Poplar Grove red wines can spend two vintages in barrels and another two years the bottle, to be released only when they are deemed ready for customers who expect nothing less than the best.

Sutherland has a clear vision for Poplar Grove—classic “very serious” wines; “we focus on the pursuit of excellence.” With Monster Vineyards, the goal is “more fresh and cheerful, fruit-forward wines”

For visitors who were used to the old Poplar Grove, where shelves were empty for most the year, expanded production has been a welcome treat. And the Wine Club has plenty of options for those who just can’t get to the brilliant new facility on a regular basis.

Photo: Executive Winemaker Ian Sutherland.

~ Lorne Eckersley