The Birth of a Winery
by Cindy Mark
If you can dream it, you can do it. Sacha and John Squaires are living proof. As the owners of Three-Dog Winery, Sacha and John made their initial jump into the winery business back in 1998 when they purchased a 100-acre property with a south-sloping hill and plenty of room for vines. With no house on the property, the Squaires’ spent their weekends camping out while they worked the land and planted vines. They quickly discovered, however, that trying to manage a vineyard on the weekends was just too much, so began the search for a home in The County. Their search ended with a circa 1874 church, that they have since renovated into their loving home. “We just fell in love with it,” says Sacha.
Next, Sacha and John both finished with their jobs in Toronto and started the process of re-inventing themselves in The County. John started his own vineyard management company looking after three to four different vineyards and making wine for a couple of them. Having been an amateur winemaker since the early ’90s, John had also completed courses through UC Davis and now started making wine on a larger scale. Sacha initially tried her hand at an antique store, then eventually went to work in Kingston in social services and then, later, studied yoga, which has since blossomed into her passion. She now runs Indigo Yoga Studio in Rosehall and feels that she has the best of both worlds. “Yoga and wine: does it get any better?” says Sacha.
In June of 2013, the Squaires’ hosted a planting party with over 100 volunteers that came from Orangeville, Gatineau, Ottawa, Kingston and all points in between. With support from four other wineries, a beer and a cider company, as well as local bakeries and restaurants, their planting party was a smash hit. There was food and drink for everyone, T-shirts and even a film crew that made a short video of the entire day. This launched their Indiegogo campaign where they raised over $10,000 towards the winery building. (Indiegogo is a crowdfunding platform on the Web).
Up until that point, John and Sacha had been able to plant 2½ acres of vines, but 5 acres is the minimum requirement to open a winery. With those volunteers, the final 2½ acres of 2,500 vines were planted in 2 hours—literally faster than the equipment can plant. Those volunteers are now considered the founding (a.k.a. family) members of Three-Dog Winery. “We couldn’t have done it without them,” says John. “If you want to move something forward, get the community involved.”
With vines planted and buildings up, the Squaires’ were able to process their first harvest on site this past September. Self-confessed “Pinot nuts,” the first 2½ acres of vines are a mix of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Baco Noir and Vidal, with the last 2½ planted as more Baco and Vidal as well as some Geisenheim, a German hybrid.
They currently have a delicious patio sipper called DogHouse White at a very accessible $12.95 and a great DogHouse Red that pairs beautifully with anything from pizza to BBQs, and a soon-to-be-released Gamay and Pinot Grigio. The DogHouse Rosé coming in June will make it just in time for their Grand Opening on June 14, and everyone is invited!
The Squaires’ would like their guests to feel free to walk the beautiful paths or sit and have a glass of wine on the deck overlooking the vineyard. With over 5 kms of trails, this is definitely dog-friendly territory, and both John and Sacha are adamant that their wine—and their property—be enjoyed by all.
Their first real day of business in the tasting room was during Maple in the County where they had over 600 visitors come and enjoy a walk to the sugar bush and a glass of wine by the open outdoor fire, that also included marshmallow roasting.
“We want people to come, bring a picnic lunch, sit on the deck and enjoy a glass of wine, walk with their dog on one of the trails and just enjoy the sun, like we used to do when we first came,” says Sacha.
John echoes that sentiment. “We have over 100 acres and we want it to be used,” he says. “Our aim is to be a winery that has approachable wines that everyone can enjoy. Rather than buying one expensive bottle for that one special occasion, I want people to come and buy two bottles of our wine, drink them, and then come back tomorrow to buy two more.”