This spring, I helped Mike pick wild lilacs for the Madonna Vermouth. (I bet you were thinking of something other than vermouth when you saw this title, right?)
It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon. Audrey was spending time with Grandma in the winery while we were out in the backfield scouting out 4 large buckets worth of the headily aromatic flower.
I watched him as he reached high for the flower clusters in the trees, and I couldn’t help but think to myself how much I loved him. I often find small, simple moments such as this to be the ones where I find myself reflecting on my love for him. He has opened my eyes to a whole new world, a new way of living and a new way of loving. I get to enjoy my passions and dreams – motherhood and running a successful Toronto matchmaking service – but I also get to be a part of his journey, and for that, I am grateful every single day. In my wildest dreams, I couldn’t have imagined this would be my life.
We went on to pick wild lilacs for about two hours and brought the buckets back to the winery building to get them quickly into the wine while they were at their freshest.
You are probably scratching your head, wondering what I am talking about. Do you know anything about Vermouth? I am happy to the explain in more detail:
Vermouth is a type of fortified wine that is flavoured with botanicals such as flowers, herbs, and spices. The recipe for vermouth is vastly different between brands, and this is what makes it so fascinating. You might recognize some of the bigger brands of Vermouth – Martini and Rossi, Dolin, Dubonnet, Cinzano … there are a lot of them. In Europe, it is the aperitif of choice. In fact, if you ask for a ‘martini’ just about anywhere in Europe, they will ask you if you want “rosso or bianco” (red or white). They don’t recognize our penchant for just a few drops of the stuff in the gin or vodka cocktail that we (in North America) call a Martini! It can be sweet (red vermouth is quite sweet), or dry (white vermouth is generally lower in sugar, though not completely dry), but whether you mix it in a cocktail like a Manhattan or a Negroni or serve it over ice with a twist of lemon, it’s always a delight.
Mike started making vermouth last year. It was a project he was really excited about, and it was a huge success. He likes making unique wines that allow him to be creative and experimental, that’s kind of his thing.
Traynor “the Madonna” Vermouth is white and dry, made with 20 locally farmed and foraged botanicals. Some of the ingredients include fresh-picked lavender from Prince Edward County, foraged chamomile, juniper berries, wild lilac, sumac, hyssop, and much more.
As for the wine component, still wine is blended with grape distillate (brandy, essentially) to raise the alcohol level and get it ready for the botanical infusion.
As quickly as possible after picking, before the fresh herbs and flowers go bad, we put the botanicals into buckets of wine and steep them like tea. The point is to get the fresh aromas and flavours into the wine. After a period of time and following numerous taste tests, the buckets are then blended and bottled which makes for a deliciously fresh and crisp vermouth.
It’s a fan favourite at the winery, but what I enjoy most about it is how it represents my husband – his creativity, his love for wine, his own mother (it’s named after his mother, Donna), and what Mother Nature herself has blessed us with.
Read Mike’s personal story about how The Madonna Vermouth came to be right here, and don’t forget to pick some up next time you’re in Prince Edward County!