Wednesday April 3, 2024

Women In Fermentation

Original blog by Tourism Windsor Essex

In Windsor Essex, a dynamic group of women are making significant strides in the fermentation industry. From craft breweries to renowned wineries and cideries, these talented individuals contribute diverse expertise, shaping a vibrant local fermenting community to inspire future generations. Read on to learn more about the passion and energy that is effervescent in these leading ladies.


Sprucewood Shores Estae Winery ~ Tanya Mitchell

Tanya Mitchell has been the first and only Winemaker of Sprucewood Shores since 2004, shortly after attaining a degree in Chemical Engineering at McMaster University and garnering experience in Australia and Niagara.

Tanya’s winemaking philosophy has developed in to one that is strongly influenced by her technical and experience based background and an understanding that wine is an artistic expression. Her focus is on delivering a balance of minerality, acidity, fruit, and finesse in her wines. Tanya strives to always produce a quality driven and versatile list of wines that suit a range of tastes.

With twenty two years of winemaking experience, Sprucewood Shores wines have the guarantee of quality that comes from an experienced business owner pouring her passion into her craft.

Construction began in 2002, and in 2004 their first wine was produced. It was a short crop that year, they handpicked everything, and only produced small batches, which Tanya says was “interesting doing all of that for the first time, but I fell in love with winemaking and I decided this is what I wanted to do for the business.” It’s a perfect fit for someone who studied chemical engineering and enjoys logistics, production processes, and the science behind wine.

Each year Sprucewood Shores produces around 15,000 cases of wine.

Colio Estate Winery ~ Allison Christ

Allison Christ, winemaker at Colio Estate Wines, began fostering her skills in winemaking with an Honours BSc. in Chemistry/Mathematics from the University of Windsor, followed by harvest experience in both small and large winery settings, as well as a President’s position at the Windsor Essex Chapter of the Ontario Wine Society.

Allison brings her passion to all facets of cellar and winery operations with a focus on harvest, fermentation, blending and bottling.

Allison’s current favourite Colio produced wine: “Currently it’s the Hopetown Sauvignon Blanc, I’ve always been a big fan of SB from Ontario.  It’s so unique and can be so tropical, it’s perfect as we go into summer.”

What Alliison thinks makes the LENS (Lake Erie North Shore) wine region so special: “The LENS region is really special due to the warm southern Ontario sunshine and the people that make up the region, the producers are very passionate about building up the region.”

Muscedere Vineyards ~ Melissa Muscedere

Melissa has played an integral role in the local Wine Industry since 2011. Following her 2009 graduation with degrees in Biochemistry and Teaching, she joined the family business, Muscedere Vineyards, on a full-time basis. Muscedere Vineyards is a small, family-owned and operated vineyard and winery, they produce 3000 cases annually, all distributed exclusively through their onsite retail store. Melissa, currently sits as the Past President of the Essex Pelee Island Coast Growers Association, and remains active within the EPIC Events Committee. She oversees the day-to-day operations at Muscedere Vineyards, and works closely with her brother Rob to craft the small lot award-winning wines the winery is known for making. Collaboratively they create 9 small lot vintages yearly ranging in 40 case lots to 400 case lots. Their passion sticks their Italian roots in creating bold reds that are true to varietal character and patio worthy whites. Most recently, their 2021 Cabernet Franc secured a Gold Medal at the 2023 All Canadian Wine Championship, while both their 2020 Merlot and 2020 Meritage received Bronze medals at the 2023 WineAlign Nationals Competition.

Kingsville Brewery ~ Vanessa Pilon

Vanessa started in the fermentation industry as a tasting bar tender at Oxley Estate Winery. While she was finishing her Chemical Laboratory Technology diploma at St. Clair College and had the privilege to partner with Oxley Estate Winery to conduct her Technical Research project on sulphite testing in wine. Vanessa was also able to gain experience helping with the harvest which she loved.

After graduation, Vanessa worked as a Technical Analyst in the Quality Control department at Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd. and onto Warehouse Coordinator helping to manage the 1.6 million barrels warehoused on site.

After Hiram Walker & Sons Vanessa moved to Muskoka Brewery as the Quality Control Technician, it was here she found her passion for beer. After a move back home to Windsor Essex, Vanessa met the amazing people who work at Kingsville Brewery, and found her new home. Vanessa is currently working towards her Masters in Brewing and Distilling.

Everyone always asks, “Did you ever think you would end up as a brewer?” Vanessa’s answer is always the same, no. “When I started with chemistry, I never knew it would lead me to brewing and I’m so happy that it did.”

“My favourite thing about brewing is that it’s a perfect blend of art and science, you have to be creative to develop a recipe but then you have to apply the science to get the final product you want.”

Vanessa encourages everyone to explore the brewing world whether you brew it, enjoy drinking it or are new to it there is something for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a man, a woman or part of the LBGTQ2S+ community, if you like beer you are part of the beer and brewing community!

The Little Cider Co. ~ Mary Beth Little 

Mary Beth is often asked, Why Cider? She replies: Well, we like it and we have apples. It is really that simple.

Mary Beth initially started making cider in her basement a number of years ago to see if she could. She thought, how hard can it be and we had lots of apples to experiment with. And what do you know? It was successful and better yet, it was drinkable!

So the next year, Mary Beth made more. She tried using different types of apples, gala, macintosh, golden delicious, empires and a few others to see what they are like as single varietals. Some did not make the cut. The best apples for cider need to have a good balance between acidic and sweet. Not enough acid, tastes terrible, not enough sugar, tastes terrible. Every year was a new and different variety and combination. She was hooked. She loved seeing what what came from the different combinations and blends.

Once Mary Beth got the hang of making a ‘normal’ cider, she started experimenting by adding different ingredients like cranberries and hops. Turns out, those were good too. She was on to something.

At this point, her parent’s cellar was more cider than preserves because experimenting is the part she loves most. So what’s a girl to do? Cidery.

Starting a cidery isn’t easy, fast or cheap. It literally took about 6 months to get all the government papers. The cidery store is a modified storage container and the fermentation equipment, gets moved when the barn is in use with asparagus, melons, peaches and whatever else happens to be going on. Not an ideal situation, it works! The best part is, that cider is typically made over the winter, when the barn is empty… which means, no sharing!

Mary Beth has many plans for the future!

Carolinia Cider Co. ~ Janelle Balsille

Janelle is a Certified Pommelier (only 1 of 5 in Canada currently) – Pommeliers are certified cider experts who have the skill to identify apple flavours based on region and style and classify them as having a bittersharp, bittersweet, sweet or sharp taste.  Janelle currently farms on her family orchard. She is the Owner/Cidermaker at Carolinia Cider Co. and consults at Heeman’s Cellar. Janelle graduated from the Niagara College Winemaking & Viticulture program and has worked around the province at wineries and cideries before starting her own in 2023. Janelle started making cider as a hobby with her dad in her early 20s and now makes estate grown, small batch, varietal hard ciders on their orchard based cidery in the heart of the Carolinian forest at the home of The Fruit Wagon. Carolinia Cider Co. is open daily May to December. All Carolinia Cider is from fruit grown, pressed, fermented, blended and filtered right on the farm. Emphasizing small batch quality.

The Beerded Dog Brewing Co. ~ Ellie Gurdebeke

Ellie just started in brewing a couple of years ago after the pandemic gave her an opportunity to start fresh! She has always been passionate about beer and brewing and after getting in touch with a fellow female brewer, Tammy Joho she was connected to an opportunity with The Beerded Dog. The last couple of years have been a great learning experience and Ellie is thrilled to be so well supported by Kim and Rae, owners of The Beerded Dog. She’s been lucky to be able to put out some fun new brews lately and invites you to stop in to try them for yourself!


Explore the beers these brewers are creating along the Barrels Bottles & Brews trail with The Flight Log– a self guided tour of the Windsor Essex #BarrelTrail.  There are three purchase options based on how you want to explore including a 1 day and 7 day passport, or you can become a Frequent Flyer and get a years worth of tastings & exclusive offers. Check out the three purchase options here – all available for use digitally from your smart phone.

Discover the bold reds and crisp whites that the winemakers of the Essex Pelee Island Coast (EPIC) Wineries are creating. Check out to plan your tasting route with authentic itineraries, trip inspiration and purchase your EPIC Digital Wine Tasting Pass.


Try a unique meal from @fandb_restaurant! Whether you wine and dine or go out for a quick meal, we`ve got you covered when it comes to variety. Explore our foodie options at #YQG #WindsorEssex #DiscoverON #DiscoverYQG #DiscoverCanada #OntSouthwest #dineyqg #foodie ...

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Splash into the warmer weather with some outdoor adventure! Try kayaking, canoeing or stand-up paddle boarding across our three amazing bodies of water. For a full list of beaches and rental options, visit our website! 🛶 #YQG #WindsorEssex #DiscoverON #DiscoverYQG #DiscoverCanada #OntSouthwest


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Farm in The City is just one week away! On May 25th, get an up-close peek into farm life at the Downtown Farmers Market. This free event features 10+ experiences to educate on agriculture, animals and where our food comes from. Don`t miss out! #YQG #WindsorEssex #DiscoverON #DiscoverYQG #DiscoverCanada #OntSouthwest ...

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