Members of APROMEX in Metro Detroit visited the vineyards of Pelee Island on August 20th. The tour was organized by the Consulate of Mexico in Leamington, Ontario, in collaboration with the vineyards´ administrator. This is the second visit by the group of Mexican professionals. In 2010, the members of APROMEX visited Point Pelee National Park, led by the park ecologist, Mexican biologist Dr. Leonardo Cabrera, as well as the Great Northern Hydroponics Plant in Kingsville, that employs several Mexican agricultural workers. The delegation was accompanied by the Mexican Consul in the Leamington and his staff,
This year, the APROMEX representatives met with the 41 Mexican agricultural workers on the island, and were able to speak to them about their living and working conditions under Canadian law. The Canadian Temporary Workers Program allows workers with good standing to renew their work visas and to come back to work in Canada every year. The Mexican workers live and work on Pelee Island from April to October, and some of them have been coming back for 18 years.
Pelee Island is an interesting place due not only to its famous vineyards, but also to its historical importance. It has the oldest lighthouse on Lake Eire, dating back to 1833, and has 500 acres under vine that produce award-winning wines. The Pelee Island Heritage Centre researches, collects, and preserves the evidence of the Island’s human history, and the island’s popular winery boasts of an antique European grape press originally property of the Royal Family in England. Pelee Island is where the first commercial wine growing operation began in Canada in 1866 through the opening of the old VinVilla winery.
The modern Pelee Island Winery produces several varieties of grapes, ranging from Chardonnay to Musca to make different wines. Some of its specialties include the Lighthouse Cabernet Franc VQA Ontario, a Secco Sparkling wine, and its famous “ice wine”, produced only in Canada on a regular basis, with sporadic production in Germany.
“The island location is what allows us to produce such good wine”, explained Canadian tour guide, wine expert and Paralympic champion at the German Open Swimming Championships in Berlin in 2008, Joey Barker. “We are on the same latitude as Northern California, and the island climate – classified as Carolinian – is one of the mildest in Canada. But, in order to produce ice wine on Pelee Island, specific conditions are required. We need to have five consecutive days of minus 12 degrees Celsius, and even then, only the best grapes can be used. In fact, when crushed, only one drop of juice is obtained per grape. Our production of ice wine is exported mostly to China and Japan”.
It is interesting to notice that not even this tiny island is immune to the effects of immigration.