Neil and Gwen Lamont, owners of Coffin Ridge Vineyard and Winery, began their grape growing journey in 1999. The vineyard was the brainchild of Neil who, upon settling with Gwen in the Owen Sound area to begin his surgical practice, realized as he traveled the road between Owen Sound and Balaclava, that there were an abundance of wild grapes growing around the area. Neil’s curiosity had provoked him enough that he had soon planted two hundred plants around the side and back of their house. Gwen didn’t pay much attention to the new hobby, thinking that the plants would perhaps not survive the harsh winters in Grey County, or at the most they would survive and Neil would learn to make wine, as a hobby. Neil was very excited the next spring when he discovered that many varieties had not only survived but thrived. The Baco Noir was one of the hardiest, along with Foch and Prairie Star. When the first five acres were planted using the Tom Sawyer method Gwen suddenly realized this was serious business. Friends and family came in droves to help plant and tend the vineyard. Gwen remained skeptical until she tasted the first glass of wine made from their grapes. Gwen eventually retired from private practice and spent several years, along with Mark Berner of Berner Construction, designing and overseeing the building of the winery.
The vineyards are carefully tended using sustainable viticultural methods with no insecticide use and careful attention to soil management. With the help of our consultant, Dr. Kevin Kerr of Kerr Crop Management, Coffin Ridge is growing healthy and thriving grapes which have translated into award winning wines. We believe that good wine has a way of enhancing the celebratory nature of food and relationships. Neil and Gwen have done an extraordinary amount of research into cold climate grapes and have carefully chosen varieties that thrive in Grey County’s clay soil and frigid climate. Just as carefully, they have chosen a team of people to help them produce the finest quality artisanal wine.
THE TEAM CONSISTS OF
MICHAEL TODD: Michael has been with Coffin Ridge since 2006. He is a graduate of Ridley College in St. Catharines and Sheridan College in Oakville and is the Manager and Chief Operating Officer of both the Vineyard and the Winery. Mike comes with a diverse skill set that has proven to be an exceptional asset to both the growing of grapes and the making and selling of wine. Mike is the driving force behind all that happens at Coffin Ridge and as was noted by someone in the grape industry “Mike loves those plants as much as if they were his children”. Michael carefully tends to the fields using the gentlest of methods such as hand pruning, hand picking and netting.
WILLOW TODD: Willow came to Coffin Ridge (as Willow Merrill) after working at the Royal Bank for several years. Willow wanted a different kind of challenge and Coffin Ridge offered that to her. She brings to the winery not only her superior organizational skills but an exceptional palate for wine. Willow is the tasting room manager and is responsible for all things financial but has also done every conceivable task that the winery business demands including pruning, harvesting, bottling, cleaning tanks and labeling wine. For the last two years she has worked every weekend except for the weekend she took off to marry Michael. Together they run the vineyard and the winery and are the very foundation of the Coffin Ridge team.
ZAK ERB: Zak came to us through a family connection and initially just to work for the summer. He was such a hit with customers that he was persuaded to stay full time. Zak works in many capacities at the winery including working in the field. Mostly he has been in the tasting bar but this past winter he took up “cellar rat” duties as well.
ADAM PARSONS: Adam joined us in the spring of 2010 and now we just can’t imagine what we did without him. He spends most of his days toiling in the vineyard and driving the tractor but cleans up beautifully when called upon to work in the tasting room as well.
MALCOLM & NEVILLE: Malcolm and Neville made the long trek from Jamaica to join our team while the snow was still on the ground in early March. They have been invaluable assets, working long, hard hours in the vineyard pruning, tying and rolling out nets. We sincerely hope that they will come back next year!