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(Posted 7:30 a.m., Sept. 1)
Navan winery making a name for itself among local wine lovers

By Fred Sherwin
OrléansOnline.ca

Over the past Anne, Denis, Lyse and Dominique Perrault . File photo


At the Domaine Perrault winery, making wine is very much a family affair. From harvesting the grapes to naming the wines and designing the labels, the entire Perrault family is involved.

The Navan winery is owned by Denis and Lyse Perrault and their two daughters Anne and Dominique – and while older daughter Lynn and son Pierre don’t have a stake in the winery, they often can be found helping out especially at harvest time.

It all started 25 years ago when Denis and Lyse visited Le Cep d’Argent winery in the Eastern Townships as part of a tour organized by the Eastern Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association to investigate possible options for crop diversification.

“They had a few vines and a little shop and I remember thinking, ‘This guy’s going to starve,’ ” recalls Denis Perrault whose operated a dairy farm south of Navan for the past 50 years.

When they went back to visit Le Cep d’Argent winery 10 years later, the owners were hardly starving. On the contrary, they were producing 50,000 bottles of wine and more than 40,000 people had paid $10 each to take a tour of the estate.

Within a couple of months the Perraults and seven other farmers in Eastern Ontario formed the Eastern Ontario Grape Growers Association. One of the prerequisites of membership was planting a minimum half acre of grapes.

The Perraults ended up planting 1,000 vines of winter hardy grapes they purchased from Le Cep d’Argent on a one-acre parcel of land.

Three years later they produced their first 200 bottles of wine that Denis readily admits “wasn’t very good”. But his friend and vintner Paul Harwood made 20 bottles of white wine using only grapes from the St. Pepin vines.

“He absolutely loved it. He was so excited he would call me up and say, ‘This wine is amazing. You could sell this wine for $20 a bottle,’ ” says Perrault.

During the next two years the family slowly increased production and experimented with different blends. In 2004 they decided to take the next step towards becoming a bona fide winery and converted one of the buildings on the farm into a wine-making facility. They also joined the Bytown Vintners Association where Harwood introduced them to Marcel Sarrazin who became their resident winemaker and who Denis credits with the winery’s amazing success.

Sarrazin later retired in September 2008, and was replaced by Bernard Martineau, an Ottawa-renowned oenologist with 40 years of experience.

In 2004, the little winery produced 5,000 bottles of wine. A Cuvée Special red; the Marilys rosé, which is a variation of Lyse Perrault’s given name Marie Lyse; and the Zanibel white, which was named by combining Anne’s given name Anne Isabel.

In the fall of 2005 they added a light bodied red to the roster which they named after Dominique’s newborn daughter Rosalie. Earlier that same year they planted another 5,000 vines on an additional five acres of land which will allowed them to increase their production capacity to nearly 11,000 bottles a year.

In preparation for the increased production they applied for their manufacturing and retail licenses in 2006 and opened up a small store where people can come to sample and purchase the wines.

The store, which is actually located in the Perraults’ basement, was modeled after similar shops on small family-owned wineries that Lyse had seen during a trip to Provence.

The quaint shop is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from June 6 to Dec. 31 and is usually manned by resident sommelier Julie Ricard.

Julie is a graduate of the Algonquin College sommelier course and she is a wealth of information when trying to marry any of Domaine Perrault's 10 different wines with various main courses.

Looking back over the past 13 years, Denis can hardly believe how far the little winery has come.

“When we started this I hardly knew a thing about wines. Now I’m getting a little better. But to be honest we wouldn’t have gotten to where we are without a lot of help along the way, not only from our friends and family but from our customers as well who’ve been spreading the word about our wines,” says Denis.

To get to Domaine Perrault take Trim Road south through the Village of Navan. When you get to the end turn right on Perrault Road and look for the signs. (Map).

For an alternate route from Orléans, take Tenth Line Road south to Navan Road and turn left. Turn right on Milton Road and drive until you see a sign for Perrault Road on your left. Turn left and you’ll see the entrance to the winery about a half kilometre down the road.

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)

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