The hard work is paying off for a P.E.I. winery.
Fresh off winning three medals, two gold and a bronze, at the Canadian Artisan Spirit competition, the Matos Winery and Distillery is preparing to open on June 1 for the season.
“We’ve already got so many tours booked… they started contacting us in February,” said Heather Matos, who co-owns the operation with her husband Jamie.
Heather described the competition wins as amazing. She said the couple were competing against some “heavy duty” distilleries and were surprised when they heard they won medals in the competition, which was held in British Columbia.
“We were so happy and overwhelmed,” said Heather. “Hard work does pay off.”
The couple were especially proud after hearing the judges’ remarks on their wine. One impressed judge tweeted a picture of their Anisette, a licorice-flavoured spirit with fennel and sugar crystals inside, saying he had never tasted anything like it.
Awards won by Matos Winery and Distillery at the Canadian Artisan Spirit competition
- Gold (Brandy or Eau de Vie) – P.E.I. Apple Brandy
- Gold (Liquer) - Anisette
- Bronze (White spirits) - Bagaco
The winery’s success came after years of hard work, including extensive research on growing conditions to see if P.E.I. would be suitable for establishing a vineyard before moving to the province from Ontario (they’re originally from Portugal).
Growing grapes was a new venture for P.E.I. when the couple began the operation by importing and planting thousands of Gamay-Noir and Chardonnay grapevines from France in 2007.
Over the next several years, the couple expanded their operation and had their first commercial harvest in 2011. From there, they continued to improve their operation and developed new products which are available both on-site at the winery and through the P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission.
The risky venture has also been successful so far in a changing in P.E.I. climate.
Last year’s summer, which saw a heat wave wreak havoc on some Island produce especially potatoes, was beneficial for the vines.
While it will be hard to tell how they managed through the winter until the vines start blooming, Jamie said last summer’s heat led to some explosive growth.
“In the case of vines, the hotter the better. The heat and the sun is what they need and they grew like crazy, we were trimming them every week,” said Jamie. “But we can’t control Mother Nature. Every year is different.”
While growing grapes was possible, the couple noted the operation has only been successful because of the support and loyalty of Island customers.
“It’s been amazing, beyond what we could have hoped for,” said Heather.
“I’ve been all over… and when you’re used to this peace there’s no other place in the world that’s better (than P.E.I.),” added Jamie.