What’s the right bird for this wine?

Living in Balance
By Jenipher Appleton

Most people choose their wines by bouquet, an eye-catching label, or price. The true connoisseur uses terms like ‘oaky’, ‘peppery’, ‘fruity’, or ‘earthy’.
Our outdoorsman friend, Gary Russwurm of Muskoka, chooses his wines by the birds pictured on the label. His choices come from Pelee Island, the southernmost point in Canada.
Anyone who has visited Point Pelee National Park may have witnessed spectacular spring or fall bird migrations. Avid birders make the trek each year with their binoculars and cameras poised. Many of them are also there to visit the winery and take home a few bottles of wine. Several of the countless species which pass through the park are depicted on the bottles produced by Pelee Island Winery.
When Gary and his wife, Margaret Ann, came from Muskoka to visit us in October, they brought along a VQA bottle of VIDAL/SEYVAL BLANC. The bird on the label was a new one for me. I guessed it to be a warbler by its body shape, general size and type of beak. Further exploration of text on the back label revealed that the bird was a prothonotary warbler, a brilliantly deep yellow bird with blue-gray wings and no wing bars.

Since the Russwurms’ visit, I have conducted a wine inventory in our basement. I have managed to locate:
Pelee Island CABERNET; bird species Scarlet tanager – best viewing in mid-May (according to the back label);
MERLOT; bird species red-headed woodpecker – an entirely red head and a solidly black back;
MERLOT CABERNET; bird species American goldfinch (otherwise known as a wild canary);
SHIRAZ CABERNET; bird species Indigo bunting – often graces the grassy woodland edges and brushy fields of Pelee Island. This bird relies on brilliant sunlight to transform its plumage into the bright turquoise-blue for which it is named (reports the back label); and
SHIRAZ; bird species the Northern oriole; flame-orange and black with a solid black head.

Choosing an Ontario wine has an added benefit; there is a smaller ecological footprint created when one chooses food and wine from within a hundred mile radius. To transport goods across a nation, continent, or ocean demands enormous amounts of energy. The Niagara region is another example of some fabulous wineries. So drink up! Your local wines are readily available and you can learn about the birds at the same time.

Editor’s Note: Pelee Island Winery has a birder package of six wines, including several of the ones Jenipher describes here, available online at http://www.peleeisland.com.