The thought of Canadian wine often arouses images of sprawling vineyards in the Niagara Region of Southern Ontario or perhaps the smell of the vast grape fields in the Okanogan Valley. The Niagara Region of southern Ontario or perhaps the smell of the vast grape fields in the Okanogan Valley. But at least a thousand kilometers from anywhere you likely envisioned, exciting things are happening. Nestled along the north side of the Trans- Canada Highway is a small town called Dryden. Known for its foul sulfur smell rather than that of sweet grape orchards, Dryden is a small town built around the pulp and paper industry that is now rapidly diminishing. Despite the floundering local economy there is one business that continues to thrive: wine making at The Golden Nectar. It is a difficult notion to fathom when the terms “wine” and ‘“Northwestern Ontario” are conjoined. But fathom it. It’s happening.
The Golden Nectar, in Dryden Ontario, is the brainchild of Patrice Greenslade and her husband Chris and the result of their ambition and long-time passion. Patrice’s love of making wine and relentless effort to make home brew that rivals ,or even tops store-bought, fuels the success of her growing business. Through the use of an array of grape juice concentrates from areas such as California, Chile and Australia, Patrice displays a quality product line for the thrifty do-it-yourself winemaker. The Golden Nectar was born in 1992 out of lots of perseverance and a "little bit of luck,” explains Patrice. Originally the shop was open three days a week in a small apartment style location on top of the local video store. The Golden Nectar is a unique wine making business that warrants a visit should you happen to be traveling in Sunset Country.
As the door cracks open, the sweet aroma of fermenting grapes seeps out; it is no secret what is going on inside. The space is bright and decorated with real grapevines boasting bundles of stenciled purple grapes. More often than not there is likely a customer hunched over the bottling machine sampling their finished product. Patrice will promptly greet you, or Jackie who Patrice claims is her “Savior.” There is no denying the dynamic between the two as well the friendship that shines through. Although the local market is small, creative and relentless marketing efforts have been employed to expand the market into surrounding local communities. “The most memorable to me,” says Patrice “was the half page ad printed in all local newspapers that was deliberately printed upside down to get people’s attention”. Surrounding communities such as Red Lake, Sioux Lookout, Ignace and Vermillion Bay have responded well with customers often taking road trips on the weekend to visit and stock up on supplies. Many friendships have formed between staff and customers as well as between customers while making wine on-site. This luxurious method of wine-making will minimize the chance of having a “bad batch” as the veteran staff closely monitors it.
Northwestern Ontario, also known as Sunset Country, is a highly traveled tourist destination and there is an abundance of summer residents from south of the border. Many Americans spend their summer at cottages on lakes in the area and have found their way in to the store. Many summer residents arrive in early May and start their wine that will be finished four weeks later, there by supplying them with homemade wine for the rest of the summer. Patrice really breaks out ahead of the pack with her wine making store because she is situated in Sunset Country. Sunset Country is carved from the Canadian Shield and the surrounding natural environment offers up a plethora of different wild berries and fruit. Making fruit wine has been catching on in the area, and blueberry wine has begun to create a buzz. Patrice has made wine by various means using choke cherries, blueberries, high bush cranberries, rhubarb, apples and crab apples.
The Golden Nectar has found its niche in Dryden and continues to prosper. Patrice settles only for the highest quality products, and her confidence in those products is unmistakable. Combining quality products and dedicated service has been a winning combination.
When Patrice announced she was going to retire, her long time employee of 15 years wasn't ready to walk away from the golden nectar yet so in 2016 Jackie Tilley and her husband Jim took over the golden nectar. Jackie loves what she does and the customers are like her second family. Jackie and her staff strive to ensure everyone is well taken care of when they come to the store. Its a very comfortable and friendly environment, everyone leaves The Golden Nectar with a smile.