Even in the winter, when this photograph was taken, a winemaker’s work is never done as Newman Estate Winery owner Mike Newman well knows.
©GUARDIAN PHOTO BY MARY MACKAY
Mike Newman is a new man after shifting gears from the high tech telecom world to the role of winemaker extraordinaire.
In fact, this former Ottawa-based Nortel employee hasn’t looked back since he turned his winemaking hobby into a full-fledged business in 2009 that is for him a divine on-the-vine passion,
And he’s not the only one with a thirst for Newman Estate Winery’s products.
“(Newman Estate White) is the number four selling wine right now on P.E.I. . . and it’s now in about 60 restaurants,” Newman says from his Gladstone Road winery, which is just a short jaunt away from Murray River.
This energetic entrepreneur started making wine with typical kit systems when he was a university student in Ottawa on a tight budget. His interest grew as he visited wineries in the Prince Edward County and Niagara region and California.
His grandmother and mother are both Islanders, so he started experimenting with growing grapes on his family’s property on the Gladstone Road.
In 2006, he purchased 30 acres of land in the same area that had a south-facing section that was just prime for grapevines and promptly began planting. He now has 10 acres of grapes there.
Sales for Newman’s wines have been growing so fast that he has also tapped into a 20-acre vineyard bounty of a nearby Island winemaker.
“In just a short time we have been growing so fast that I now have over half of the grapes on P.E.I.,” he said.
“One of my main restricting factors here is that I just don’t have enough grapes. They’re (relatively) new to Prince Edward Island. It’s not really a crop that’s common here. So my challenge is that we (could) sell so much more than we produce.”
Newman’s two main wines are Newman Estate White, which is a chardonnay/seyval blanc blend; and Newman Estate Red, which is a cabernet sauvignon/Lucie Kuhlmann blend, which sell for a very reasonable $12.95. He also produces a Riesling called Newman Estate Green.
His biggest customer is the local restaurant industry.
“We’re a good quality wine from P.E.I. at a good price,” Newman says.
“And then on top of that everyone wants the local culinary (experience). They want the oysters and the mussels and . . . they (want to try) P.E.I wine. That’s why our success is so good, is largely through restaurants. We really did break that (market).”
Newman’s goal is to eventually have his wine to be a 100-per cent P.E.I. grape content.
Because it takes at least five years for grapevines to mature, and due to the shortage of locally produced grapes, his wine is at present a mix of P.E.I. and Ontario grapes.
“Our challenge now is that we’ve been selling for two years and have been more than doubling our sales every single year. Our grapes are just not keeping up. . . ,” he said.
“The demand is there, it’s just a matter of getting the grapes here. There’s nothing wrong with the quality of grapes here, it’s just that we don’t have enough. . . . Even this year we don’t have as much crop as I was hoping to get. I think we’re going to sell out this year and relatively early.”
Newman is looking at eventually expanding his wine portfolio to include very dark premium wine that will be called Newman Estate Black; and a rosé that will bear the label Newman Estate Pink in keeping with his penchant for minimalistic wine names.
“I think it’s just the simplicity of it. It’s almost in a sense to me, ‘This is my best white and this is my best red.’ That’s how I approach it,” he adds.
Newman Estate wines are also listed in New Brunswick. He is also looking at the possibility of selling product online, which is a market that is starting to open up.
The winery now employs up to eight part-time staff and sold 24,000 bottles of wine last year.
Wine may be for consumption, but it is the making of wine that consumes Newman’s life.
“Whenever you start a winery you think you’re going to be sitting around drinking a glass on your patio, but it’s just not that,” he laughs.
“It’s work — non-stop work.”
About the winery
Winner of the 2011 Eastern P.E.I. Chamber of Commerce business of the year, Newman Estate Winery is a next generation winery located in P.E.I. The winery was built with help from the community and endless hours of volunteer labour.
Newman Estate Winery owner and winemaker Mike Newman has a bachelor of engineering degree from the University of New Brunswick and a masters of business administration degree from Carleton University.
Newman Estate Winery is located on the Gladstone Road, near Murray River.
It produces of a variety of new age blends. The two man wines are Newman Estate White, which is a chardonnay/seyval blanc blend; and Newman Estate Red, which is a cabernet sauvignon/Lucie Kuhlmann blend.
For more information, visit www.newmanestatewinery.com.