Last month, Brandon and I went to visit his family for a week in the Toronto area.
We arrived in Wellington, a small town in Prince Edward County, on our second day there. Being January, there wasn’t much to do outside, so Brandon’s mom and her partner took us wine touring for the day. Unbeknownst to me, Prince Edward County is the wine country of Ontario. Funny, because I am from the Okanagan valley – the wine country of BC.
We hit a couple wineries just outside of Wellington, and stopped in for one last sip at Karlo Estates.
Not being too versed in viticulture, I didn’t know anything about any wineries out East, so was purely along for the experience. Little did I know we would end up spending over two hours inside their old, eclectic barn.
We walked down to a dimly-lit cellar adorned with raw timber, exposed beams, and vintage velvet furniture. A cozy fireplace set the ambience. It was rustic, moody, and completely different than the polished, modern tasting rooms of the Okanagan. I loved it.
We were greeted by a jovial voice and a barn cat that hopped onto the tasting counter.
The lovely staff member started chatting to us as if we were neighbours, and I felt right at home. She gave us the rundown of the winery, and I was completely surprised to learn that Karlo Estates was the first fully certified vegan winery in North America! Coincidence that I should happen upon it that day? I think not.
When most people hear the term “vegan winery”, they think, “But isn’t all wine vegan?”
Sadly, the answer is no. Many animal products are used in the clarification of wine, and used to reduce bitterness and tannin. Some of these products are: egg whites, casein from cow’s milk, gelatine from animal tissues, and isinglass produced from dried fish bladders.
The lovely owner and vintner of Karlo Estates, Sherry Karlo, popped into the cellar shortly after we arrived.
She took over the tasting, and put out a delicious vegan charcuterie for us to munch as we drank her delicious wine. I very quickly began to feel as if I was at an old friend’s house, simply popping in for a visit and pump up of vegan-inspiration.
Sherry has been vegan for many years. She felt it was her responsibility to make wine that aligned with her morals and ethics. For this reason, Karlo reduces their need for added proteins in their wines, and when necessary, uses derivatives from pumpkin or potato. For clarification purposes, they rely only on natural plant-based products such as bentonite clay.
Karlo Estates works in conjunction with VegeCert, a Canadian non-profit organization that certifies vegetarian and vegan food products. Karlo was the first fully certified vegan winery in North America, which is an incredible accomplishment in an industry where most do not think twice to use animal products.
Sherry’s love and passion for animals (made immediately apparent by the many free-roaming barn cats), stoked her fire to be an advocate for animal rights.
She talked about her challenges with being vegan, namely the peace she needed to find after becoming aware of the horrors that take place within our agricultural industry.
I completely understood what she meant. Even though we find ourselves in a society that remains extremely detached from the cultivation and preparation of our food, I truly believe that everyone, at their deepest level, operates from a place of goodness. It is no single individual’s fault that our system perpetuates the torture, rape, kidnapping, and segregation of animals. Rather, it is a global issue that persists because of ignorance and a lack of connection.
The more we can spread knowledge of what happens in our factory farms, aka torture chambers, the more people will rise up to their higher selves.
The more we can trade the word “pork” for “pig” and “veal” for “baby cow”, the brighter people’s emotional centres will light up. Because just as much as humans feel pain, loneliness, and fear, so too do animals. They, however, have no voice. It is our responsibility to speak for them, and it is up to us to return their freedoms. The more knowledge we can spread, the more we will restore the compassionate connection between animal and human. And what a beautiful connection that is.
In order to do this, we must first be able to let go of guilt. We do nothing but keep the wound open if we succumb to shame over our past decisions. We must forgive ourselves for the mistakes we have made, and focus on what we can do now, in this moment, to build a happier, more loving future – for human, plant, and animal.
Sherry and I have found our outlets that allow us to contribute to a sustainable, compassionate future.
Sherry, by making amazing vegan food products (yes, many would argue that wine is a food group!), and me by sharing vegan recipes. We see the roots of veganism spreading further every day, and that is most certainly something to cheers about.
Sherry, I raise a glass to you, your team, and the project that you and your husband started. The ideas born out of love and a desire to make the world a better place, are truly the most delicious.
Cheers, and we will see you next time!!
If you are planning to visit the Prince Edward County area in Ontario, I highly suggest making a trip to Karlo Estates. To learn more about Sherry and her winery, visit their website.
You can also find out more about Vegecert, the Canadian non-profit vegetarian and vegan food certification company, by visiting their website here!