Sheep Thrills: Featherstone Estate Winery 2011 Black Sheep Riesling is named after the lambs that help maintain the vineyard

The employees at Featherstone Estate Winery were all smiles as they welcomed new staff members. A flock of sheep, numbering some 40 in all, reported for duty today. They are the best kind of workers because they don’t complain, don’t make demands and are absolutely adorable.

These little lambs are charged with an important role. They are responsible for eating leaves on the vines, which permits more sunlight and airflow into canopy, which encourages ripening. Featherstone is so grateful for their services that they name their flagship wine, the Black Sheep Riesling, after them.

Warm Welcome: A flock of sheep reported for duty at Featherstone Estate Winery this morning

Given that the Black Sheep Riesling represents Featherstone’s largest production (they also produce a white blend primarily made out of Riesling), it’s not surprising that winemaker and co-owner David Johnson is passionate about the variety. He is devoted to making sure his wine is fresh, fruity and well balanced — everything Ontario Riesling should be.

Johnson feels Riesling has the potential to be Ontario’s signature grape. “We grow it well, it winters well, it ripens early. We can grow great Cabernet Sauvignon, but not every year and you can’t run an industry on that.”

As such, he believes Riesling should be the province’s shining star and be produced more than any other varietal. “It should be Ontario’s greatest white and can turn into the world’s greatest white…We keep on waiting for the ‘Riesling breakthrough.’ We are waiting for it to overtake Chardonnay.”