Pharmacology to fermentation to wine to cheese at Lighthall

Cheesemaker Heather Robertson and three of the first cheeses made at Lighthall Vineyards and Dairy.
Cheesemaker Heather Robertson and three of the first cheeses made at Lighthall Vineyards and Dairy.

How does a pharmacist become Ontario’s first small-batch winemaker/artisan cheesemaker? Lighthall Vineyards and Dairy owner and winemaker Glenn Symons can explain:

He has been making cheese for personal use for the past two years, discovering new recipes and perfecting techniques along with Heather Robertson. She is a longtime friend and a 15-year cheese industry veteran. She has worked in cheese retail and cheesemaking at another cheese producer.

Lighthall Vineyards and Dairy will be one of 40 artisan cheese producers sampling and selling cheese at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival on June 6-7 in Picton, Ontario.

Glen Symons, winemaker and cheesemaker, too.
Glenn Symons, winemaker and cheesemaker.

Symons had been a home winemaker since age 19. He started in pharmacy in 1993, taking over the Lighthall vineyard in 2008. Lighthall produces three still wines, two sparkling, including 2014 Lighthall The Fence Rosé, and and one dessert wine. The Fence the first rosé from its own vineyards. It is 100% Pinot Noir, refermented using the Charmat method.

All the wines are produced in a non-interventionist manner. Non-interventionist winemaking consists of doing as little as possible to the grapes from their growth to their eventual vinification.

Lighthall Vineyards and Dairy endeavours to produce the highest quality wines, primarily from their own grapes, with all employees and family members involved in every step of production, including vineyard work through to final bottling, said Symons. With the tasting bar inside the production area, they aspire to share this enriching experience with every customer who comes to visit.

“It’s much like making home vintage, but on a larger scale,” said Symons. “In some ways the commercial equipment makes the process easier.”

Cheesemaking has proven to be so much fun and the cheese so delicious that Symons and Robertson are sharing their talents with the public. They sell their three sheep’s milk cheeses at a farmers’ market in Kingston and at the winery. They produce three varieties:

  • Runner – a soft ripened cheese, the rind washed in Lighthall Chardonnay,
  • Cocotte – a rustic, earthy unpasteurized blue,
  • Brie de Milford – a soft, surface-ripened cheese with a hint of Prince Edward County terroir flavours.
Glen Symons and Heather Robertson toast they first cheese creations.
Glenn Symons and Heather Robertson toast their first cheese creations with his wine creations.

Symons is planning to expand his facility. For now, he and Robertson make the cheese off-site, but hope to soon have an on-site commercial kitchen. They will keep to the three current varieties, said Symons, producing in quantities sufficient to sell at the winery and in Kingston. They may try some seasonal cheeses or a more aged cheese in the future, said Robertson.

The winery is located at 308 Lighthall Road, Milford, in Prince Edward County, Ontario, and is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information on Ontario’s newest artisan cheese producer, please visit Lighthall Vineyards and Dairy’s website

The fifth anniversary Great Canadian Cheese Festival—the biggest artisan cheese show in Canada—takes place Saturday and Sunday, June 6 and 7, in Picton, Ontario, at the Fairgrounds. For complete information and tickets, please visit

—Joanne Fralick

Joanne Fralick is a cheese lover and freelance writer who lives with husband and son in Prince Edward County.


Paris wins most-memorable-moment-in-cheese contest

The Eiffel Tower in Paris at night as viewed from the Pont Alexandre III Bridge

A 20th wedding anniversary in Paris that featured much enjoyment of cheese has been judged the winner in our search for the most memorable moments in cheese in 2011.

Julie Grec of Kitchener, Ontario, wins the first-place prize of a half-kilo of Époisses Berthaut, courtesy of Glen Echo Fine Foods, a leading distributor of fine cheeses and gourmet foods.

Two runners-up—Matt Hanselmann and Paul Dearborn—each will receive 250 grams of Époisses Berthaut, courtesy of Glen Echo Fine Foods.

Chef Michael Howell of Tempest in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, was awarded an honourable mention by the judges, members of the organizing committee of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

The winning entries will be posted here next week.

Creamy and powerful, Époisses Berthaut is an extraordinary cheese from Burgundy in France. It’s a washed-rind cow’s milk cheese with a natural red tint and it’s own rich and penetrating aroma to which it owes its renown. The mouth waters at the mere thought . .

Click here and here to read more about Époisses Berthaut.

Époisses Berthaut is distributed by Glen Echo Fine Foods and available at the following Ontario locations while supplies last:

About Cheese
483 Church Street, Toronto

Alan’s Butcher Shop
122 Athol Street, Whitby

Burbs Bistro & Bar
1900 Dixie Road North, Pickering

Caren’s Wine & Cheese Bar
158 Cumberland Street, Toronto

Herma’s Gift Shop
5316 Hwy. 28, R.R. #2, Port Hope

La Salumeria
2021 Yonge Street, Toronto

Nancy’s Cheese
260 Dupont, Toronto

1539 Avenue Road, Toronto

The Art of Cheese
925 Kingston Road, Toronto

The Cheesestore
510 Michigan Avenue, Point Edward

The Milky Whey
118 Ontario Street, Stratford

The Passionate Cooks
68 Brock Street West, Uxbridge

Vincenzo’s Fine Foods
150 Caroline Street South, Waterloo