Ocala orchard was original founded in 1912 by the Smith Family. George Smith was a cattler who bought the land to raise his prized Holstein-Friesians for meat and dairy. In the late 1970's, his son Lloyd Smith started expanding the small apple orchard behind the barn in order to shift the family business toward fruit production. Through the addition of many fruit varieties, Lloyd's son, Irwin started planting grape vines in '91, which paved the way for Ocala Orchard and Winery
Ocala Winery Groups Inc. opened to the public as a licensed Ontario winery in the summer of 1995. Due to a shorter growing season and colder winters at our location, the vineyard is made up of mostly white grape varieties and a few hardy varieties of red. We frequently experiment with new varieties of cool climate/winter hardy vines being developed in Quebec and the Northern United States.
High Point Railway Station — In the early 1900s a railway line ran from the town of Whitby, located on Lake Ontario 12 miles to the south, north over the top of the Oak Ridge Moraine, through the Smith’s farm, and continued both downward and northward through Port Perry, on Lake Scugog, to its terminus in Lindsay, Ontario. There were many small stations along this rail line. One such station was located on the Smith farm and was called High Point Station. This station sat at the highest elevation on the line. Around the time or World War II the line was closed. The rails were pulled and it is believed that these rails were reprocessed as steel was in great demand for war efforts. No pictures of this station exist, however, the path of the railway line is still visible today.
George Smith — George Smith, grandfather to OCALA Winery owner Irwin Smith, was born in 1882 on a farm just half a mile from the current OCALA Orchards and Vineyard. At the age of 33 he bought the OCALA farm (it was not called OCALA at the time) which consisted of 100 acres, a board and a timber dairy barn and an apple orchard. Grandfather George raised pure-bred Holstein cattle and grew apples until his death in 1939.
Lloyd & Ruby Smith — Parents of OCALA Winery owner Irwin Smith. Lloyd was born October 19, 1919 in the family house at OCALA. Lloyd has spent his life on this farm tending the cattle herd and producing apples. Like his father (George Smith) before him, he raised and exported pure-bred Holstein cattle around the world for breeding stock. In 1978 a decision was made to disperse the herd. Over the years, Lloyd has transplanted the orchard, changing it from large standard size trees to the semi-dwarf and dwarf trees that grow today. By coincidence, Ruby’s father (also a grandfather of winery owner Irwin Smith) was a locomotive fireman between 1910 and 1912 on the rail line which ran through High Point Station.
Irwin & Alissa Smith — Owners and winemaker of OCALA Winery. By his own admission, Irwin states that he was not a good cattleman like his father and grandfather. His love was music. In 1978 Irwin opened a musical instrument store and for the next 17 years he catered to the musicians of the area as well as entertaining in dance halls around Ontario, Canada. In the late 1980s Irwin developed an interest in wine and winemaking. This hobby grew. He planted grape vines next to the orchard site in 1992. In 1995, Irwin sold his music business, returned to OCALA Orchards to help his father full time, acquired a licence from the Ontario Liquor Board and opened OCALA Orchards Farm Winery Ltd.
Alissa is the office manager of OCALA Winery and contact person for wine sales, gift baskets, tours and special events.
As winemaker of OCALA Winery, Irwin strives to improve the wines each year. “Winemaking is a wonderful and humbling challenge; to take a fruit produced by the land and to use it to create a good wine is easy...but to create the ultimate wine...that is the quest of every winemaker.”