The brandy vines that are growing around Toronto Zoo are a source of excitement for the city’s animal lovers.
“When you have that many vines, the number one thing is that they make a great, delicious wine,” says zoo curator and wine enthusiast Lisa Wojcicki.
“You can’t eat that and it’s a shame to eat it.
It’s not something that’s for the faint of heart.”
The vines are also part of the zoo’s winemaking program.
“Our vineyard has been a part of our family for over 100 years,” says Wojchicki, who says the vines are a favourite of the children.
“We do have a wine-growing section for kids, so we can have them play with grapes, grow them, and then have them make a winery and have a few of them take a winemaping class with us.”
In 2017, the zoo made a wine from brandy grown by the vineyard, with the goal of turning the winery into a winemaker.
This year, they also launched a wine program, which involves visiting the vineyards and tasting some of the wines.
“They get to see what’s happening there,” says animal care officer Lisa Sturgis.
“There’s a lot of grapes here, so it’s nice to see.”
The zoo also offers a special event called a “wine-eating session.”
This is a chance for people to sample a variety of wines at the zoo, as well as take part in a fun game.
This program is open to people of all ages.
“For the most part, it’s about enjoying the wine and eating a bit of it,” says Sturgides.
“It’s also a fun opportunity to introduce people to wine and to see some of our wild animals.”
“It gives you an idea of how different wine can be, because you can taste it and taste the vine,” says curator Lisa Woyce.
“If you want to see something different, try the wine-eating program.”
The wine program is available for everyone and includes a tasting with the animals, as an optional part of their tour.
“I think it’s great for people who are looking for a different experience,” says veterinarian and wine expert Michael McPherson.
“What they’ll love is the sensory experience.
They’ll feel like they’re part of something special.”
Lisa Wodaczewski is the author of the award-winning book The Wild Wines of the Wild West: How the Wild Wine of the West Changed Our World, and her other books include The Taste of the Vine: A Guide to the World’s Best Wild Winemaking, The Wine of the World: How to Drink the Best Wines, and Wild Wives: How a World in Transition Created a New World of Wines.
This is an edited version of a report from CBC Toronto’s Morning Edition.