Robert Bell's

Wines of Canada

Since 1992

Muskoka Lakes Winery

Muskoka Lakes Winery

Located two hours north of Toronto on Lake Muskoka. Bala is home to the only two producing commercial cranberry farms in the province. Bala is only a few Kms from Georgian Bay off Lake Huron. In 1952, Orville Johnston began planting cranberries. Over fifty years later, Johnston's Cranberry Marsh is one of the oldest cranberry farms in Canada and is owned and operated by Orville's son, Murray Johnston and Murray's wife, Wendy Hogarth.

In the fall of 2001, the Johnstons decided to begin a new venture, Muskoka Lakes Winery. While grapes don't grow in the region, cranberries sure do, and MLW specializes in wines made with Muskoka's native berry. With Jim Warren, a well-known winemaker in the Niagara region, as a consultant the Johnstons began making wine.

As a teenager, Orville Johnston worked summers on George Mollard’s cranberry farm in MacTier. It was Ontario’s first commercial cranberry farm, and it inspired Orv. He enrolled at McGill University to study agriculture. At university, he met wife-to-be, June, who was studying home economics. In 1950, the summer before graduation, Orv bought land in Bala and began building Ontario’s second cranberry farm. By the mid 1950’s, it was Ontario’s only cranberry farm and stayed that way until the 1970’s. Together, Orv and June pioneered an industry, growing cranberries, raising a family of four and making products from the fruit they grew.

Their son Murray and his wife Wendy Murray and expanded the farm to include Muskoka Lakes Winery.

Wendy Hogarth - Murray Johnston ~ Muskoka Lake Winery
Wendy Hogarth - Murray Johnston ~ Muskoka Lake Winery

Murray was born on the farm and has spent his life continuing his father’s legacy of growing quality fruit. Murray studied agriculture at University of Guelph and is passionate about responsible, sustainable growing practices. He insists that this care shows in the quality and flavour of the wine we produce.

Wendy’s fascination with cranberries led to welcoming visitors to the farm to share her discovery. Her passion for ‘taste of place’ led to founding Muskoka Lakes Winery after completing sommelier training. Undergraduate degrees in tourism and education, along with an MBA from University of Guelph, keep her thinking about what to do next!

North is the third generation of Johnstons to work at the farm. Having completed studies in Environmental Management at Lakehead University, he has joined the team as Production Manager. He’s responsible for all the ways we add value to our cranberries! He and his team are working on new surprises, so stay tuned!

Maple Syrup and cider are also part of the farms economy. Some interesting wines are made using Maple Syrup, One such wine is their Red Maple Dessert Wine a blend of Syrup and Cranberries.

Murray and Wendy have converted the original family home into a café.They feature local food with a cranberry flair. The menu changes seasonally, but you’ll always get a warm welcome in McArthur House.

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