Balancing Act examines winery life beyond the finished product

Local author and photographer Ulrike Bender has detailed activities at a number of local wineries. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette Staff)




Back in June of 2019, soon to be full-time County resident Ulrike Bender decided she wanted to put some focus on taking pictures of vineyards in her future locale.

While her move to Prince Edward County is still in flux,  her submission Balancing Act, which focuses on local vineyards, was released last week.

Bender and her husband are in the process of moving to their property in Milford.

“This project made me feel a lot closer to the county,” Bender expressed. “It made feel as though I sort of become a little bit more a part of the community because we currently live in Kingston but we are going to be moving here, and so it makes me feel more comfortable about that whole idea of relocating. I’ve always loved the country and I’ve loved the county so that part of it wasn’t difficult.”

Bender started her project with four vineyards close to where her county property is located.

“I contacted four vineyards within striking distance here and they said yeah sure come on down,” stated Bender. “So off I went and I picked ones that were close by because I needed to be able to get there quickly if there were some kind of weather conditions that were a little bit interesting.

Bender spent the entire summer at the various vineyards, cataloging the natural cycles of the vines and the life around them and decided “this is the kind of thing that maybe visitors to the county would be interested in seeing.”

“I also did some work in the wine making portion, so I was inside, photographing workers and their tasks.  I called it the “the beauty in the process”. The beauty of the vineyards and then the process of the wine making,” Bender told the Gazette. “By the fall I pretty well decided that I was going to do a book of some kind and so I started to research, I started asking lots and lots of questions and started thinking about how I could put it together.”

Bender also explained how she feels wineries are a bit of a mystery to the general public when it comes to the process of  grape growing and wine making.

“I don’t know how people feel in general but you know there are tasting rooms, there is lots of wine and this idea they all have tons of money,” Bender said.  “But with COVID you can understand small wineries are struggling. You explore and get a sense of what wine making is in terms of an industry and you start to understand a little bit more about whats behind their motivation, why they do it and why they continue to do it.”

That heartfelt dedication to this particular agri-business sector and how fraught with unpredictability  wine making might be spills out into Bender’s pages.

“But I think the photographs are enough to make you understand there is a lot of pleasure in opening a winery and being part of a winery. And it allows visitors to see that joy because so many times they’ll just see a vineyard, a tasting room and that’s all. But when you’re in the vines and looking at them from all different angles, it’s great.”

The majority of the proceeds of Bender’s book are earmarked to be donated to Prince Edward Learning Centre

Balancing Act will be available at the Annual Closson Road Christmas Crawl from Nov. 26 – Nov. 28.