8 Great Reasons to Visit an Ontario Winery

There are thousands of reasons to drink Ontario wine, and just as many reasons to get out and visit a winery.  Given that September is the month that LCBO focuses on Ontario Wine with their great GoLocal campaign, I figured I should post my top 8 reasons to visit an Ontario winery and invite others to add to the list in the comment section. So in no particular order, here we go:

8: The Experience

Karlo Estates - Rustic Tasting Room Inside the Bright Red Barn

Whether you wander into one of the renovated rustic barns that now serve as home to many of the wineries in a region like PEC, or cosy up to the grander tasting bars in one of the “big” wineries in Niagara, you’re in for a real treat. Each winery has done something different with their tasting room and you’ll find everything from rustic timber interiors, gleaming glass and metal, renovated historical barns, and yes, even kitchen tables. Some will have free accompaniments (like cheese or nuts) to try with their wines, others will have full on site restaurants, and some will offer very limited services. No two are alike though, and the fun is in discovering which ones you like. You might even find a few cool design ideas!

And with several years of wine trips under out belts, my wife and I have found that people in the wine industry are some of the warmest and most welcoming tourism ambassadors for the province. From lodging and restaurant suggestions, most are happy to point you to the other great features of their region.

7: The Great Food That Great Wine Attracts

Awesome Mobile Food Comes to Niagara

One of the great things about any cluster of wineries is that great restaurants seem to go hand-in-hand. So if you are a foodie who happens to enjoy wine, well you’re going to be in heaven. Many of the larger wineries are offering on site restaurants, and recently Wine Access magazine rated two Niagara Winery restaurants in their “Best Winery Restaurants in the World” competition. And whether in Picton, LENS or the Niagara Peninsula area, great wine definitely seems to attract great chefs! The Niagara/St. Catharines area even has their own mobile Taco truck that appears at different events and appears regularly at Flat Rock Cellarsel gastrónomo vagabundo. And where there’s wine, cheese can’t be far behind – many great artisan cheese producers are attracted to the same regions where we make great wine.

6: Distribution Channels for Most Wineries Are Limited

Wineries Operate Their Own Retail Outlets

If you’re an Ontario wine fan, you likely already know this, but many people don’t. And while LCBO has a fantastic month of promotion for Ontario wine with the “Go Local” campaign, and a designated section right at the front of most stores, they simply cannot list every wine produced in Ontario each year. That leaves the majority of the sales up to the winery. For most wineries, that means sales through their tasting room at the winery, their own wine club, or through agents to get their products into restaurants (some wineries had retail outlets before the Free Trade Agreement, which is why you also see some wine outlets but unfortunately no new ones are allowed).

5: Support a Farmer: Many Ontario Wineries Are Also Family-run Farms

Pinot Noir Vines at The Old Third, Prince Edward County

The wine industry in Ontario is still quite young. And whether supplementing their own grapes with those from other farmers, most of the wineries in Ontario are also grape farms. Regions like Lake Erie North Shore and Prince Edward County are even younger than Niagara, and the farm influence is even more prominent. One of the more interesting trends is the younger generation returning to agriculture, many taking over family farms and switching crops over to vines instead of corn or tobacco.

And with these being small, family-run farms, many of them are looking for help come harvest time. Helping out can be a great way to connect with the winery, and the wine that you helped harvest.

4: The Wines of Ontario have Changed

I Didn't Even Know I Liked Sauvignon Blanc Until I Tried This One!

Whether discussing great Riesling regions of the world, or discovering Bordeaux-style reds, the wines of Ontario have come a long way in the last 25-30 years. Many of the old hybrid grape varieties had strong flavours that weren’t enjoyable by many wine consumers. With the move to vinifera (and even some newer hybrids), the wines of Ontario now compete on international levels. Witness the results of events like the Seriously Cool Chardonnay tasting in New York City, or the international acclaim from respected wine author Jancis Robinson. And with an influence of New Zealand, French and Italian winemakers taking the helm at several wineries, the influence on wine-making styles is definitely global.

3: Return Money into Our Economy


Money Oftentimes Goes Back Into the Vineyards

Recent data shows that significantly more money is returned to the Ontario economy for every bottle of Ontario wine sold compared to imported wine. Wineries and vineyard owners put that money back into the economy, building larger facilities and enlarging their vineyards. They employ local tradespeople and suppliers. Who knew buying local could be so fun!

2: Wineries Are Closer Than You Think

Uncork Ontario Map Showing Winery Distribution Across Ontario

When I first started developing my winery finding app, I didn’t realize how many wineries we had in Ontario when you include all types of wine (grape and fruit). Even in my local Ottawa area, I was surprised that we have as many as we do. As you look at the map, you can see almost that they stretch from Eastern Ontario to South-Western Ontario, and as far north as the Muskokas. People in Toronto have so many choices available…do we go to Niagara, Prince Edward County, or take a longer tour down to Lake Erie North Shore – the choices are staggering.

1: And the Number One Reason to Drink Ontario Wine: We Make an Incredible Array of World-Class Wines at Reasonable Prices.

Staggering Variety of Ontario Wine

As an example, Hernder Estates in Niagara has a VQA Vidal that is $6.95 a bottle and is a clean, decent example of an inexpensive white that many new wine drinkers find quite palatable. There are many single varietal reds in the $10-$15 range, and countless new “lifestyle” blends in the $12-$19 range. And for the true oenophiles…there are limited reserve labels that can traverse the $30-$100 range quite quickly. Don’t just try one and decide you don’t like Ontario wine – try a few until you find a style that appeals to you. We’re lucky that we have the diversity we do.

In Summary

You may find the wines are different than what you usually drink, but get going and try out the wines near you…I am sure you will be surprised, and you will find something you love!

This entry was posted in Artisan, Experience, Tasting, Winery. Bookmark the permalink.