Hitting the road this year is a little more complicated – there’s crowds, restrictions and capacity issues every which way you turn. That’s why there’s never been a better time to venture off the beaten track in Ontario.
This season, why not explore the lesser known corners of the province? We promise you’ll discover some of the coolest and most curious wineries and vineyards around – plus, we’re here to help find your way!
Ontario’s wine regions are diverse. Each community has it’s own vibe and specializes it different kinds of grapes and wine styles. Below is our guide to the best lesser known wineries in Lake Erie North Shore. It’s Ontario’s southernmost appellation – with much of sitting at the same latitude as Northern California. It benefits from a longer growing season and a little extra sunshine as a result. Some of Ontario’s largest wineries call the appellation home, but when we visit, we like to stop into some of the smallest. Wineries in the region are known for their hospitality, so a new wine friend is never far when you’re on the road exploring.
The folks at Cooper’s Hawk Vineyards understand this well. You can sip a glass of their Cabernet Franc on the patio overlooking their 70 acres of vines at your leisure or enjoy a meal and a flight in their restaurant when you visit. They’re located just east of Harrow (home of some of the best pie in Ontario). Birders should take note of this special spot. It’s named for many birds of prey that frequent the 5 acres of green space surrounding the vineyards. It’s not uncommon to spot a hawk or two gliding above as you enjoy their award-winning North Block Sparkling.
Also in Harrow, Paglione Estate Winery is oozing with Italian rural charm. The wood-fired pizza oven helps with the general vibe, but the wines are what keep us coming back. We first fell in love with their Josephine Sparkling, but have since become big fans of their Gewürztraminer Orange Reserve. You can easily spend an afternoon enjoying pizzas and sipping wines at this Essex County winery.
Meanwhile, at Dancing Swallows Vineyards in Amherstburg, they’ve got a distinct farm vibe going on. A visit means lazing in their seasonal ‘outdoor tasting garden’ located under the largest of the farm’s maple trees. The effect is a bit West Coast, a bit festival-y, with some farm sensibility thrown in. It’s important to note that it’s a seasonal and weather dependent affair – but when everything lines up, it’s magical. Definitely make time to explore their “Artist’s Series” Craft Wines. We particularly like the unfiltered Baco Noir.
Besides being home to Feast On Certified restaurant – Bistro 42 – North 42 Degrees Estate Winery offers up plenty of sunshine basking opportunities. Run by 3rd generation farmers of Polish descent, they’ve been making wine from the estate since 2007. For a tutored experience, book a tasting in advance. You’ll learn about wines you love while exploring those made from grapes grown on the property. North 42 is also home to Serenity Lavender, so make sure to take the time to stroll through the rows of flowers during blooming season or shop their unique, handmade products in the shop.