The Great Lakes of north America have been a major influance on the wine regions of Ontario. The Niagara Peninsula lies on the small area between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.
In the 17th century, early settlers planted Ontario’s first vineyards with native labrusca grapes, many of which were then replaced in the 20th century by Vitis vinifera and traditional European varieties, which we see today.
Ontario proves that it can grow high-quality grapes such as Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir with help from the Great Lakes. The Lakes provide a moderated and productive cool climate growing season. Early harvests are the norm, with picking usually beginning at the end of August and late-harvest varieties often reaching their peak by late October.
The Lake Erie North Shore is one of Canada's oldest wine regions. It all began on Pelee Island the southernmost point in Canada (See the history of Pelee Island). One of the very early wineries of Canada was built on the island in 1866. The Vin Villa Winery opened in 1871 became renowned for it's rare Catawba wines and the many awards it won from as far away as Europe. Six additional wineries were built making the island a centre of early wine making in Canada.
It took a few more additional years before the industry develope on the mainland. Lake Erie North Shore is Ontario's southernmost appellation located appro. 30 km south of Detroit. The region benifits greatly from the shallow waters of Lake Erie and the warm sunny summers.
Colio Estate Wines situated near Harrow, Ontario, received the first winery license granted in Southwest Ontario following prohibition in 1980.
Carlo Negri was Colio Estate Wines' first wine maker.] His 30 year long career is credited with the flourishing wine/tourism of the Lake Erie North-Shore area] Carlo won the "Tony Aspler Cuvée Award of Excellence" in 2005, an honour awarded to those who have " done most to further the aims and aspirations of the Ontario Wine Industry". Carlo and the winery won two Gold Medals in 2002 for the CEV Merlot Reserve in the Red Wine Category and for CEV Carlo Negri Signature Meritage in the Limited Edition Red Wine category. They also won "Best in Category" honours the same year.] After his passing in July, 2014, Colio Estate Wines set up a $10,000 scholarship. Partnering with both St. Clair College and Brock University, the scholarship offers $5,000 to students studying culinary arts and hospitality and another $5,000 to a student studying wine making.
Pelee Island Winery is perhaps one of the most historic wineries in Canada. It can associate its history with the pre 1900 days of grape growing on Pelee Island. ,Today the winery in located in Kingsville with over 500 acres of vines on Pelee Island
They were among the first if not the first to produce an Icewine in Ontario.
A small but prominent winery Erie Shore Vineyard is a family run estate winery, owned and operated by Harvey and Alma Hollingshead and their two son. They specialize in 100% estate grown VQA wines. The winery is just 600 meters from Lake Erie, the area is ideally suited for the production of world class grapes and wine.
The first vines were planted in 1997 opening the winery in 2002.
Muscedere Vineyards owned by the Muscedre family located on
a picturesque 163-acre farm, with 83 acres of natural forest on the Greenway Trail. The 163-acre property was purchased by Fabio and Rob Muscedere in 1986. It was not until 2001 that the decision was made to plant the vineyard. In the spring of 2003 the first four-acres were planted with the trilogy of Vidal, Riesling and Cabernet Franc. Followed by an acre of Pinot Noir in 2004, and seven-acres of Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc in 2005. The final acre dedicated to the two Northern Italian varieties used to make Barolo wines, Barbera and Nebbiolo was planted in 2008.
Currently 8 family members work at the winery.
Quai Du Vin Estate Winery Rob Quai and his wife Lisa operate this 20 acre winery in Elgin County
5 km from Lake Erie. The location doesn't quite fit into the other wine regions however, in the mid 1970's
Redi Quai planted a vineyard. His son Roberto and his wife, Lisa, opened the doors of the winery in 1990.
Quai du Vin produces over 90,000 bottles per year and celebrated its "Millionth Bottle" in July, 2002.
Their philosophy is to produce good quality wines at reasonable prices
using simple winemaking techniques. Wines should play a supporting role in the experiences of your life: they should compliment your favourite meals, they should help bring friends together, and a great wine accentuates that romantic evening you've been planning! Jamie Quai is the young winemaker.
Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery is one of the most popular visited wineries on the Lake Shore. Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery represents the fulfillment of a dream that started over 47 years ago when Hannah & Gord Mitchell purchased a 52 acre farm situated on beautiful Lake Erie, with the intent of planting a vineyard, and perhaps one day, establishing a winery. Planting began in 1991.
It was not until 2003 they began construction on the winery. Due to illness the winery was not completed until the summer of 2006. Today a magnificent two story structure overlooks a 35 acre vineyard and Lake Erie. Seven family members work at the winery.
Aleksander Estate Winery located in Ruthven the Aleksander family has over 30 years of grape growing experience. Aleksander (Alex) Bemben and his wife
Genowefa (Genny) are the owners. Their daughter is the winemaker. Izabela (Bemben) Muzzin is a grape grower, winemaker, sommelier but wine enthusiast first and foremost.
Colchester Ridge Estate Winery opened in 2006. Owners Bernard Gorskip and Nancy Gorski have
42 acres a short distance from the lake 12 of these acres are currently producing grapes. Signature wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Gewürztraminer. The winery is known as CREW.
Mastronardi Estate Winery established in 2006, is nestled in the heart of Essex County. Owners, Eadie and Tony Mastronardi, along with winemaker Lyse Leblanc are dedicated to growing exceptional grapes and producing high quality VQA wines.
The 100 acre vineyard, originally planted over 25 years ago during the revival of wine production in Southern Ontario, produces 18 varietals of Vinifera. The vines thrive amongst 1000 + acres of vineyards in Southwestern Ontario, located along a peninsula that wraps around the north shore of Lake Erie. The moderating effect of the climate is ensured by the warm waters of Lake Erie, the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair, which surround this peninsula. It is the location along the 42nd north parallel (similar to that of French Riviera, Mendecino, California, Tuscany Italy and southern France) that gives Lake Erie North Shore the highest accumulation of heat units in Ontario each summer. This lake effect along with abundant sunshine results in the high sugars and ideal acid levels of each varietal. Therefore, an earlier harvest is common.
Paglione Estate Winery is nestled in 40 acres of land with 10 acres of vines along the shores of Lake Erie in the Essex Pelee Island Coast (EPIC) wine region in Harrow, Ontario. The winery is owned by Sam and Nancy Paglione. They produce wines in small batches, fermented with indigenous yeast using natural, old-world Italian methods.
Founder – Santino (aka Sam) Paglione came to Canada from Italy when he was ten years old. A successful business man,Sam’s first entrepreneurial pursuit was in 1970 at 24 years of age, when he built a variety store and small take-out restaurant called the Frosty Treat at the marina in Kingsville, Ontario. Sam’s wife then ran the store and restaurant, taking care of their 2 children, while he moved on to his next venture – getting his construction company off the ground; later known as Santal Homes Ltd.
In June 2013, that dream became a reality and Paglione Estate Winery opened its doors to the public. Nestled on the crest of a hill, the Winery – an old-world, Tuscan-style masterpiece, complete with clay tile roof, stone façade, and turret
Cooper's Hawk Vineyards located on 67 acres of land just east of Harrow, Ontario, in the Essex Pelee Island Coast
Owed by the O'Brien and Meloche Families
The name comes from the numerous hawks that fly over the vineyard.
Their journey has been a successful one gaining a strong reputation for its wines and hospitality
Meadow Lane Winery located in St Thomas is one of the Lake Shores smaller family wineries. The charming winery is owned by the Myszko family Walter Myszko is the winemaker. Walter grew up in Poland coming to Canada at the age of 15.
The 45 acre farm produces a variety of different berries which are used to make some fruit wines. Currently, vineyards are planted with Zweigelt, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Hibernal grape varieties..
Oxley Estate Located in the historic hamlet of Oxley on the Lake Erie North Shore. The winery is owned by
Ann Neydon Wilson and
Murray Wilson. They purchased the land (then a vegetable farm) called Oak Bluff in 2010.
The first grapes were planted with the help of the crew from Colio Estate Wines and equipment from Viewpointe Estate Winery in May and June 2010. The first release wines were made from an older vineyard
the old Euro Nursery and Vineyards property on the 3rd Concession north of Harrow
Recently some new exciting wineries have opened including North 42 Degrees. The winery with 17.5 acres of vineyards opened in 2012 and is owned by Martin Gorski and Suzanne Dajczak. Both have farming backgrounds Martin is a third generation winemaker.
He is trained as a Microbiologist and earned a Master of Science in Molecular Biology. Martin has recently completed his Enology program at Washington State University.
In 2008, they planted the vineyard with Pinot noir, Sauvignon blanc, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Cabernet franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Dancing Swallows is among the newest wineries in the region.
The Hutchins Farm came into the family on October 24, 1881. Through the generations the style of farming has gone through many changes, evolving from a full mixed Victorian farm to the current mix of cash crop and vineyard.
It took a few years for the the winery to establish itself. They began back in 2006. They took half an acre out behind the barn and planted a test plot vineyard. 28 rows of different varieties and rootstock; 25 vines each: Baco Noir, Cabernet Foch, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin, Chardonnay, Gamay Noir, Gewürztraminer, Geisenheim 318, Marechal Foch, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Regent, Riesling, Syrah, and Zweigelt all became close friends. Some did well, some did poorly, some did too well (overly vigourous vines don’t make balance wine).
They made wine from all of it. Some good, some bad, some weird. After 5 years we started to get a sense of what varietals and rootstocks were suited to the site.
In 2012 they made the leap, narrowed the list down and planted the first 2½ acres.
The next year they added another 3 acres narrowing it down to 4 key grapes: Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet, and Baco Noir. There are also small sections of Pinot Noir and Muscat to keep things interesting.
The vineyard is located very close to 42° North, 83° West which puts us in the extreme Southwest corner of Ontario. The southern location and proximity to Lake Erie lets us leave harvest later in the year, and let’s the ‘bigger’ reds achieve more ripeness. The front blocks of Riesling and Baco Noir are located on a moderately vigourous section of Perth Clay-Loam. The back blocks (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat and Cabernet Franc) are on a thin ridge of Shallow Phase Burford Loam. This is a fairly uncommon soil in the county, and is actually a very small glacial moraine of sand and rocks
Black Bear Farms of Ontario Estate Winery Inc,Early Acres Estate Winery,Hound of Erie Winery and Sanson Estate Winery round out the Lake Erie north Shore wineries.
The soil composition was greatly affected by the glacial lakes, which deposited large amounts of unsorted stony materials in the area. When the glacial lakes elsewhere retreated, this area remained covered in deep waters for a longer period, allowing waves to smooth out the ridges and deposit considerable amounts of sediment. The light-textured, well-drained soils around the lakeshore contain mostly sandy loam and gravel deposits punctuated by small, irregular stony ridges, which overlie shale limestone bedrock. The South Islands have similar soil makeup as the mainland, and the majority of the vineyards are planted on the southwestern corner and centre of Pelee Island (the largest of the islands), where the soils are the deepest and allow for root systems to properly set.
Common varietals in Lake Erie North Shore include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris and Marquette.