6 Hot Trends In Ontario, Canada’s Cool Climate Wines

There’s never been a better time to be a wine lover in Ontario, Canada. The elegant and fresh flavors of cool climate wines are making huge waves in connoisseur circles worldwide, and Ontario’s unique appellations, distinct terroir and innovative winemakers are putting local wines on the map.

Bottles of wine from Ravine Vineyard Estate WineryPhoto credit: Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery

Rosé Is Here To Stay

Is it too risqué to mention rosé in September? You’ve heard rosé all day; we say rosé year-round. Rosé has become a fixture on patio tables and picnic blankets, but this cheerful blush is shedding its summer-specific reputation and fast becoming a favorite for any season.

Make it a rosé getaway: A visit to Niagara’s Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery, a rustic, fifth-generation, family-run winery in St. David, is an adventure in winemaking, as well as in culinary excellence, bee keeping, organic gardening, craft canning and more. You can’t go wrong with the winemaker’s menu pairings at the onsite restaurant, including their dry and refreshing rosé ($25 CAD/$18.90 USD) which pairs exceptionally well with garden-fresh salads. If you love it as much as we do, pick up a bottle to enjoy in your suite at Woodbourne Inn, a stylish country inn only a five-minute walk from the winery.

Getting here: Under two hours drive via the QEW highway from Toronto, Ravine is located in the historic village of St. Davids. Conveniently, there are two border crossings only 20 minutes drive from the winery, the Queenston Lewiston Bridge and the Niagara Falls Rainbow Bridge.

Vineyard at Ravine Vineyard Estate WineryPhoto credit: Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery

Ontario’s Bubbly Rises To The Occasion

Special moments require a special toast, and Ontario’s sparkling wines are popping. Southern Ontario’s limestone-rich soil and diverse climate is a similar terroir to northern France’s Champaign region. Innovative winemakers have capitalized on this, using charmat or tank method ageing (similar to what’s used for Prosecco), they’re producing top-notch bubbly.

Make it a sparkling getaway: Relax on the patio overlooking scenic vineyards at Dark Horse Estate Winery, an inviting spot in Grand Bend, along the west coast of Lake Huron, one of Ontario’s emerging winegrowing regions. Guided tours walk you through the vine to glass process, be sure to sample the limited edition Traditional Method Sparkling ($39.95 CAD/$30 USD). This Gold winner at the 2019 National Wine Awards of Canada is a member of their Valegro series, inspired by a true dark horse champion. Bring your bubbly to Texas Longhorn Guest Ranch Retreat in Strathroy and channel the spirit of the west. Set out on a guided trail ride, enjoy hearty ranch-style meals, toast marshmallows over your private firepit, and sleep in a cozy covered wagon. Or drive up the Bluewater Highway to the lakeside village of St Joseph to Hessenland Inn. The lovingly restored 19th century manor and restaurant was once surrounded by horse pastures but is now converted to expansive gardens and vineyards.

Getting here: The closest border crossings from Michigan present three options – two between Detroit and Windsor (the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel or the Ambassador Bridge) and a third between Port Huron and Sarnia. Depending on your entry point, getting to Grand Bend is an easy and scenic one to three-and-a-half hour drive north, much of it hugging the shoreline of southern Lake Huron.

Glass of estate orange wine from Southbrook VineyardsImage credit: Southbrook Organic Vineyards

Orange Is The Happiest Color

Match Ontario’s most colorful season with a glass of liquid sunshine. Named for its rich golden hue, Orange wine is not actually made from oranges but rather white grapes, that are treated like red grapes during the vinification process. Orange wine (or skin fermented whites) is an ancient technique of wine-making but its comeback is gaining momentum.

Make it an orange getaway: Head to Southbrook Vineyards, Canada’s first biodynamic winery just outside Niagara-on-the-Lake, for a bottle of Estate Orange Wine ($29.75 CAD/$25.50 USD). This distinct herbal and earthy flavored wine pairs well with autumn favorites like bitter greens, squash, charcuterie, cheese and olives. Stay for their gourmet wood-fired pizza served outdoor on the weekends (weather permitting). Make your next stop for pie! Snag homemade goodness from The Pie Plate Café and Bakery, just minutes down the road in Virgil. Follow Niagara Stone Road into historic Niagara-on-the-Lake to the 124 on Queen Hotel and Spa. With a range of deluxe rooms and villas, there’s plenty of comfy nooks next to a warm fire or on a private patio to settle in and enjoy a glass of wine and a succulent slice of pie.

Getting here: About a 90-minute drive from downtown Toronto makes Niagara-on-the-Lake a great spot for weekending, and the three nearby border crossing options from Lewiston, Niagara Falls and Buffalo, NY make it just as easy and inviting for US visitors.

Glass of wine from Karlo Estates

Go Green With Vegan

Traditionally, animal byproducts such as milk, eggs, gelatin and beeswax were used to refine, clarify and bottle wine. But the growing demand for vegan-friendly winemaking processes and ingredients have resulted in alternative methods, like using clay to filter the wine.

Make it a vegan getaway: Trendsetter Karlo Estates Winery is the first fully certified vegan winery in the world! Located just north of Wellington among a cluster of other gorgeous Prince Edward Country wineries and vineyards, Karlo is 100% worth a stop to pick up a bottle of its animal-friendly, award-winning Chardonnay ($30 CAD/$23 USD) or VanAlstine Red ($29 CAD/$22 USD). Good Place is Wellington’s natural and health food grocer, juice bar and lunch counter. Select from fresh, vegan soups and grab-n-go wraps and super salads for a leisurely garden picnic at The Edward Bed and Breakfast, just north of Picton. Surrounded by 75 acres of nature, you’ll be treated to a healthy dose of fresh air and wholesome living.

Getting here: Prince Edward County lies on the north shore of Lake Ontario, about 120 miles east of Toronto and 170 miles southwest from Ottawa. It’s accessible from the Belleville VIA train station and the Kingston airport. For roadtrippers, the closest border crossing is aboard the Horne’s Ferry from Cape Vincent, NY to Wolfe Island and from there the ferry ride over to historic Kingston, Ontario.

Wine and charcuterie from Sprucewood Shores Estate WineryImage credit: Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery

Tall On Taste, Short On Alcohol

On average, most wines contain between 11 and 13% ABV (alcohol by volume), although white wines (including cool climate varietals) may be slightly lighter. Drinking in moderation is always in style and discovering wines low in alcohol without compromising on flavor is a win-win.

Make it a tasty getaway: Along the north shore of Lake Erie, Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery in Harrow creates a refreshingly light Riesling Sparkler ($20.15 CAD/$15.20 USD) with just 9.5% alcohol. Reward your palate with fresh, seasonal fruit like raspberries, apples and pears from Lee & Maria’s Market in Kingsville. You can also stock up on artisan cheeses and meats to create your own charcuterie plate. Stay at The Grove Hotel & Brewery in downtown Kingsville. Originally built in 1860, this renovated boutique hotel has been redesigned with just the right blend of hip and historic.

Getting here: Kingsville is an easy half hour drive south from Windsor. Nearby border crossings include the Detroit-Windsor tunnel and the Ambassador bridge.

Cranberry marsh at Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery

Fruit & Floral Driven

There is a growing appetite for unique fruit or floral infused blends that reflect the rich variety of produce and local innovation.

Make it a fruity getaway: Set your GPS to Ontario’s beloved cottage country, specifically to Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery in Bala to experience the perfect balance of tart and sweet in a glass of cranberry wine. We recommend pairing it with dark, milk or white chocolate covered berries. Time your visit to coincide with the annual Bala Cranberry Festival on the weekend after Thanksgiving for activities, entertainment and everything cranberry. Stay nearby at Rawley Resort, an exclusive waterfront escape in Port Severn, where sipping cranberry wine goes well with a glorious fall sunset over Georgian Bay.

Getting here: Bala is a two-hour drive north of Toronto straight up Highway 400, with a short eastbound drive along Highway 28 to Highway 169, in the picturesque Muskoka region of Ontario. In the summer months, Porter Airlines flies to Muskoka in just over 20 minutes from downtown Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport.
Discover more about Ontario’s established and emerging wine regions and delightful vineyard vacation getaways. And find even more fall getaway ideas beyond the vines and across the province.

As you plan your trip, our handy Tools & Tips are here to help, including a currency converter, info on getting here and around, and everything you need to know about border crossings and customs. See you soon!