Ontario Wine Regions: Drink Local Wine

Ontario is one of four Canadian provinces that grow vitis vinifera wine grapes and produce Canadian wine. The other three provinces are British Columbia on the West Coast, Nova Scotia on the East Coast and Quebec and Ontario in the middle of the country.

People thought that the growing conditions in Canada, the northernmost country in North America, were too cold to grow grapes and that grape growers and wine producers could not make wines as well as in other famous viticultural areas around the world.

The Vintners Quality Alliance, or VQA Ontario, was created as a governing body to make sure that the quality of the winemaking of the Ontario wineries is held to a high standard.

Ontario’s Diverse Wine Offerings

The long growing season with hot summers and cold winters and a variety of soil types makes this wine producing region a perfect place for high quality grape growing. Many grape varieties are planted for the production of cool climate wines. Among the white wines, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Vidal are the most popular, and with the red wines, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, and Baco Noir, are popular.

The wine regions of Ontario offer wine experiences and wine tours for wine lovers of all levels. There are quality wines produced in many styles, such as sparkling wines, dry table wines, and dessert wines, including icewine. There are many small-batch producers as well as large-scale producers, all dedicated to making the best Ontario VQA wines possible.

Many award-winning wines have shown the rest of the international wine scene that Ontario’s wine country and Ontario Vineyards in particular can produce high quality wines with a sense of place that is a wine destination that pleases the palates of all who try them.

There are three major appellations of origin along the great lakes of Ontario and Erie in Southern Ontario that we will discover in this article.

Niagara Peninsula

The largest of the wine regions of Ontario is the Niagara Peninsula with almost 14,000 acres of vineyards planted there. It is located along the western shore of Lake Ontario, about an hour and a half from the city of Toronto, with the Niagara River and Niagara Falls to the south, within the Niagara Region at the 43rd parallel.

This cool climate region is divided again into two regional appellations:

The Niagara Escarpment

The Niagara escarpment & area, with its limestone bedrock, are further divided into several sub-appellations, such as the Twenty Mile Bench, the Short Hills Bench, and the Beamsville Bench.

Niagara-on-the-Lake

The city of St.Catharines separates the other regional appellation, Niagara-on-the-Lake & Area, which is also further divided into several sub-appellations, such as Niagara Lakeshore, Four Mile Creek, and St. David’s.

Thomas Bachelder with one of his Niagara wines.

Prince Edward County

This region is situated at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, at the 44th parallel, and is farther north than the other regions. It is known for sparkling wine and excellent Pinot Noir VQA wines as well.

Representatives of Huff Winery in Prince Edward County with one of their wines.

Lake Erie North Shore

Located at the south end of the waters of Lake Erie at the 42nd parallel this includes the famous Pelee Island Winery and the sub-appellation of the South Islands. Other wineries are located along the north shore of Lake Erie.

Emerging Regions

There are also a few emerging regions in the Province that sometimes have to use viticultural practices such as burying vines in winter and digging them out in the Spring as well as growing hybrid grapes that are suited to colder weather. They are located in the Lake Huron shores and Georgian Bay as well as Norfolk county.

So VQA wineries are appearing in more locations especially as the global climate warms up in Ontario’s wine regions.

Who knows if the appellation system will continue to expand into the near future.