In the last few years, Canadian wine has rapidly grown in quality and popularity, and Canadian varieties are now emerging for the first time as serious players in the international wine scene. With some exquisite Rieslings, Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Francs, as well as many, many other varieties grown across the different viticultural areas, the problem nowadays is likely to be choosing where to get started! With more than 20 wine regions, and more being added all the time, there is a whole world of Canadian wine to explore for wine-lovers with a passion for travel! So let’s get started! An overview of Canada’s major wine producing regions Ontario Ontario, with over 15,000 acres of wine grape...
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In the last few years, Canadian wine has rapidly grown in quality and popularity, and Canadian varieties are now emerging for the first time as serious players in the international wine scene. With some exquisite Rieslings, Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Francs, as well as many, many other varieties grown across the different viticultural areas, the problem nowadays is likely to be choosing where to get started! With more than 20 wine regions, and more being added all the time, there is a whole world of Canadian wine to explore for wine-lovers with a passion for travel!

So let’s get started!

An overview of Canada’s major wine producing regions

Ontario

Ontario, with over 15,000 acres of wine grape vineyards, is the largest producer of Canadian wine. Located in the centre of the world’s wine belt, the climate in this area is similar to that in Burgundy and Bordeaux.

Lake Eerie

For sleepy Victorian towns, an abundance of sunshine and 50 miles of vineyards, head to Lake Erie, where 30,000 contiguous acres of wine country allow for long, lazy days exploring wineries and tasting some of Canada’s finest wines. Approximately four hours from Toronto by car, Lake Erie is the perfect summer escape for hiking, bike trails and beaches. The favourable southerly location and long growing season produces ripe, juicy, well-balanced grapes, and the native Labrusca grape thrives here, alongside Chardonnay, Riesling and hybrids like Vidal and Vignoles, which have been planted in the region more recently, with outstanding results.

Niagara Peninsula

Between the city of Hamilton and the iconic Niagara Falls, on the south shore of Lake Ontario, the Niagara Peninsula is the largest viticultural area in Canada, accounting for a huge 80% of the countries grape-growing volume. Proximity to Lake Ontario protects the vines from the extremes of the Canadian climate, as the lake’s summer-warmed waters raise land temperatures in the winter, while a cool breeze off the winter-cooled water ensures a longer growing season in summer. Many of the vineyards use fresh ingredients from the local area to offer world-class Canadian food to visitors, and between December and February (the coldest months of the year, with temperatures guaranteed to fall below -8 degrees) visitors can watch grapes being harvested and pressed outdoors, ready to make icewine - a dessert wine made from grapes that have been frozen on the vine.

Prince Edward County

Opposite the picturesque town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario’s newest wine region Prince Edward County has quickly become well known for its limestone-rich terroir. Here, the winters are perilously cold, and local winemakers cover their vines in soil to protect them from the harsh climate. With more than 40 wineries to visit, 700 acres of vineyard and outstanding views of Lake Ontario in every direction, Ontario’s newest DVA (Designated Viticultural Area) invites you to toss your map away and lose yourself in the charming towns and villages, in search of gourmet delights, hidden gems and incredible wines.

Nova Scotia

On Canada’s East Coast, Nova Scotia has been enjoying something of a renaissance in recent years, and this small group of passionate winemakers have recently begun to receive international acclaim for their distinctive, premium quality wines. As one of the world’s coldest grape growing areas, cool-climate whites are a staple here, including the unique varietal ‘l’Acadie Blanc’. French hybrid varieties thrive in the 325 acres of vineyard, alongside a few acres of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. As one of Canada’s maritime provinces, Nova Scotia is the place to go for fresh, local seafood, as well as a local dish called ‘hodge podge’, a thick, creamy vegetable soup.

Quebec

Determined to develop an indigenous wine industry in this challenging region, the vignerons of Quebec seek out pockets of land warmed by lakes or sheltered by mountain ranges, and plant winter-hardy French and American hybrids. With labour intensive viticultural practices (and a lot of passion), these vineyards are able to weather long, cold winters and short growing seasons, which see just over half the amount of sunlight hours enjoyed by vineyards in Bordeaux. These non-Vitis Vinifera grapes produce 250,000 cases per year of unique white and red wines, as well as digestifs, sparkling and dessert wines. Quebec is also home to many of Canada’s most rare and impressive animals, including the moose, the polar bear, the arctic fox and the snowy owl.

British Columbia

British Columbia, Canada’s most westerly province, has four Viticultural areas: the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys along the border of Washington State, and the coastal regions of Vancouver Island and the Fraser Valley. With 60 wineries and more than 8000 acres of vineyards (with breathtaking views), there is plenty to explore!

 Vancouver Island

An hour’s drive north of Victoria, the hillside vineyards of Vancouver Island make up the province’s newest wine-growing region. Ten small wineries near the city of Duncan provide a short wine trail celebrating British Columbia’s vibrant history.

The Similkameen Valley

Away from the coast, the high desert cattle country of The Similkameen Valley follows the picturesque Similkameen River. There are currently just 2 wineries established in this steep terrain, but it’s a promising area for future growth.

The Okanagan Valley

East of the Similkameen Valley, The Okanagan Valley stretches for 100 miles, encompassing over 40 wineries and 1500 hectares of vineyards, making it British Columbia’s largest and oldest grape growing region, producing 95 percent of the area’s wine. The climate and location make the valley ideal for growing fine wine varieties. Hot summer days combined with cool nights create a system of diurnal cooling which allows grapes to fully ripen and maintain balanced levels of acidity. The south end of the valley (the only place in Canada to be classified as a desert) receives fewer than 6 inches of rain per year, while the north end can receive as many as 16. This variation in climate means that many different kinds of grapes can thrive here. In the south, red Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are very successful, while German grape varieties such as Sylvaner and Optima do well in the cooler temperatures of the North. Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris thrive in the central regions.

The Okanagan Valley is very popular with tourists, due in part to its vibrant community of wine growers, gorgeous scenic surroundings, and the high quality accommodation and great food that can be found in the region.

Where to start with winery visits?

Now that you’re familiar with everything Canada has to offer, the question is - where should you start? There are so many places for wine-lovers to enjoy, so we’d like to get you started with a few suggestions in The Okanagan valley, British Columbia’s oldest wine region.

Okanagan Crush Pad

This premium winery in Summerland, BC, was built by Christine Coletta and Steve Lornie on Switchback Organic Vineyard in 2011. It has quickly gained an excellent reputation and won numerous awards and accolades thanks to experienced chief winemaker, Matt Dumayne.

Using state of the art concrete tanks, minimal additives and native yeast, Dumayne crafts natural wines which reflect the region's unique location.

Visitors can get right to the heart of the winery to discover (and taste) these fantastic wines, and gain an insight into the art of winemaking.

Mission Hill Winery

The Mission Hill Family Estate is dedicated to making excellent wine, and to providing a place for it to be enjoyed with great food and great company. Proprietor Anthony von Mandl prides himself on creating a ‘refuge’ from the hurried pace of daily life, and invites visitors to explore the extensive on-site vineyards and underground cellars, and to discover the secrets of winemaking.

Wine tastings will ‘enrich the senses’ and ‘satisfy curiosities’, and guests can enjoy the estate’s vast art collection before settling down with a glass of award winning wine in a private tasting salon.

As if that wasn’t enough, the outdoor Terrace Restaurant is the perfect place to finish the day. Enjoy spectacular dishes made from fresh, locally grown produce while enjoying a breathtaking view of the vineyards and the Okanagan Lake.

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