Raise your glass if you enjoy a great glass of wine. I certainly do. One of my favourite adventures, when I visit a wine growing region, is to explore the wineries. I choose locally made wines when I dine out and best of all I visit the actual wineries. Ontario has a rich wine-growing tradition dating back to the late 19th Century and exploring it makes for a great day or weekend. You may already be familiar with Ontario’s Niagara and Prince Edward County wine regions but did you know that there is a third and it is EPIC. Epic Wine Country includes 17 wineries in Ontario’s Southwest Windsor Essex County. From small boutique family-owned wineries to the largest being Pelee Island Winery. Grab your Epic Passport it is time to raise a glass or two.
PRO TIP: Before you begin your wine tour through Epic Wine Country plan to pick up the Epic Passport. It costs $10 but comes loaded with over $100 in savings and bonus offers from participating wineries. You can pick them up at the wineries.
Now the next thing to plan out is your tasting route. There is no right or wrong route when visiting wineries. I’ve laid out the five I visited. There are still another 12 wineries for me to try, but I’m saving those for my next visit.
Pelee Island Winery 455 Seacliff Dr, Kingsville – The largest private wine estate in Canada and the original winery of the region, Pelee Island is a must visit on your tour. I’m visiting during the shoulder season when the ground is a bit wet so I’ve opted to visit the tasting room in Kingsville rather than head out to the 550 Acre Pelee Island Vineyards. Of course, during the summer months, a visit to the island is top of most peoples list.
In the tasting room, I started off with a glass of the Pelee Secco (Prosecco) and then moved into the Pinot Noir Reserve and finally the Vinedressers Cabernet Sauvignon. If I had to pick a favourite it would be the Cabernet Sauvignon, deep rich red colour and its bold flavour with a hint of cinnamon had me craving a Rib Eye steak.
Cooper’s Hawk Vineyards 1425 Iler Rd, Harrow – Aside from producing some very nice wines, Cooper’s Hawk Vineyards is a bustling winery with events happening all the time. During my visit, hayrides and pumpkin carving were on hand for kids while the parents watched and enjoyed a glass of wine or two.
The Cabernet Franc was my personal favourite here. Smooth and velvety it had my mouth watering for some Roast Pork Loin and applesauce. The North Block Sparkling was also delicious and would start any evening off on a good note.
Oxley Estate Winery 533 Essex County Rd 50, Harrow – I am not sure if I should recommend Oxley Estate Winery for their wines or the food they serve at their restaurant Beyond The Grape. To go with my Barn Burger I sampled two each of their reds and whites. Once again I was thrilled with the Cabernet Franc and the Pinot Noir. No surprise as I am more of a red wine drinker.
By the way, this burger was one of the best I have had in ages.
North 42 Degrees Estate Winery 130 Essex County Rd 50, Harrow – Arriving at North 42 Degrees Estate Winery now will be very different than my experience. When I arrived the tasting room could only hold 4 people and that was tight. The almost completed tasting room and restaurant next door look about 90% completed and I expect by now it is ready to receive wine lovers.
The condition of the tasting room didn’t stop me from trying a few different wines. Once again it was the Cabernet Franc that took the prize as my favourite. I can’t wait to come back in September to see the vines full of grapes while I sample a glass or two from the new tasting room.
Muscedere Vineyards 7457 County Rd 18, Harrow – Even though the 163 farm was purchased by the Muscedere family in 1986 they didn’t transform it into a winery and vineyards until 2003 when the first vines were planted. the 13-acre vineyard is harvested by hand which means that this is an all hands on deck venture for the family.
When I arrived the Matriarch of the family poured me a flight and I was blown away by the beautiful big and bold reds they produce. The 2012 Syrah and 2013 Meritage stood out for me. To Syrah with love I say.
I told you it was an epic wine country tour, didn’t I? Whether you enjoy handcrafted wines from a small family vineyard or a larger estate winery where they produce a wider range of wines suitable for any occasion.
Have you explored Epic Wine Country? What’s stopping you? See you there!