The success of Ontario wine has not happened overnight. Starting in the late 1980s with the creation of VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance), it has evolved into a major wine region in Canada, North America, and eventually, the world. At present there are four DVAs (Designated Viticultural Areas) in Ontario: Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore, Pelee Island and the newest, Prince Edward County. But hold onto your wine glasses! There is a new, up and coming region that could very well be the next official DVA. It’s called Ontario’s South Coast.
This new, emerging region sits south of Lake Ontario, running west along the north shore of Lake Erie, between Stoney Creek and Port Stanley, almost seeming like an eastern extension of the Lake Erie North Shore DVA. The area, called Norfolk County, was at one time the heart of tobacco growing in this province. With tobacco use on the decline, many farmers in the area have turned their focus to other crops, including wine grapes. With a mild climate blessed by moderation from Lake Erie, it possesses a lengthy growing season. An important natural geographical feature of the region is Long Point, a 40 km. projection of land that sticks out into Lake Erie, a long time migratory route for birds. As a main geographical feature of the region, it probably would make a great name for the DVA when it officially becomes one. Although “Ontario’s South Coast” works, it is a bit confusing as to exactly where it is. Just a thought!
The region has lots of forests, extensive waterfront and is splattered with small towns that are quaint and “folksy”. Lots to see and do for the traveler! It has a very comfortable feel about it and at this point, is not over touristy. That could all change if it becomes a Designated Viticultural Area.
Currently, there are 7 wineries here: Burning Kiln, Carolinian Winery & Eatery, Golden Leaf Estate, Rush Creek Wines, Quai du Vin Estate, Villa Nova Estate, and Wooden Bear L. Four others will be opening soon: Bains Road Cider Co,. Blueberry Hill Estates, Bonnieheath Lavender & Winery and Dover Vineyards.
Some interesting things are going on in the region both winewise and otherwise. Vinifera grapes such as Riesling, and Cab Franc, hybrid grapes like Marechal Foch, and other fruits are doing a nice job here. At Wooden Bear L they’re making some delightful fruit wines from cherries, apples, products infused with vodka and even some hard cider. At Burning Kiln, they’re doing something really fascinating. The site, having previously housed a tobacco pack barn, has been architecturally reconfigured to resemble it, but that’s not necessarily the interesting thing. On the property were kilns, originally used to dry tobacco leaves. Having updated the kilns, they are now being used to dry wine grapes in the “appassimento” style, which concentrates the flavours. This process of drying grapes, although not utilizing kilns, is famous in Italian wines such as Amarone. A unique concept for sure and a great marketing tool for the wines! Burning Kiln also has an observatory with telescope, a zip line adventure through the trees and a really interesting camping venue in glorified tents of a sort.
So do yourself a favour. Take a trip out to Ontario’s South Coast and make history yourself. Savour the sights, sounds and flavour of this budding wine region, before it becomes famous. You won’t be sorry. For more information go to www.ontariosouthcoastwine.com.
NOTE: My new, comic, wine mystery novel, Pinot Envy, is now available at Book City in the Beach. On Sept. 20 from 6-8 p.m. I will be in the store signing books, so drop by, have a chat and pick up your copy. It would be great to meet you.
Edward Finstein a.k.a. The Wine Doctor, wine writer, educator, judge & consultant winedoctor.ca thewinedoctor.blogspot.com @DrWineKnow
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If there’s any way to get to Book City on the 26th, I’ll be there.