We Canadians love our summers. We just can’t get enough of them. We’ve been conditioned to treasure the warmer weather so much because of the soul-wrenching winter months that make up the majority of the year, but let’s not think about the “W” word just yet.
As we continue to soak up the sun in this two-dose summer, I recommend heading to your local LCBO and picking up a bottle or two of Ontario’s finest wine. Better yet, if you’re looking for adventure, I would highly recommend making the trip to Ontario’s newest emerging wine region, Huron Shores.
Only two-and-a-half hours away from Toronto, this wine region has been compared to Burgundy, Alsace, and the Loire Valley in France for its limestone-based soils and similar growing conditions. If that isn’t enough of a selling point, then maybe you’ll be swayed by the surrounding beaches of Lake Huron, like Grand Bend, a popular spot for surfers.
That’s right: grapes, waves and sand between your toes, can you think of a better combination?
So what is an emerging wine region anyway?
In Ontario, there are four official wine regions: Niagara Escarpment, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Lake Erie North Shore, and Prince Edward County. Huron Shores is not an official wine region just yet. Instead, it’s considered an “emerging region”: there are fewer wineries and vineyards than in established regions, but they’re on track to one day receiving official status.
If my visit to Huron Shores is anything to go by, wineries in such regions tend to be very community-oriented and place an emphasis on locally sourced goods. It isn’t unheard of to pull up to a winery and get the chance to speak directly with the owners and winemakers. They are incredibly passionate about their craft, and will often provide you with detailed information about how they make their wine, why it’s so special, and other interesting tidbits.
We got the sense that this is a community that is working together to build and develop the wine industry in the region which, due to climate change and a few other factors, is now possible.
There are five wineries in the area, and I visited three. They each have something unique to offer.
Schatz Winery & Vineyards
The first winery on this list is Schatz Winery & Vineyards. Inspired by their semester in the south of France while they were attending Guelph University, husband and wife team Frank and Liz opened Schatz Winery & Vineyards as an extension to their existing family-owned business on the property, the Hessenland Inn.
Schatz Winery currently has 10 wines in their lineup. They offer a unique “Bring Your Own Blanket” experience where you can dine among the vines. Round up your girlfriends or your partner to enjoy a chef’s tasting menu which includes a unique wine pairing with each course. How romantic is that? Wine tasting and lunch or dinner in the vineyard packages start at $15 per person.
Cornerfield Wine Co.
Cornerfield Wine Co. is owned and operated by the Durand family, and is built on their well-established family farm near Bayfield, Ontario.
A visit to Cornerfield feels like visiting the home of a close friend. When you first walk in, you’re greeted by a beautiful refurbished trailer converted into a wine bar which the owner built himself. The property has plenty of places to sit for both smaller, more intimate groups, and larger groups.
Even though Cornierfield focuses on wine only, they’ve partnered up with local food businesses that provide a wide array of options that pair perfectly with that glass of rosé.
This summer, Cornerfield partnered with Staffmeal to offer a rotating seasonal set menu of several plant-based small plates offered every Saturday and Sunday. Cornerfield also recently partnered with Grassroots Woodfired Pizza!
Quench your thirst with a delicious glass of wine and feed your appetite with a tasty woodfired pizza or a plant-based meal.
Dark Horse Estate Winery
Surrounded by the beauty of Huron County and its one-of-a-kind architecture, Dark Horse is one of the largest wineries in the area. It’s also one of the most striking: pulling up into the massive Dark Horse lot, the first thing you’ll spot is a wonderful and intimidating brass statue of a horse rearing on its hind legs.
Their impressive state-of-the-art facility provides services to other wineries in the region, giving it that community feel that I mentioned earlier. More than 22,000 vines have been planted in the vineyard since 2015, including varietals that you may already know and love, such as Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Baco Noir, and Vidal Marquette.
Aside from their tasty wines, you can enjoy a delicious wood fired oven pizza or tour its vast below-ground storage area for all the enormous oak barrels. For more information about Dark Horse visit their website or Facebook page.
If you’ve recently visited a winery in an emerging region, let us know what you thought in the comments section below!