Top 4 places to go (get inebriated under the pretence of) wine tasting in Ontario

The ears of any backpacker worth their salt will quiver and prick with anticipation upon hearing the phrase ‘wine region’, for it can mean only one thing: wine tasting, the ultimate gap year pursuit, drinking alcohol in the name of culture. Imagine my delight, then, when I arrived in Ontario and discovered a booming wine industry.

Not many people know that Canadian wine exists. I certainly didn’t. But it does, and to the lips of a self-professed wine dunce it tastes rather good. Ontario is home to an impressive number of wineries and vineyards, thriving within an area that sits on the same latitude as other well-known wine regions such as Burgundy and Bordeaux in France, where the Ontario weather is temperate. If you’ve already drunk your way around the world’s premier wine regions, get over to Canada and visit the following:

1. Casa-Dea Estates Winery

The winery of Casa-Dea Estates is almost brand new, capitalising on a well-established vineyard which previously supplied other winemakers. Their philosophy of ‘good wine, good food, good friends, and a great location’ shines through, and could be used as the mantra of Ontario’s entire wine region. A welcoming atmosphere ensures wine tasting sessions here are relaxed and accessible to all, elucidating the baffling (and, I sense, completely imaginary) combination of flavours and tastes that only the rhetorical winos seem to detect, which is perfect for the parched vagabond. Try the 2009 Chardonnay Reserve, and see if you can taste toast and a hint of matchstick…

2. Legends Estate Winery

To some people, wine is less about taste and more about location, and they certainly would not be disappointed with the Legends Estate Winery. On the edge of the vast Lake Ontario, Legends presents its guests with an expansive panorama to regard while they sample a fine selection of wines, including a couple that are poured from striking, electric-coloured bottles bearing tattoo designs. Be sure to try the 2008 DIVA Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc, part of a new range of Legends wines aimed at female wine consumers, some of the proceeds of which go to the Women’s place of South Niagara charity.

3. Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery

Wineries are, stereotypically, places rich with heritage, with a long tradition of wine production. Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery breaks this mould, however, and does so with aplomb. Having opened in 2000, Peninsula Ridge offers a rare insight into the genesis of a winery, for it is still establishing itself and refining its wine. This does not mean to say the wines are poor however; on the contrary. Find out for yourself by trying the 2008 Inox Chardonnay, perfect for any frugal traveller.

4. Oak Heights Estate Winery

Further off the beaten track than its contemporaries, Oak Heights is ‘the little winery that could’, concentrating on the quality of its wine rather than the size of its vineyard, and prospering against all odds upon the Northumberland hills. Backpackers will likely feel right at home here, for the tasting sessions are devoid of pretension and the staff friendly and down to earth. Try the 2007 Merlot for a divine chocolaty experience… that’s right, chocolate wine.

By Kirk Shackleton : Kirk was reared in Australia’s Outback before travelling extensively across the globe, eventually settling in London.  He is passionate about food, travel and any sport that isn’t cricket!

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