The largest wine region in Ontario, Canada – Niagara-on-the-Lake (short form NOTL), is just over an hour drive from downtown Toronto and offers a wide range of wineries and restaurants. If you’re visiting Toronto (or want a fun staycation if you live in South Western Ontario), I’d recommend booking a day of wine touring and spend one night so you don’t have to drive home, or pre-book an SUV or limo from and back to the city.
In the past year, I’ve spent two full days – once in the winter and once in the summer – exploring the NOTL region and I’ve come away with some definite favorites. Here’s my list of the top wineries (and one distillery for good measure):
Five Rows – Five generations in, and the family that cultivates these grapes had still not produced and marketed their own wine. This all changed when the son, Wes Lowrey, decided to take the next step and craft their own wines, while still producing grapes for other wineries. The Lowrey family takes their time in tending to their vineyard with a focus on complex and subtle flavors and the result is really refined wines, with the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir being my favourites. This is a very small family run operation so be sure to make an appointment beforehand.
Between the Lines – Full disclosure: my uncle and dad, Bob & Wayne Izumi, has partnered with BTL for many years now as they produce an Izumi white wine blend, as well as a red blend. Over the years, I’ve had the chance to visit the winery and help choose the blends for our Izumi wine, and get to know the team. Their story is so eloquently laid out on their site, I encourage you to read it here. They just added a new “barn” to house private events and it’s a very charming spot. They also partner with super talented chefs in the area to complete the experience.
Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery – One of the more known wineries in the area, the Ravine is a lovely spot for lunch or a private event. They have a small room for tasting with a bar in the adjoining room, as well as a spacious restaurant with a patio. Definitely a good one to arrange a tasting and lunch.
Big Head – Another family run winery, they produce some very delicious full bodied reds, as well as a good selection of whites. The daughter of the owner and operator took us through ten wines, quizzing us, then educating us on each one. She was super knowledgeable and passionate and it definitely added to the experience. I’ll go back next time I’m in the area for sure.
Two Sisters Vineyards – The newest vineyard in NOTL, Two Sisters knocks it out of the park with a large variety of complex and tasty wines and just as impressive – a part old world/part modern and ALL glam estate. The setting is luxurious and grand and makes for a stellar dinner spot or wedding venue.
Dillon’s Distillery – A trendy, boutique small batch distillery, Dillon’s is really fun to visit. They make rye, canadian rye whiskey, vodka, gin and even bitters, fruit spirits and absinthe (#trouble)! In addition to super smooth booze, they have a nice little section of curated gifts to take home.