Trius Winery at Hillebrand ~ photo by Fred Couch
Tony Aspler in his book "Wine Lover's Companion" refers to Ontario icewine as the world's best tasting secret.
The Ontario growing region lies most between the 52º and 41º placing them in the middle of the northern grape growing belt. The same latitude as Bordeaux, France and the Northern wine regions of California.
Most Ontario Vineyards are located in or near the historic Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario's oldest community.
The QC (Quality Certified) symbol on Fruit Wines of Ontario bottles means you are buying wine made with 100% Ontario-grown fruit. QC is modeled on the same quality standards as VQA. VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) is a symbol of quality and designation of origin for Ontario wines produced in four Viticultural Areas: Niagara Peninsula, Pelee Island, Lake Erie North Shore and Prince Edward County
Ontario is a much younger wine growing area than european countries and has so far identified four primary viticultural areas and 12 sub appellations. The four viticultural areas are: Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore, Pelee Island and Prince Edward County. We recently added the South Georgian Bay Region and Lake Erie South Coast
There are vintners who grow their grapes in the Niagara Peninsula and the winery location is in the Toronto area. Numerous winemakers are setting new frontiers growing grapes in different areas of the Province, for now they are simply known as Off the Beaten Path
The following information has been provided to this website by VQA Ontario* We appreciate their assistance in helping us provide you with the best information available.
The Niagara Peninsula
The Niagara Peninsula is the largest Viticultural Area in Ontario (and Canada), accounting for almost
three quarters of Canada's grape-growing volume with approximately 11,000 acres of wine grapes in place.
Situated at approximately N43º latitude, the growing season sunshine is comparable to the
Languedoc-Rousillon in France, south of both Burgundy and Bordeaux, or Tuscany, Italy. Wines grown in such
temperate climates can produce superior fruit, with more complexity and intense flavours than in warmer
Lake Erie North Shore
The vineyards of Southwestern Ontario cover over 500 acres situated in a flavoured mesoclimate along the
north shore of Lake Erie in Essex, Kent and Elgin counties, except that part of Kent county lying to the
north of the Thames River. The grape growing area stretches along the bow-shaped shoreline of Lake Erie
from Amherstburg to Leamington, with a further concentration of vineyards around the town of Blenheim to
the east. Soil structures vary from gravely loam to clay and sandy loam. With southern exposure complemented
by the moderating effect of the lake, this Viticultural Area produces some of Canada's finest wines.
Pelee Island, marginally nearer the equator than Rome at N41° 45' latitude, is Canada's
most southerly point, and accordingly, it enjoys a longer growing season than any other wine region in Canada.
Situated in Lake Erie, 25 kilometres (15 miles) off the mainland, Pelee Island has 500 acres under vine. The southerly
location and surrounding waters give rise to an early harvest and picking usually begins at the end of August.
Even late-harvest grapes are often in by mid October.
Prince Edward County
Prince Edward County, located in southern Ontario just west of Kingston, recently emerged as a wine growing region. The appellation includes lands within the political boundaries of Prince Edward County and surrounding areas to the north and east. The area has a long history of fruit production, notably apples, and enjoys the moderating effect on temperatures of an extensive shoreline along the north shore of Lake Ontario. The geology of the region is characterized by calciferous bedded limestone and soils are typically well drained, rocky and can be relatively shallow, but with variations across the region.
Plantings are primarily vitis vinifera varieties with an early emphasis on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The potential for many other grape varieties is being explored as the region develops viticultural practices that best express the terroir of the “County”.
Ontario South Coast Wineries & Growers Assoc
Ontario's newest region seeking AVA. status. It runs along Lake Erie North Shore Region just east of the current Lake Erie North Shore AVA and west of the Niagara region .Documentation shows that missionaries Dollier and Galinee made wine from grapes grown wild here in the late 1600s.
Cities here include Simcoe, St Thomas, Aylme and St.Williams. Quai Du Vin Estate Winery is the most established winery in the region planting their vineyard in the 1979s
Sub-Appellations within the Niagara Peninsula
As a result of decades of grape growing experience and extensive research, ten unique growing areas
within the Niagara Peninsula have been identified. These sub-appellations include areas on the plains
close to Lake Ontario and the benchlands of the Niagara Escarpment.
The Niagara River appellation is a small strip of land running along the river from John Street to Dee Road and inland to the first Concession road. Niagara's famous scenic tourist route, the Niagara River Parkway weaves up the length of the appellation. Soils in the area are primarily stratified glaciolacustrine fine sands, providing natural drainage and strong encouragement for vines to develop deep root penetration. The fast flowing Niagara River creates convectional currents that draw cooler air into the gorge, moderating vineyard temperatures and reducing frost risks. Slopes in the area are predominantly east facing which is unique in the region. These factors create excellent growing conditions for tender varieties and contribute complex flavours to the grapes.
Niagara Lakeshore follows the shoreline of Lake Ontario from the Welland Canal east to the Niagara River and proceeds inland for approximately 3 kilometers. The primary influence on this appellation is the proximity of the Lake and its year round effect on temperatures. Soils in the area are primarily glaciolacustrine near shore and deltaic sands and silts deposited on Halton Till with relatively high water- holding capacities. These light soils together with the long growing season contribute to flavour development in grapes and mature, full bodied wines.
Four Mile Creek
Four Mile Creek comprises the fertile plain that makes up central Niagara-on-the-Lake. It lies slightly inland and below the bench of the Niagara Escarpment providing for warm days and cool nights during the growing season. Soils are red shale with a high silt and clay content, good water retention and ideal characteristics for vines.The relatively flat topography leads to abundant sunshine and warm days giving growers the opportunity to grow many varieties. Four Mile Creek is the largest sub-appellation in the Niagara Peninsula.
St. David's Bench
St. David's Bench describes the natural bench formed when glaciers carved out the Niagara Escarpment. The land rises from the historic shoreline of Lake Iroquois towards the base of the escarpment where a steep ridge provides steady air circulation. Topography of the bench is complex and the sub-appellation approximately follows the contour lines that define the escarpment and runs from the Niagara River to Beechwood Road. Moderately well drained glaciolacustrine silty clays combined with ground water flow from the base of the escarpment provide steady moisture throughout the growing season. The escarpment topography also provides early spring warming with good air circulation and frost protection.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is made up of all land within Niagara River, Niagara Lakeshore, Four Mile Creek and St. David's Bench sub-appellations. Niagara-on-the-Lake has long been used to refer to the lands in this area and to wine that originates there. To use this municipal designation, a wine must be sourced from at least 85% of grapes from the area with the balance from within the Niagara Peninsula.
Creek Shores is bounded by Lake Ontario, Twelve Mile Creek, Twenty Mile Creek and Jordan Harbour, and Regional Road 81 to the south which defines the lower boundary of the escarpment bench. It is a delta shaped area characterized with long gentle slopes and an abundance of small creeks draining into Lake Ontario. Soils are a complex series of glacial, fluvial and lacustrine sediments underlain by Queenston shale. Temperatures are moderated by Lake Ontario and smaller water bodies and spring warming and bud break are slightly delayed.
The Lincoln Lakeshore follows the Lake Ontario shore from Winona Road to Jordan Harbour and Twenty Mile Creek, pushing inland to Regional Road 81. This land mass is characterized by long gentle slopes that grade from the Lake Iroquois Bluff and numerous seasonal streams. Glacial, fluvial and lacustrine sedimentary deposits have resulted in a variety of soil types and depths, but soils are primarily light-texture and well to moderately-drained. Again, Lake Ontario has a major impact and provides longer, tempered growing conditions and even ripening.
Short Hills Bench
Short Hills Bench is the most easterly of appellations making up the Niagara Escarpment. It includes the land south of Regional Road 81 rising up towards the Escarpment Brow and situated between Twelve Mile Creek and Fifteen Mile Creek. Laid down through a long history of geological events, the undulating topography of Short Hills provides long gentle slopes with excellent drainage and sun exposure. Warm sunny days and cool nights are perfect for developing grape flavours derived from the complex soil in the area. Soils makeup is chiefly glaciolacustrine deep water stratified clay and silt and stratified brown silty clays deposited on clay loam.
Twenty Mile Bench
The Twenty Mile Bench is another segment of the escarpment bench, from Fifteen Mile Creek to just west of Cherry Avenue. This stretch of the bench is bisected by Twenty Mile Creek and shows complex topography with a double bench formation rising from Regional Road 81 with changing slopes to the brow of the escarpment. Glacial activity has provided deep clay and till surface soils, with a high proportion of limestone and shale. The sheltered north facing slopes offer year round temperature moderation.
The Beamsville Bench completes the Niagara Escarpment running from just west of Cherry Avenue to Park Road in the east. The narrow bench area is the sloped plateau immediately below the face of the escarpment continuing down to Regional Road 81. The appellation benefits from the air circulation, frost protection, slopes and elevation provided by the escarpment topography. The continual air circulation results in minimal temperature swings and consistent growing conditions. Soils are generally deep and well-drained and numerous streams provide seasonal water supply. Although a relatively small appellation, the Beamsville Bench exhibits a unique set of conditions that provide a natural complexity to the wines originating there.
The Short Hills Bench, Twenty Mile Bench and Beamsville Bench collectively form the Niagara Escarpment which represent the benchlands north of the Niagara Escarpment and west of St. Catharines. The Escarpment is widely recognized as a designation for all lands on the “bench” in recognition of this dominant topographic feature. To use this broader designation, a wine must be sourced from at least 85% of grapes from the area with the balance from within the Niagara Peninsula.
Vinemount Ridge is the appellation above and south of the brow of the escarpment. Covering a broad area, it is unique in that it exhibits shallow mostly south facing slopes. The geology in the area is dominated by the Vinemount Moraine and to the east, the Fonthill Kame. This provides early spring warming to its deep clay soils and early budburst for the vines. The area enjoys warm daytime temperatures and cool nights.
* VQA Ontario is Ontario's wine authority, responsible for administering and enforcing wine legislation governing VQA wines. Our mandate is consumer protection and we are not engaged in the marketing of VQA wines.
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