Ontario’s wine industry is growing and maturing with each passing year; and this is especially true here in Ontario’s Southwest too. This region is home to three wine regions, each with their own charm, unique experiences, and amazing people who can't wait to share their products and their passions with you!
All of the wineries in Southwest Ontario, located in Norfolk, Elgin, Sarnia-Lambton, Essex County, and on Pelee Island, take advantage of a temperate climate, enhanced by the diversity of glacial soils and the moderating effect of the Great Lakes, to produce their unique wines.
Best of all since we're home to emerging wine regions, you won't see large crowds like you do in other parts of the province Ontario. Leave behind the crowds and sip on award-winning wines that truly reflect the character of the region.
Now onto the three wine regions you can explore in Ontario’s Southwest:
The newest emerging wine region in the province, Huron Shores is home to three wineries with Alton Farms Estate Winery leading the way as the first vineyard on the shores of Lake Huron. With it’s location in the middle of the world’s wine belt, the zone between 41 and 44 degrees north, situated on the same latitudinal plain as Northern California, Huron Shores is ideally situated to produce fantastic wines. The lake effects coming from Lake Huron create their own unique climate in this area giving the grapes, and as a result the wines, their own nuances.
At the head of the pack in Huron Shores are Marc & Mary Alton of Alton Farms Estate Winery which produces 100% handcrafted VQA Ontario wines in Plympton-Wyoming. From the planting of grape vines to the corking of bottles, every step in their winemaking process is done by hand. The winery produces 13 to 17 different wines each year. Visit their tasting room to taste them for yourself and pair them with wood-fired pizza on the patio.
After enjoying beach day in Grand Bend, head to Dark Horse Estate Winery. This is a destination winery just like you’d find in the biggest wine regions. Featuring a huge tasting room and patios overlooking the 85-acre vineyard, you’ll definitely want to take your time tasting their wines in the picturesque setting.
You'll want to pack your camera for your visit to Shale Ridge Estate Winery, one of the newest wineries in the entire region. Sip wine while sitting back in suspended swing tables overlooking the landscape, or book a horseback riding and wine tasting tour through the rolling hills surrounding the farm and vineyards.
We recommend planning a multi-day trip to explore Huron Shores and see for yourself why this part of the region is called Ontario's Blue Coast. Look for great Sarnia-Lambton accommodations options here and take your time explore the newly expanded Cheers to the Coast trail.
South Coast Wines
A region that’s steeped in agricultural, growing so much of the amazing produce we enjoy, it’s no wonder that it also produces amazing grapes. The long, warm growing season, nutrient rich sandy soil, and Lake Erie breezes combine to create a perfect climate for vineyards to thrive. There are currently nine wineries located within the South Coast Wines region in Norfolk & Elgin Counties and all are producing fabulous, award-winning wines. All of the wineries in the area can be found on the Toast the Coast Trail and you can explore them all along with a collection of craft breweries of this self guided trail that spans three counties on the north shores of Lake Erie.
With vineyards first planted in 1970, Quai Du Vin Estate Winery is one of the oldest wineries in Ontario’s Southwest and the oldest in the South Coast Wines region. Producing over 90,000 bottles per year in the heart of Elgin County, winemaker Jamie Quai is passionate about crafting wines people enjoy drinking and support the experiences in life: complimenting favourite meals and accentuating special moments. One sip of one of Jamie's wines and you'll taste all that passion!
From the oldest to one of the newest wineries in the South Coast Wines region, Inasphere Wines opened its doors in 2016. Befitting its location in Norfolk County, known as Ontario’s Garden, the St. Williams vineyard is also a vegetable farm. Not only can you come out and enjoy hand crafted wines overlooking Lake Erie and the Long Point Biosphere Reserve, but you can also pick up fresh produce too!
You'll definitely want to sip and savour all that's available at Front Road Cellars & Blueberry Hill Estates. Their insistence on only the best for their wines starts in the field where premium fruit and grapes of the highest quality bathe in the Southwest Ontario sunshine and continues all through the winemaking process where minimal intervention lets the fruit express its true character.
Lake Erie North Shore – EPIC Wineries
The first established appellation in the region, the Lake Erie North Shore, also known as EPIC Wine Country, is almost completely surrounded by water. With no major hills in the area, there's no barrier to the prevailing southwesterly winds, this part of the region enjoys the full effect of the lake breeze that moderates the entire area during the growing season.
Lake Erie North Shore has a long growing season and the highest number of heat units compared to other Ontario regions like Niagara and Prince Edward County. This area benefits from the quick summer warming of the shallow waters of Lake Erie as well as from an abundance of sunshine during the growing season. Early harvests are the norm resulting in a long harvest season perfect for selfies in the vines.
Start your EPIC wine adventures at the quaint Vivace Estate Winery, located just outside of historic Amherstburg. This cozy winery is all about providing you with a remarkable experience of vine-to-wine excellence. Whether it's on the patio or their rustic elegant tasting room, the team at Vivace loves to share their passion for great small batch wines.
Heading south from Amherstburg to the shores of Lake Erie, the views and the wines are hard to beat at Ontario's only beachfront winery, Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery. Grab a glass of award-winning wines and one of their picnic options and head down to the water to sip and enjoy while listening to the Lake Erie waves.
Staying near the water, make your way down County Road 50 to Erie Shore Vineyards. A family-run estate winery located in picturesque Harrow on the banks of Lake Erie. The vineyard opened its doors in 2002 and has been producing critically acclaimed estate grown VQA wines ever since. So visit them for a glass on the pavilion and enjoy the hospitality.
The best way to explore this region is with the EPIC Tasting Pass. There are three purchase options based on how & when you want to explore and with each pass your get to experience tastings at 6 of the participating wineries. Get your pass here, it's all digital so it's ready to use!
Book one of the area's overnight stay options to have a multi-day adventure. You'll need the extra time to visit other EPIC wineries as well as the fruit wineries and craft breweries you'll find on the Essex County Wineries & Breweries website.