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There are just over 1,400 acres of vineyards in southwestern Ontario, located along a peninsula that wraps around the north shore of Lake Erie, including the South Islands. The waters of Lake Erie, the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair surround this peninsula. The moderating effect of the climate, and its location along the 42nd north parallel (similar to that of French Riviera, Northern California, southern France and Madrid, Spain) gives Lake Erie North Shore the highest accumulation of heat units in Ontario each summer. This contributes to the high sugars and moderate acid levels of the grape. With its southern exposure complemented by the moderating effect of the lake, and an abundance of sunshine, Lake Erie North Shore experiences an earlier harvest than other parts of Ontario and produces excellent wines.
The grape-growing area stretches along the bow-shaped shoreline of Lake Erie from Amherstburg to Leamington, with more vineyards around the town of Blenheim to the east.
The South Islands sub-appellation is the nine islands that comprise the municipality of the Town of Pelee Island, part of the Lake Erie North Shore appellation, and located at the most southerly point in Canada, and lies about 25 kilometres off the mainland of southern Ontario on Lake Erie. Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, with the warmest surface temperature of the five lakes. Its moderating effect produces a temperate climate on the island, which has a longer growing season than any other wine region in Canada, often thirty days more than the mainland.
Grapes are grown on the largest island, Pelee which is the site of Canada's first commercial winery, VinVilla, that began operations in 1866. More than a hundred years later, its vineyards of native grapes were replanted with Vitis vinifera vines.
For more information on this region, visit the Essex Pelee Island Coast