Explore our Grape Growing Regions

Ontario’s grape and wine country has captured the attention of enthusiastic wine lovers worldwide. Grape production in Ontario originates from three Designated Viticultural Areas: Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore, and Prince Edward County. There are also emerging regions across the province, like Norfolk and Simcoe Counties. There are approximately 18,000 acres under vine in these areas, which all have excellent combinations of the right climate, growing season and soils – terroir – and evolving viticultural practices, to grow high quality grapes. 

The Designated Viticultural Areas (DVA) are further divided in Regional Appellations which are smaller than DVAs but contain more than one Sub-Appellation. And Sub-Appellations are smaller areas within an appellation that have been identified because of their unique geographical conditions.  For more information on Ontario's Designated Viticultural Areas or Appellations of Origin, visit VQA Ontario.

Ontario’s grape and wine country is classified as a cool climate viticulture region, and with its cold winters, has become the world leader in Icewine, a premium dessert wine. 

Niagara Peninsula

The Niagara Peninsula is a distinct geographical region located in southern Ontario. It lies between two Great Lakes – Ontario to the north and Erie to the south. Its eastern boundary is defined by the Niagara River, while the Niagara Escarpment, a heavily forested topographical feature that is considered the backbone of southern Ontario, extends east to west across the Peninsula and beyond.

Niagara is located between 41° and 44° north latitude. It is on the same latitudinal band as Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon in France, the Chianti Classico region in Italy, and the Rioja region in Spain. In North America, the same latitudinal band also runs through Oregon State’s wine region, California’s Mendocino Valley at its southernmost border, and Washington State’s Yakima Valley at its northernmost border.

The moderating effects of Lakes Ontario and Erie, and the protective influence of the Niagara Escarpment, creates an area of moderate temperatures during spring and summer growing seasons. Its rich and fertile soils and unique microclimate are suitable for growing Vitis vinifera grapes, making Niagara a prime grape-growing region. Niagara has 13,600 acres under vine. The grape growing area stretches from Niagara-on-the-Lake in the east to Grimsby in the west.

Lake Erie North Shore

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, which 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

Prince Edward County

Officially identified as a DVA in 2007, Prince Edward County is the latest region designated as a Viticultural Area in Ontario.  Much of the appellation, where most vineyards are located, is separated from the mainland by the Bay of Quinte and completely surrounded by the waters of Lake Ontario. Bays, inlets and coves surround "The County" as it is known, creating more than 500 miles of shoreline, including a the well known Sandbanks beach. 

Although its winters are harsher than found in other regions, Prince Edward County grows quality grapes and produces fine wines because of its close proximity to Lake Ontario, allowing for a moderating effect on air temperatures. 

Prince Edward County terroir features loose gravely soil types that lay atop the broad Trenton limestone plateau. These soils provide good structure, ample drainage, shale, and minerals for healthy development of vines and fruit with character.

For more information on Prince Edward County, visit the following sites:

Prince Edward County Tourism
Prince Edward County Winegrowers Association

There are many growers and wineries popping up all over Ontario, while not large enough to be considered a DVA, there are several wine regions to discover across the province.

Ottawa

Venture up towards the Nation’s capital for the newest Emerging Region. The grey limestone of the Ottawa Formation provides the foundation for top-quality, cool-climate wines that are turning heads North. Santé!

Huron Shores Along the shoreline of Lake Huron,  a number of wineries have established a beachhead in the region. While more activity on the vineyard front is sure to surface, keep in mind that stunning beaches, cultural activities, culinary adventures and more also beckon. 

Georgian Bay 

This region continues to welcome a steady flow of urbanities looking for a permanent retreat.  Take the opportunity now to experience what is sure to become a flourishing wine scene. Stay at your leisure, or venture a little further north to enjoy a refreshing encounter with the bay, either on the southern beaches, up the Bruce Peninsula or along the rugged beauty of the eastern shoreline.

Norfolk. Set midway between the bustle of neighbouring wine regions, this area continues to build a budding wine scene. Cruise along the broad expanses of fertile farmland and save some time to wander in the popular beach town of Port Dover. Be sure to toast your flair for fresh new finds.

Huron Shores

Along the shoreline of Lake Huron, a number of wineries have established a beachhead in the region. While more activity on the vineyard front is sure to surface, keep in mind that stunning beaches, cultural activities, culinary adventures and more also beckon. 

GTA

A short jaunt for Torontonians, and a delicious destination for visitors from afar, the region north of the city offers a selection of wineries certain to impress. For those looking to stock up on the way to cottage country, these wineries offer convenient options.

Source: https://winecountryontario.ca/region/emerging-regions/

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Niagara Icewine Festival - January 2023

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