The top 15 wineries in Ontario
The top wineries in Ontario tend to be concentrated in the Niagara and Prince Edward County regions, where high quality Riesling, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay, and Cabernet Franc is produced (to name only our most popular grapes). While there are a few exceptions (mostly based on size), these producers offer excellent on-site tasting experiences.
Here are my picks for the top wineries in Ontario.
One of the flagship properties on the Beamsville Bench, this winery produces excellent Riesling and Cabernet Franc (which is often blended with other varietals) from old vines that show off the potential that this microclimate has to produce complex wines with healthy minerality. Bonus points for an excellent visitor experience.
Established by Harald Thiel over a decade ago now, Hidden Bench makes only high quality wines in low qualities in an effort to do justice to the Beamsville Bench. There are a number of varietals planted here, but the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are standouts. That said, their Nuit Blanche wine, a white Bordeaux blend, is legendary among wine geeks.
Fielding Estate should be commended for its cheerful "Fireside" white blend, which offers surprising quality at under $15. If you're looking for more complexity, the winery's single white varietals are also highly recommended, including Riesling and Gewurztraminer. On the red side of things, Fielding makes one of Ontario's best cabernet blends.
The focus is on Burgundian varietals at this Prince Edward County trailblazer. Part of the region's reputation for making top notch Pinot is built on Hardie's wines, which aim to express the unique character of this cool weather climate.
One of Prince Edward County's oldest producers, Closson Chase specializes in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, both of which express the limestone rich soil that marks these vineyards. It's amazing to think that the winery is less than 20 years old given the quality that it's now known for.
Another Prince Edward County Winery, Karlo bucks the trend here by splitting its focus on a diverse set of varietal including rare-for-Ontario plantings of Sangiovese and Petit Verdot. The results are intriguing and often outstanding.
One of the founding wineries of Prince Edward County, Grange's name is synonymous with quality, from their single vineyard offerings to their surprisingly reasonable estate wines. The Riesling is phenomenal, but the Gamay will also make you want to drink this varietal more often.
The quintessence of a boutique wine, Five Rows wine comes from two vineyards planted predominantly with Pinot Noir. There are five other varietals that come in quantities of about a 100 cases per year including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Riesling.
While you'll find a variety of wines under the Southbrook label, it's the small lot estate-grown offerings that have garnered the winery its sterling reputation. The wild ferment Chardonnay is a wonderful expression of Niagara-on-the-Lake's potential to produce great wines.
Everything about Stratus screams quality, from the slick tasting room to the stately branding, but the wine must stand on its own apart from such things, which it most certainly does. It's not cheap, but Stratus aims to make complex blended wines worthy of age and special occasion enjoyment.
One of the older wine operations in Niagara, Reif boasts an array of plantings across the region from Gewurztraminer to Merlot and much in between. Their "First Growth" series, which features low yield wines from the estate's oldest vines, is worth the investment for a sample of the quality that Niagara is capable of.
If you ever doubt that the Niagara region is capable of producing world class Pinot Noir, uncork a bottle of Leaning Post and be amazed at the almost cherry cola-like palate of this wine. The 2010 vintage is outstanding.
One of the province's most intriguing producers, Pearl Morissette is notorious for its Riesling being rejected by the VQA multiple times on account of it not typifying the Niagara region. There's a iconoclastic sentiment here, sure, but only insofar as the winery is so committed to old world techniques.
Tawse is another winery that capitalizes on the micro climate and limestone-rich soil of the Beamsville Bench to turn out excellent Riesling and surprisingly lush Cabernet. The 2011 Van Bers Vineyard Cabernet Franc is one of the best expressions of this grape that you'll encounter in the province.
13th Street has vineyards all around the Vineland region, which manifest in blends as well as single varietals. If there's a signature wine here, I'd say it's the Syrah, which isn't a common grape in the region but still shines under the stewardship of winemaker Jean-Peirre Colas.
Share your favourite Ontario wineries in the comments.
Photo of Closson Chase vineyards.
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