By Alexandria Deer
Known for it’s strong agricultural roots, Norfolk County has certainly owned the nickname, “Ontario’s Garden.” The combination of a mild climate, long growing season, and some of the most fertile land in all of Ontario allow farmers to grow a variety of crops. What was once known as the heart of tobacco country has become one of Ontario’s emerging wine regions. Former tobacco farms across the region are being repurposed to produce innovative wines. Locally grown cherries, strawberries, blueberries, Saskatoon berries, apples, pears, rhubarb, pumpkins, and lavender are being used in award-winning wines, ciders, and beers to create unique and complex flavours. Situated along the shores of Lake Erie, you’ll discover stretches of sandy shorelines, passionate producers, and a vibrant culinary scene.
Ontario’s South Coast Wineries & Growers Association has introduced the ‘Toast the Coast Trail’ and accompanying map so that you can sip and savour at a collection of wineries and breweries along Ontario’s South Coast.
Blueberry Hill Estates, located just outside of St. Williams, is an established family farm that has been producing high-bush blueberries for generations. Originally producing blueberry fruit wines, they have branched out into grape vintages and, more recently, ciders. For an authentic farm experience, you can pick-your-own blueberries from the Estate’s fields, or browse through the market stocked with local fruits and vegetables, baked goods, and preserves, including pickled blueberries!
In keeping with many other wineries in Norfolk County, Bonnieheath Lavender & Winery began as a family operated tobacco farm. Now, owners Steve and Anita are producing a variety of crops, including wine grapes, lavender, and small grains. The addition of environmental projects, namely the growing of native grasses and wildflowers, promotes biodiversity and pollinator habitat, as well as a wetland that attracts many species of wildlife. You can wander the grounds, with glass in hand, taking in the lovely sights and aromas on this beautiful farm. Bonnieheath also produces a line of Folkin’ Hard Ciders using the apples from their very own orchards.
Burning Kiln Winery honours Norfolk County’s agricultural heritage and celebrates the culinary and cultural bounty of the county. Situated on a former tobacco tract, the winery overlooks the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve and is riddled with biking and hiking trails. Burning Kiln has been producing award-winning wines since they opened in 2011 and takes advantage of former bulk tobacco kilns to dry grapes in order to enhance flavours and create new taste sensations. Gain a true taste of place as you relax on the patio and enjoy the flavours of Norfolk from David’s on Tour on the patio. The winery’s menu pairs wines with dishes made from locally sourced products, including perch tacos, lamb meatballs, vegetarian lasagna, and flatbreads.
Just outside of the bustling lakeside town of Port Dover are Frisky Beaver and Smoke & Gamble. Bask in the sunshine on the beautiful patio overlooking the vineyard while you sip on their award-winning wines and nibble on cheeses from The Dover Cheese Shop. Frisky’s cheeky line of wines will leave you flushed, while Smoke & Gamble will excite you in a way that only age and experience can. The barrel aging process and use of old tobacco kilns presents sophisticated aromas that will leave you begging for more.
Named for the reclaimed marshland located in the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve on which it is situated, Inasphere Wines is Norfolk County’s newest winery. This vegetable farm + winery values quality in all that they do and it shows in the vintages they’ve produced thus far. If you’re looking for an incredible view, warm hosts, and stellar sips, then Inasphere is the place to go. Just look for the veggie stand out front!
Villa Nova Estate Winery, just outside of Waterford, is situated on 100 acres of sandy knolls, loam soils, ancient pasture, and wetlands, which is habitat for grassland birds, waterfowl, wild turkey, and deer. Their established vineyard is the oldest in Norfolk County, growing Riesling, Pinot Noir, Vidal, Baco Noir, and Marechal Foch. Skip the dessert and go straight for their peach, cherry, or sweet apple dessert wines. Feeling saucy? Their crisp and dry apple cider is a crowd pleaser!
In fitting with many wineries in Norfolk County, Wooden Bear L Winery began as an orchard entity before producing wine. Calmark Orchards Ltd. produce a variety of apples, from McIntosh and Empire to Ida Red and Spy, which they use in their blended apple wines and ciders. Wooden Bear produces wine in small batches, using only locally sourced and raw ingredients and utilizes a winemaking process that allows the flavours, aromas, colours, and textures to speak for themselves. Don’t forget to pick up some apples on your way out!
To fully enjoy your tasting experience, book a guided tour of Norfolk’s wineries and breweries with Ride the Bine, Norfolk’s first wine, beer and cider tour company.
To learn more, visit www.norfolktourism.ca.
‘Toast the Coast Trail’:http://www.ontariosouthcoastwine.com/winemap/
Blueberry Hill Estates: http://blueberry-hill.ca/
Bonnieheath Lavender & Winery: http://www.bonnieheathestate.com/
Burning Kiln Winery: http://www.burningkilnwinery.ca/
Frisky Beaver: http://www.friskybeaver.ca/
Smoke & Gamble: http://www.smokeandgamble.com/ourwine.html
Inasphere Wines: https://www.norfolktourism.ca/directory/listing/inasphere-wines
Villa Nova Estate Winery: https://www.villanovaestatewinery.ca/
Wooden Bear L Winery: http://www.woodenbearlwinery.com/
Ride the Bine: www.ridethebine.com
The Dover Cheese Shop: http://www.dovercheese.com/