There are four official wine growing regions in Ontario, the largest and most popular of which is the Niagara Peninsula. This Peninsula is commonly associated with the picturesque Niagara-on-the-Lake, but is actually composed of many sub-appellations, each of which have unique growing conditions suited to different grape varieties. This past weekend I visited the village of Vineland in the Town of Lincoln, a little over an hour outside of Toronto.
A geographically small, accessible area, far less developed than Niagara-on-the-Lake, but every bit as beautiful, Vineland made for the perfect budget friendly escape from the city. Our team of six had planned to tour the wineries on bike and opted to camp for the weekend rather than checking into one of the area’s small inns or B&B’s (there are, however, several adorable spots that I will certainly check out on our next trip). The six of us blindly booked three campsites at the Jordan Valley Campground and upon arriving, discovered that our “campground” was more trailer park than Algonquin Park. At $33/night in a prime wine route location, we looked past the games room and trailers at the gate and managed to score three fairly private tree lined sites at the back of the campground. While we would probably do some further research regarding accommodations for our next trip, Jordan Valley certainly isn’t a bad option if you want to go the camping route. Book as close to site 46 as possible and just remember – you’re there for the wine, not for the wilderness!
A few of us decided to rent bikes rather than bring ours along and made arrangements via Zoom Leisure. For $30/day plus a drop off fee, the company delivered awesome trail bikes right to our campground complete with a winery map tucked into a handle bar storage pouch. We were a bit worried about the potential quality of rental bikes, but these turned out to be nearly brand new, great quality bikes that were comfortable and handled the terrain perfectly. Although not nearly as cute as my Schwin, I was extremely happy I opted for a light-weight hybrid rental and left my cruiser in the city where it belongs.
Saturday morning we woke up bright and early (okay, it was about noon) and after a campsite breakfast headed out on our adventure. Our leader Matt had planned our route so that we did the bulk of our biking early on and could cruise home at the end of the day. Although we were out for the better portion of the day, I think we only covered about 5-10 km, most of which is paved, so it’s an extremely manageable bike trip even for beginners.
Our first stop was Kaceba Winery, where we were inundated with information (and placated with free samples) by an extremely keen employee. We picked up a bottle of Rose and quickly hopped on our bikes after enduring a lengthy lecture of the folly of drinking ice wine after dinner (the shame!).
Next up was the stunning Tawes Winery, which we had thankfully planned to make our lunch spot. After a tasting inside, we settled on a riesling (and eventually a bottle of the chardonnay ice wine) and were directed to a picnic spot up a hidden path. The winery had been kind enough to send us on our way with six glasses and our friends Shane and Jo packed the most incredible lunch. The wine and food would have been amazing anywhere, but when we found the enormous stone table at the end of the path, we considered staying forever.
Ultimately, we decided we had come too far not to visit the rest of our route, so we packed up and braved the hill that leads from Tawes to Megalomanic Winery. Although we didn’t love the wines here, the stacked barrels did provide for a great photo opp!
Right next door was our favourite stop of the weekend – Ridgepoint Winery. Although far from the most scenic, the wines here were a hit. We did an extensive tasting with Laura, who recommended several wines for our campfire dinner and let us crack a bottle on the restaurant’s patio.
Our last stop was also the most beautiful as well as the most extensive. Although at this point I think we’d enjoyed too much wine to really appreciate our tasting, we did not fail to appreciate the beautiful property. Vineland Estates houses a charming stone carriage house (which was hosting a wedding while we were there), a full service restaurant overlooking the vineyards, and a large, cozy tasting bar.
We headed home to get a fire started before dark and enjoyed some of Ridgepoint’s finest reds with dinner and smores. All in all, a great escape.