It’s always happy hour somewhere, or at least it’ll feel like it is when you’re surrounded by idyllic vineyards, flights of carefully curated wines, quaint bed and breakfasts, and an array of activities that’ll leave no room for boredom. Canada may not be the first country that comes to mind when wine is the topic of discussion, yet our winemakers often give those in France, Italy, and Spain a run for their money.
Ontario’s Prince Edward County and Niagara-on-the-Lake are obvious, reliable choices for wine tastings and deserve mentions, but it’s always exciting and rewarding to discover new wineries, varieties, and regions.
Don’t believe it? You should see, swirl, and sip for yourself! With hundreds of officially designated wine regions across the country, you can spend time this summer touring an array of wineries. We’ve rounded up five tours you can take on a day trip or a weekend getaway.
1. Pelee Island Winery, Pelee Island, Ontario
About 30 kilometres south of Leamington, Ontario, you’ll find one of the most unique wineries in the country: Pelee Island Winery. Pelee Island is notable for many reasons, but being the southernmost inhabited place in Canada is at the top of the list. The 10,000 acre island, which is nestled in the western bank of Lake Erie, is the warmest, oldest, and largest grape growing region in the country. The winemaking process takes place both on Pelee Island and the winery’s mainland location in Kingsville, Ontario. Tours are available for both locations, but you’d be remiss if you skip out on the island visit—the tour is just a 90-minute ferry ride away.
Pelee Island Winery’s season runs from late spring until the fall, with summer being the most popular time to visit. Tours are held daily at noon, cost $5 per person, and include wine tasting and a complimentary Pelee Island Winery tasting glass. You’ll also learn about the history of the island and winery, and take part in a wine appreciation seminar. Reservations are encouraged, but you don’t need any reservations for tastings. You can expect to try cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, riesling, pinot noir, and more.
Whether you choose to spend a day or an entire weekend here, you’ll find plenty to do beyond the pavilion—dining, scenic drives, hiking, fishing, biking, and history tours, just to name a few. Pelee Island is filled with beaches, parks, and rare flora and fauna the 300 permanent and 1,500 summer residents of the island live with. Take some time to bird watch, visit the ruins of Canada’s first commercial winery, Vin Villa, and see shipwrecks in the shallow lake waters. If you decide to stay longer than a day, accommodations are available in the form of cottages, bed and breakfasts, motels, and campgrounds.
2. Good Cheer Trail, Nova Scotia
Did you know Nova Scotia is Canada’s oldest grape growing region? Winemaking here dates back to the 1600s! Rare varieties of grapes grow on Nova Scotian soil, including marechal foch, baco noir, lucie kuhlmann, leon millot, and castel.
The Atlantic province is also home to the Good Cheer Trail––a province-wide route filled with wineries, distilleries, and breweries. You can start or stop at any point on the trail for immerservie experiences that combine tours, tastings, events, and more. Simply pick a starting point from the trail map, download your digital passport (collecting stamps could win you prizes!), and embark on a tasting journey that will have you indulging in everything from vintage Tidal Bay to a modern hybrid like Vidal Blanc.
If you’re looking for non-alcoholic options, Sober Island Brewery is a great place to check out. Bringing the kids along? Chill Street Craft Beverage Company offers old-fashioned soda tastings so everyone can get in on the fun.
Consider the vineyards in the Annapolis Valley, Canada’s richest agricultural region, as a starting point on your trail adventures.
3. Magic Winery Bus, Wolfville, Nova Scotia
If you’re already in the Nova Scotia region, head to Wolfville, located about 100 kilometres northwest of Halifax. The town, which is home to approximately 5,000 residents, is where you can ride the Magic Winery Bus to visit four wineries—three of the stops include two wine tastings. While the fourth stop comes with lunch and a glass of wine, you’ll also have time to check out the vineyards and browse the wine shops.
If you’ve still got some energy left, Wolfville offers plenty of activities outside of wine tasting. You can polish up on Acadian history with a visit to the Grand Pré national historic site. The area includes an exhibition, a memorial church, gorgeous gardens and more.
You can also bike or walk the Harvest Moon Trail, do some shopping downtown or at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market, visit the Acadia University campus, and tube along the Gaspereau River. Burntcoat Head Park, home to the world’s largest tides and Nova Scotia’s famous flower pot rocks, is also nearby. If you’re staying more than a day, consider a bed and breakfast or a MicroBoutique––fully furnished, self-contained studios in downtown Wolfville that boast plenty of space to unwind and to store all your wine purchases.
Magic Winery Bus also operates in Niagara, Ontario, so don’t feel like you’re missing out if you’re not on the east coast!
4. The Wine Route, Quebec
Why settle for just one winery, when you can tour 21? Quebec’s Wine Route features wineries that account for 60% of the province’s wine production. The 165-kilometre adventure features four routes in the Brome-Missisquoi region that can be done by car, bike, or through official tours departing from Montreal and Bromont.
Follow the blue signs to sip, wine, have a picnic, and take part in some unique activities like traditional grape stomping. Most vineyards along the route are fully open by early June, with a few exceptions that kick off their season later in the month. You can take savoury detours at any of the 21 restaurants along the way.
The regions on the route, including Lac–Brome, Cowansville, Frelighsburg, and Stanbridge are ideal for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking, kayaking, and golfing. You can also indulge in some cultural activities by visiting museums, local galleries and boutiques.
5. Similkameen Valley, British Columbia
Unless you’re a die-hard wine connoisseur, there’s little chance you’ve heard of this British Columbia’s wine region: Similkameen Valley in the Keremeos and Cawston area. The desert-like area is surrounded by tall mountains that trap heat after the sun sets. This heat, coupled with the accompanying winds, make Similkameen Valley ideal for winemaking.
The region currently has 17 wineries that make all the favourites: pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay, syrah, merlot, and more. You’ll also find different types of wine tours to fit your needs.
If you want to feel especially fancy, try a helicopter tour with a stop at one of the wineries for a private tasting and lunch. If you plan to stay longer than a day, you can stay in one of the wineries or orchards, bed and breakfasts, campgrounds, lodges, motels, inns or resorts. Similkameen Valley boasts plenty of eateries to surely satisfy any palette. After all, the area is known as Canada’s organic capital so everything you consume is bound to taste fresh and delicious.
Whichever side of the coast you end up at, you’ll have a lovely time sniffing, swirling and sipping the best of what Canadian winemakers have to offer.