Summer Greetings from your local lover of the finer things (a.k.a. Big Red). Today was a big day for ol’ Big Red. My luxurious, handmade wool picnic blanket just arrived, which means I am decked out for another haute cuisine picnic season. I also bought a case of sunscreen to avoid the possibility of becoming Big Burnt Red.
Nothing compliments a perfect picnic like a fine wine. Thankfully, York Durham Headwaters is a wine lover’s destination. It is blessed with orchards and vineyards from Bowmanville all the way to Orangeville. They all make perfect day trip destinations and some have family fun options. Here are eight stops on my wine tour, each with a special Big Red summer wine pick!
Photo by: Archibald Orchards & Estate Winery
Let’s start in Durham County. Archibald is a fruit winery AND a pick-your-own apple orchard. Located just east of Toronto, in the foothills of the Oak Ridges Moraine, they are a fourth generation family farm. Owners Fred and Sandy take great pride in their work and it shows in their wines. They have been crafting Ontario fruit wines for over 19 years, pressing and fermenting their own apples, as well as other locally grown fruit. Archibald’s wine list boasts a wide range of choices, from very dry table wines to sparkling ciders to decadent dessert wines. They have something for every palate!
I loved the tour; it was awesome to hear how passionate Fred – the winemaker and apple farmer – is, especially when talking about the history of the family farm, orchard management, and the winemaking process. It’s a perfect stop for fresh fruit and fruit wines.
Big Red’s Picnic Recommendation: Hard Cider – I like to pair it with something spicy!
Photo by: Magnotta Winery
If you are a wine lover, there are 75,000 reasons to be excited about Magnotta Winery. Their flagship location in Vaughan is 75,000 square feet and boasts an opulent retail store, wine boutique and two complimentary tasting bars. I find the beauty of the art striking; they have an extensive collection of original art including works by Canadian Group of Seven artists. If you pay attention to the wine labels, you will notice that the art collection inspired many of the winery’s label designs. Just north of Toronto, this is a wine and beer lover’s haven – it features state-of-the-art winemaking, production and bottling facilities, microbrewery, copper pot distillery, underground barrel cellar, and an outdoor patio. Be sure to take one of their complimentary tours everyday at 2 p.m. to see the vastness of this operation.
Big Red’s Picnic Recommendation: 2014 Legacy Limited Edition VQA, paired with a grilled lamb sandwich.
Photo by:Willow Springs Winery
Willow Springs Winery is another winery situated atop the geographical treasure known as the Oak Ridges Moraine. The Oak Ridges Moraine and Holland Marsh area is an emerging wine region because the makeup of the soil and climate mirrors that of Ontario’s premier wine destination: Niagara-on-the-Lake. Willow Springs is the first winery in York region to receive VQA Ontario certification.
For five decades and three generations, they have been producing world-class, award-winning VQA red, white, and ice wines on their 11-acre vineyard. Their vines thrive in the unique soil, sunlight, and temperature conditions, with the cool climate and limestone found in the soil creating light-bodied wines with a delicate aroma. Be sure to take a look at the Wine Maker’s Pavilion, their stunning event space. I was a groomsman in a wedding there and marvelled at the vaulted ceilings and exquisite post and beam construction; it really was the perfect backdrop for a spectacular wedding.
Big Red’s Picnic Recommendation: 2013 Vidal Icewine with your berry dessert.
Photo by:Applewood Farm And Winery
Beginning as a pick your own strawberry farm and apple orchard, Applewood Farm added a winery in 2000 (and I am so glad they did). They have a large selection of amazing fruit wines made from fruit that is harvested on their farm. They boast a very family friendly environment. It is a great place to get out and enjoy the outdoors. The adults can stop by the winery to sample some of their award-winning fruit wines and chat with their winemaker. The kids can have the experience of picking their own strawberries with a wagon ride to and from the fields! There are classic tractors around the farm; I love their simple beauty and design. So, if you are in search of fresh fruit, delicious wines, or simply getting out and enjoying the summer sun, your will find it at Applewood.
Big Red’s Picnic Recommendation: Hopped Amber Cider, an easy drinking summer cider!
Photo by: Gallucci Winery
The Fiat parked out front of the Gallucci Winery is the perfect touch, because a visit to the winery really feels like you have stepped into an Italian countryside vineyard. Situated just 30 minutes north of downtown Toronto, you will find this gem of a winery in Stouffville. It’s a family owned and operated winery, offering a variety of wines for every wine lover’s palate, including full-bodied reds, easy drinking whites, and exceptional ice wine. They say that the breeze from Musselman’s Lake lends to their wine’s vibrant flavours and I am not going to argue with that, they really do offer high quality wines. For me, the quiet tranquility of the outdoors and indulging in one of their wines, on their picturesque terrace, is part of an amazing road trip. The food is pretty fantastic too – you need to make this a stop on your YDH wine tour!
Big Red’s Picnic Recommendation: 2014 VQA Baco Noir, paired with a salmon burger.
Photo By:The Holland Marsh Wineries
It’s amazing how interesting a conversation about Baco grapes can really be. Don’t believe me? Then you have never been to Holland Marsh Wineries in Newmarket. Every time I visit I am always impressed with the knowledge of the staff and how passionate they are about wine. Their commitment to the environment is impressive. They handpick their grapes and use earth-friendly practices to maintain the integrity of their soil, water, and surrounding area. Their care can be tasted in the wine too. They produce premium boutique-style wines available exclusively in their wine store. I always make sure to grab some chocolate truffles too; they pair perfectly with their white wines.
Big Red’s Picnic Recommendation: 2013 Merlot with a Greek Salad.
Photo by:Downey’s Estate Winery
Moving over to Headwaters, we stop in Caledon for a day of family fun. Downey’s Estate Winery is more than wine. It is a 215-acre farm with a renovated dairy barn that houses a farmer’s market with an in-house bakery. John and Ruth Downey and their five children operate it – so this definitely qualifies as family business! Their Winery is a top ten fruit winery in Canada and boasts an ever-growing wine list. I always make sure to grab some farm fresh Ontario produce and bake shop goodies when I pick up wine. With a petting corral of farm animals, a large play area, pick your own fruit, and Ontario’s largest goat walk, this truly is a fun family destination.
Big Red’s Picnic Recommendation: Downey’s Estate Black Currant Fruit Wine.
Photo by: Adamo Winery
This 25-acre vineyard is nestled in the fertile, rolling hills of Hockley Valley, just outside Orangeville. They are a small-batch boutique winery that focuses on organic and biodynamic practices. The red doors of the retail space open to a tasting bar that is truly a wonder to look at – I wish it were in my house! It is a family run business that does everything the right way – they weed and pick by hand, crush the grapes and bottle on site. I love taking in the scenic beauty of the valley while taking a tour of the winery; tasting the fruits of their labour is pretty fantastic too.
Big Red’s Picnic Recommendation: 2016 Underdog Rosé, okay I am a sucker for that label – so cute!
So there it is. A full round up of the amazing wines in York, Durham, and Headwaters! If you’ll excuse me, I am going to go enjoy culinary delights, the finest cheeses, beautiful scenery, picnics and fine wine – my summer is set. Remember to please drink responsibly.
Don’t worry, brew happy. Cheers, Big Red.