In the last few years, Ontarians have finally started to realize that Niagara and Prince Edward County are far from the only wine regions worth visiting in this province. New wineries have popped up all over the place, filled with ambition and creativity, and wineries that have been around for a little while are starting to finally starting to walk with a little swagger in their step.
We make great wine in this province, and it’s high time that we celebrate that. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the wine we have then, well, by consuming some of it.
There’s something special about actually visiting these wineries as well, and feeling like you’re part of a community of people who are looking to explore and appreciate this province. I’ve had the chance to see live music at some of the wineries I’ll list today – to eat a meal, share a conversation, and to take in the scenery. I look back on all those memories fondly, quite frankly.
With harvest season coming up, it seems like an awfully good excuse to visit some of the gems from this emerging wine region, and to form some new memories in York Durham Headwaters.
‘Tis the Season to Harvest Some Grapes in YDH
The fall is when the magic happens when it comes to harvesting grapes in Ontario. September is the month when wineries tend to be in full preparation mode for their harvest, which is often called a “crush.” The sun is still high in the sky, and the air is still nice and toasty, and that leads to a rapid increase in sugar production in the grapes, which ultimately helps them reach their maturation point.
The harvesting dates differ based on the grape varietal. As the Grape Growers of Ontario note, “Baco Noir is one of the earliest French hybrids to be picked, usually by mid-September. Harvest continues by variety, and the viniferas will be picked throughout the fall and into early November.”
The last grapes to be picked are what are known as “late harvest varieties,” and they include some of my personal favourites such as Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes that are set aside for Ice wine are, as you might imagine, left on the vine (though often protected with netting to ensure they aren’t eaten by local wildlife).
September to November is a busy and critical time for grape growers in York Durham Headwaters. It can be a fun time to visit because there’s often action in the fields, with grapes being picked and the like, or if it’s later in the harvest season, with the vines being prepped for winter.
What York Durham Headwaters Wineries Should be on Your List?
Here are some of the wineries that are helping this emerging wine region emerge. They all do things a little differently and are known for different wines which, conveniently for you, makes them all worth a visit.
Windrush Estate Winery
Located in Loretto, Ontario, Windrush was established back in 2017 by two partners with a genuine passion for wine and community – J.C Pennie and Marilyn Field.
I’ve had the chance to visit and to meet them both, and they welcomed me, as I’m sure they’ll welcome you, with open arms. As they note on their respective website, Windrush was “inspired by world travel and the winery is named after the beautiful Windrush River valley in the Cotswolds. With its 68 acres of amazing views, unique chateau and state-of-the-art winery, Canada’s Windrush incorporates natural beauty, fine arts and great VQA wines to provide a unique winery experience. The VQA wines are created with a focus on quality by Chief Winemaker Jonathan Boyle, and legendary Vintner Jim Warren.”
The building where they make wine is down below, and then there’s a winding road that takes you up to the top (and the Chateau) to overlook a gorgeous section of this province (especially during harvest season when the leaves are a soft orange). They also plan events at the Chateau with some regularity, especially as it relates to showcasing local artists and planning charitable events.
Wine Recommendation: Windrush does bold reds quite well (and differently, I might add), so I’d go with the Jonathan Boyle Classic Cabernet Franc, which is full bodied and complex, yet not overly sweet, and that makes for an intriguing combination.
Adamo Estate Winery
You’ll find Adamo in Mono, Ontario, not all that far from Orangeville. Adamo has turned itself into a bit of a destination by building out their tours, and focusing on being a regional restaurant of interest as well. They do the whole charcuterie thing rather well, so I’d recommend going with a few friends, getting a few different boards (The Salumi Board and Antipasto Mista go nicely together), and then doing some wine flights.
If you’re interested in turning your visit into something a little larger, consider staying at nearby Hockley Valley Resort, which is quite literally a two-minute drive away. Adamo has a robust shop on their main floor as well, so you can always nab a bottle of wine to go, as well as a few local goodies.
Wine Recommendation: I’m a big fan of their Kirby Vineyard Gamay Rose, a wine where the citrus fruits really come through. It’s perfect when it’s nice and cold, as the wine just feels utterly crisp and refreshing.
Holland Marsh Wineries
Holland Marsh calls Newmarket home, and they’re a boutique winery that’s all in on producing some quality hand-crafted wines right from their own backyard.
The Nersisyan family has been making wine for many generations, and actually trace their family lineage back to a small winemaking town in Armenia. They started their venture on Canadian soil back in 2008, and purposely chose this location because they believe “this unique soil composition and bowl-shaped micro-climate gives the estate grown grapes an unparalleled distinction from that of any other region in Ontario.” They go on to note that, “paired with many centuries worth of knowledge and countless years of experience,” they “are pioneering the way for emerging wine regions in Ontario.”
Wine Recommendation: I appreciated their Select Cabernet Baco which has nice earthy undertones, but also some black fruit (particularly blueberry) notes. There’s also some backend oak flavour that rounds out the sip beautifully.
What Other YDH Wineries Should You Consider?
There are two more wineries I want to note here for you if you’re aiming to fully explore this emerging wine region.
- Galluci Winery: Galluci is located in Stouffville, a location that’s not far from Toronto at all. They’re a family owned and operated winery that tries to produce wines to appease a variety of palates. They aim to produce “full-bodied reds, easy-drinking whites, and exceptional ice wine.”
- Magnotta Winery: Magnotta is located in Woodbridge, and their history stretches back over 30 years. They have an enormous facility (over 75,000 square feet) not far from Toronto, which you can visit on the daily public tours (2pm). They’ve won thousands of awards along the way!
To get to know a region’s winery is, in effect, to get to know a region. That’s largely because you have the chance to quite literally taste the soil, to meet the people who put the sweat and tears into making this all work, and perhaps even to run into a neighbour.
Wineries are an occasion, and it seems that in York Durham Headwaters, the reasons to celebrate and appreciate what’s on offer are only going to become more frequent.
Written by Chris Mitchell