Are you looking for a weekend getaway to Ontario wineries? We are always on the lookout for weekend adventures and exploring Ontario. Having visited many wine regions in Ontario, Essex County was one region we didn’t explore yet. Having lived in Toronto for my entire life, I never knew that there were so many wonderful wineries in Southern Ontario. The Southern Ontario wineries are nestled along Lake Erie’s North Shore in Windsor-Essex County, located in Windsor, Canada.
What a great way to escape the city to explore one of Canada’s hottest wine regions. The region is approximately a 3.5 – 4-hour drive from Toronto, making this a perfect destination for a weekend getaway. If you are visiting from the United States, you can make it to Essex Wine County in Windsor, Canada in under one hour from the Detroit, Michigan border.
If you love exploring Ontario’s wine regions but are tired of the crowds, then it is time to explore Essex County Wineries. This up and coming wine region has so much to offer.
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Where to Stay in Essex County
HoriZen Bed & Breakfast
90 Seacliff Drive West Leamington, Ontario
You will want to stay at least one night if not two to experience the region. Your best bet is staying at a B&B. You will feel like you are at home. HoriZen Bed & Breakfast is located in the heart of Leamington, just a short drive to the local wineries.
The home is beautiful with a large wrap-around front porch, classic wooden floors and beams but yet modern and inviting. Upon our arrival at HoriZen we were welcomed like we were family. We had everything at our disposal to make our stay a memorable one.
We stayed in the Abundance Suite that accommodates two people. It is furnished with an extremely comfortable king-size bed with fine linens and plush pillows. The ensuite is large enough to be a bedroom. It is a 4pc bathroom with a large soaker tub and walk-in shower. I immediately noticed the natural body care products and the aromatherapy diffuser in the room. These are the little things that make you feel right at home.
I love that they only use high-quality natural products throughout their home from the body care products to the cleaning products.
The amenities include free high-speed Wifi, a free parking spot, access to the communal front port, the living room with cable TV and Netflix as well as coffee and tea.
You are in for a treat as breakfast is included in your stay. We indulged in the freshly baked scones, that were still warm from the oven as well as the huevos ranchero eggs. The breakfast was a great way to start our day.
Check the HoriZen B&B website for additional room categories and availability.
Journey Floating Wine Barrel AirBnb
If you are looking for a unique experience then you need to book your stay at Journey, a floating panoramic wine barrel cabin located on the wine route.
This is an amazing way to experience a glamping experience while floating on the water. The dock is floating but tied to shore and overlooks the vineyards. You will be surrounded by wildlife such as ducks, herons, and local bald eagles, just to name a few.
The barrel cabin has a large panoramic window behind the queen-sized bed, that overlooks the water. A great way to watch the stars at night.
This is the perfect spot to unwind and relax. You will have your own floating tiki bar, mini-fridge, lounge chairs, an umbrella, a BBQ, a custom whiskey barrel sink that works with the lithium powered outdoor shower. This is the most unique accommodations that I have seen.
Where to Eat in Essex
Oxley Estate Winery
I would recommend stopping for lunch at Oxley Winery during your winery cycling tour. Stop for a wine tasting and end it with lunch on the patio.
Oxley Estate Winery is located in the heart of Lake Erie North Shore wine route in Harrow, Ontario. They grow Riesling, Chardonnay, Auxerrois, Bianca, Hivernal, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Regent.
You have to try their signature appetizer, the famous Sticky Picked Duck Wings that have honey and Szechuan vinaigrette, sugared chilies, toasted sesame, and a radish scallion salad. Because you are at the winery, the perfect pairing to their wines would be the Charcuterie Plate that has local cheeses, cured meats, fresh fruit, and a baguette. If you love shellfish then the oysters are your best bet.
For the main dish, I would recommend the Lake Erie Yellow Perch that is panko-crusted and comes with tartar sauce, Oxley’s coleslaw and house Frites for a lighter lunch but yet filling. If you are looking for a heartier lunch then opt for the Barn Burger that is a 6oz ground chuck burger with bibb lettuce, tomato, blue or aged cheddar cheese, red onion jam, dill mustard shallot sauce on a brioche bun and hand-cut fries.
We had a tasting of the wines and I paired my fish dish with the Wowza white that has tropical fruit notes of pineapple and mango. The burger was paired with the Regent red wine that has pepper taste on the palate.
You must try the dessert, you will need the energy for your bike touring. We had the banana hazelnut fritters with chocolate cremoso, lemon creme, chocolate coconut crunch and the black currant tea tarte with fresh raspberry sauce. Both are delicious but the banana fritters were my favorite.
Paglione Estate Winery
Get ready to feel like you are in the Chianti Wine region and head to Paglione Estate Winery for dinner. Paglione Estate Winery is nestled along the shores of Lake Erie in the Essex Pelee Island Coast wine region.
The perfect spot to end your evening is on the outdoor patio with a glass of vino in hand, while enjoying a homemade thin crust pizza baked in a wood-fired oven.
Start your meal with the traditional Cicchetti. These are traditional plates of food to share such as the arancini (traditional Italian risotto balls), Parmigiana Di Melanzane (lightly breaded eggplant mozzarella), Calamari Fritti, Shrimp Corrado and Pasta Del Giorno. That’s just to start!
Get ready to enjoy the delicious home-made pizza. I would recommend the Amerigo Vespucci that has fresh rapini sauteed in olive oil and garlic, onions, thinly sliced potatoes, and mozzarella cheese. I added the prosciutto to this pizza to make it even more delicious.
Pair your dinner with a wine tasting. The whites are a Reisling, Chardonnay and Rose and the reds are Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc Reserve. My favorite was the Chardonnay that had hints of cantaloupe and clementine.
To end the evening, you can indulge in the Nutella or apple pizza or the Beemer premium gelato that is available on the patio and espresso as you sit back and enjoy the live entertainment that is available on the patio on weekends.
Wine Tasting in Essex County
EPIC Vintage Tasting Event
With so many wineries to choose from, where do you even begin!
Any time of year is a great time to visit Essex County. If you find yourself visiting in August, you will have the opportunity to attend the Essex County Vintage Tasting event that is run yearly by the wineries.
We decided to head to Essex County for the 25th Vintage Tasting event. What better way to taste all the region’s wines than under one roof. The Vintage Tasting Event was a wonderful afternoon event that included food, wine, and music. What better way than to be wined and dined for an afternoon showcasing 17 Essex County Wineries.
Every year a different winery hosts this epic event. Colio Estate Winery presented the EPIC Vintage Tasting for 2019. For $65 per person, it is a great way to taste your way through the Essex wine region.
If you visit during another time then you can leave all the driving to someone else, and do a wine hopping tour or have someone as a designated driver.
Bike Around the Wineries
Another way to explore the wineries is by bike. At first, I was a little leary about bike riding from winery to winery but we ended up loving it. It is a great way to experience the region.
I would recommend renting your bike with Farm Dog Cycles. They offer self-guided tours so you can be off and explore on your own. Don’t worry, you won’t get lost. The self-guided tours include bike rental, mapped route, & special tasting coupons for wine pairings or signature snacks at three of our favorite local wineries. If you are feeling really adventurous, they have a 20km loop. Bikes can be picked up anytime between 11 am – 1 pm. I would recommend starting your day early and then stopping at one of the wineries for lunch.
Essex County Wineries
The EPIC (or Essex Pelee Island Coast) Wine Country is home to a diverse collection of Windsor Canada wineries. These all offer unique views into the wonderful world of wine, and each one offers its own version of wine tastings and wine tours. Take a look at each of the Ontario wineries in more detail below. If you are visiting for the weekend, you may not be able to visit them all. You can purchase an EPIC wine tasting pass that will give you complimentary tastings, premium samples, a free wine glass, and even a tour at one of the stops on the route.
Colchester Ridge Estate Winery (CREW)
CREW is owned by the husband and wife team, Bernard and Nancy Gorski. The vineyard boasts 12 acres of vines consisting of vinifera varietals. The winery opened its doors on July 2006 and has been graced with many prestigious awards.
Stop by the charming retail store for complimentary wine tastings. They are getting ready to open their new wine tasting space in the fall of 2019. I’m excited to see the new space.
Pelee Island Winery
Pelee Island Winery is a winery in Kingsville, Ontario, Canada. They have a 550-acre vineyard in the Pelee Island appellation. At just under 42 degrees North, Pelee Island is at a latitude similar to that of Rioja, Spain, Porto, Portugal, Provence, France, and Tuscany,
Pelee Island is the oldest wine region in Ontario. It was the location of Vin Villa, Canada’s first commercial winery, which was founded in the 1860s. The ruins of Vin Villa can be seen today on the northwest shore of the island.
This winery and guesthouse promise to show you Ontario wines from “a different point of view”. Run by a professional team, Viewpointe is an established winery in Essex county. Its location was strategic, and chosen in order to produce some of the finest wine grapes in the region.
Find gifts and wine tasting in the wine shop, and if you’re visiting between Thursday and Sunday, be sure to have a meal at the onsite restaurant. The views from the patio encompass the beauty of Lake Erie’s western shores.
Aleksander Estate Winery
Owned and run by the Bemben family, Aleksander Estate Wineries can be found in the Lake Erie North Shore region. They have been running for many years, and have built up a prestigious wine culture.
The head of the family, Alex, has been in the wine business for more than 30 years, so it’s safe to say he knows his wines. The estate offers wine tours, and wine tastings in the tasting boutique are offered 7 days a week. You can expect a finely crafted experience, with attentive and knowledgeable staff assisting with your wine choices.
Opened in 1980 by three Italian bricklayers with a dream, Colio is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious EPIC wineries. Not to mention one of the oldest wineries in Ontario, Canada. It was also the very first to receive a winery license in Southwestern Ontario, following the prohibition of alcohol.
Located in the heart of Ontario’s wine country, this winery is beautiful inside and out. The wines crafted here have won numerous global awards, which comes as no surprise once you’ve tasted them. Whether you prefer light, refreshing white wines, or full-bodied, rich reds, you’ll find gorgeous options at Colio.
Muscedere winery has just under 20 years of grape-growing history, after being built on a family farm in the early 2000s. The Muscedere brothers, Fabio and Roberto started growing the vines together, and have turned the farm into a fully operational, family-owned and run winery.
Together with their sister, mom, dad, granddad, and even their wives, they continue to produce favored Essex wines. The winery hosts wine tastings in its retail boutique, and if you visit in season, there are some mouth-watering wood-fired Italian pizzas to fill you up while you’re there.
Yet another glorious winery located on the North Shore of Lake Erie, Cooper’s Hawk is a spectacular vineyard. A visit here provides great views, hordes of wildlife, and delicious wines in a tranquil setting. This is quite a well-known establishment on the Ontario wine map.
Named after one of the birds of prey that often visit the winery, Cooper’s Hawk was taken over by Tom O’Brien in the early 2000s. You can book a tour of the winery, savor a wine tasting experience, or simply sit at the Vine Restaurant for a warm lunch and carefully paired wine.
Mastronardi Estate Winery
Mastronardi was established by the Mastronardi family in 2006, on a 25-year-old wine farm in the EPIC region. With the vines already thriving in the perfect conditions, new owners Eadie, Toni, and Rino, simply had to bring their own touch to create outstanding wines.
With the help of head winemaker Karl Lounsbery, they do exactly that. The winery has its own wine boutique for tastings, and serves as an events venue as well. A visit here affords you the opportunity to take in the surrounding beauty while you find the perfect wine to appease ou palette.
North 42 Degrees
Husband and wife team Martin and Suzanne are behind the splendor that is North 42 Degrees Winery. They’ve brought their Polish heritage, along with their business sense and Martin’s deep roots in the wine industry, to create a magnificent winery.
Learn exactly how the winery’s award-winning wines are made with a behind-the-scenes tour or save yourself a seat at the onsite restaurant, Bistro 42. The combination of locally-grown, fresh ingredients and unimaginable views of lavender fields, lakes, and vineyards will make this stop one to remember.
Oxley Estate Winery
An environmentally-friendly winery in the heart of Lake Erie North Shore region, Oxley welcomes all kinds of wine lovers. The owners, Ann and Murray, have selected team members with care, and each member is as enthusiastic and knowledgeable about wine as the next.
The atmosphere on the winery is welcoming, and the views are incredible. Wine tastings are offered in the 1920s barn loft, or outside in the green gardens. The restaurant inside the barn provides the perfect place for lunch or dinner.
Hannah and Mitchell Gord purchased their dream farm in the 70s, with the dream of owning their own vineyard and winery. After many years of overcoming obstacles and working tirelessly, the winery’s doors finally opened in late 2006. This lakefront vineyard embodies its owners’ hard work and complete determination and has since produced many award-winning wines.
Visitors can enjoy a tour of the farm when visiting, which will showcase the vines, as well as the winemaking facilities. This comes with a wine tasting experience, and a cheese tasting can be added as well. In season, there is also the option to purchase a picnic basket to enjoy on the Ontario beach, or on the winery’s patio.
Vivace Estate Winery
Pronounced ‘vee-vah-chay’, this splendid winery gets its name from the music term, which means ‘lively’. This accurately describes the passion and dedication behind Vivace’s winemaking process.
The wine tastings at Vivace are held with casual elegance, and you’ll be able to taste some of their most prominent wines. Their collection includes deep reds, like the Merlot, refreshing whites and roses, such as Chardonnay, and sweet dessert wines as well.
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