“GO WEST” HAS NEVER BEEN MORE FITTING FOR WINE, BEER & CIDER ENTHUSIASTS
Some said it could not be done, that Ontario is too far north to grow grapes for wine. Others suspected (especially some sage olde farmers) that it just needed some hard graft. The reality? Ontario’s wine regions share the same latitude as Tuscany and Oregon. It’s all about the angle of the sun as it touches the earth and kisses the grapes. Wine aficionados say wines from cooler climates are more aromatic, lighter in body and higher in acidity, making them a refreshing alternative, well matched with food and offering good ageing potential. Learn more about Ontario’s wine regions at winecountryontario.ca.
Huron County’s terroir (natural environmental factors like soil, sunshine, temperature and proximity to mediating factors, like the lake) is contributing to Ontario’s next emerging wine region – Lake Huron’s shoreline. According to the Huron County Viticulture Investor Guide, there is a strip of land five to seven miles inland from Lake Huron that for years supported the growing of tender fruit. This “Huron Ridge” grape-growing region stretches from Port Albert to Grand Bend. In recent years, an impressive wave of craft breweries, cideries and wineries have taken root. From polished state-of-the-art wineries to down-to-earth farm breweries, there is something to suit all tastes.
Visit the following liquid libation creators by car (take a designated driver), small group tour or limousine and, in some cases, by helicopter! Wave Limo & Tours (wave.limo) offers several tipple tours for up to 32 people. Great Lakes Helicopter (greatlakeshelicopter.ca) offers “Fly & Dine” trips with stops at Cowbell Brewing Co., Eddington’s of Exeter and Dark Horse Estate Winery.
Alton Farms Estate Winery (Lambton Shores)
Lambton County’s first winery, this small batch producer is big on flavour. Marc and Anne Alton offer up to 18 different wines per year through sustainable practices in vineyard and winery. Sheep keep the vineyard weeds under control and soil fertilized. Year-round wine tasting events include cuisine and wine pairing evenings on the patio, wine and chocolate tastings, and Wine Wednesdays. Quench your thirst with a special summer wine slushie, test your wine IQ with a blind tasting, stroll groomed nature trails or simply relax on the patio. Buy online: altonfarmsestatewinery.com
Bayfield Berry Farm (Bayfield)
Operating for more than 20 years as a sustainable family berry farm, Fritz, Kaethi, and Marlene Beyerlein launched a collection of fruit wines, hard ciders, wine coolers, and schnapps. Choose from specialty fruit wines such as Saskatoon Berry or Sour Cherry, and fruit spirits such as Blueberry Schnapps or German Plum Schnapps. They also offer 15 fruit hard ciders and a semisweet “Done Workin’” cider. All the fruit is grown, processed, and bottled on the farm, and the family is excited about introducing and promoting homemade agri-food products that you can enjoy as much as they do! Visit the farm’s onsite store or order online and pick up: bayfieldberryfarm.on.ca.
Cornerfield Wine Company (Bayfield)
The Durand family farm sits on the corner of a farm that has been cultivated for more than 175 years. With the extra nutrients in the soil provided by generations of farming, the Durands believe this terroir is what sets their wine apart. This is a must-visit destination if you seek exquisitely crafted, small-batch wines. Tour the scenic vineyards, meet the family owner/operators, and learn what goes into the unique elements of their wine. Buy online: cornerfieldwineco.com.
Dark Horse Estate Winery (Grand Bend)
Stunning modern architecture and show-stopping views characterize this impressive 85-acre winery and vineyard. Ashley Horlor and her husband Craig, with winemaker Marc Pistor, handle day-to-day operations of this estate winery that features a magnificent 31,000-square-foot manor house with a state-of-the-art production facility and patios overlooking the vineyards. Combined, three wine collections – “Unapologetically”, “One Horse Town” and “Valegro” – offer 22 wines (red and white). Tours and sipping, special events, and a picturesque patio offer a truly unforgettable experience. Buy online: darkhorseestatewinery.com.
Maelstrom Winery (Seaforth)
Established, owned, and operated by the Landsborough family, Jim and Catherine, and their two sons Brett and Brian. Maelstrom Winery takes pride in being the first winery in Huron County. The combination of the farm’s terroir that includes natural springs and their artisanal approach to fine winemaking results in flavourful and rich wines. The owners offer a unique opportunity to learn about the farm’s history, the winery’s name, and where the idea to grow grapes originated during their tours and sippings. A boutique collection of wines include a delectable Marquette, remarkable Riesling, and a sweet Ice Cider. Winner of seven Finger Lakes International Wine awards. Shop online: maelstromwinery.ca.
Schatz Winery (St. Joseph)
Two generations of the Ihrig family laid the foundation for Hessenland Inn. Their family term of endearment – Schatz (sweetheart) – became the name of this 5-acre boutique winery surrounding the inn and 40 acres of gardens nestled along the shores of Lake Huron. Schatz Winery offers a distinctly Huron-inspired palate, a blue-clay-meets-Lake-Huron-breeze microclimate, with each wine offering a nod to the family’s roots and history. A selection of white, red, rose, and sparkling can be found here: hessenlandinn.scvr.co/menu/wine-menu.
2nd Streetlight Estate Winery (Clinton)
After three years of searching, the perfect winery location finally presented itself. Husband-and-wife-team Sahadev Banerjee and Shannon Natuik, along with winemaker Steve Byfield, produce six wines – whites, reds, and a rosé. The winery’s name stems from giving directions to people from Goderich to the vineyard (second streetlight from Goderich along Highway 8). Step into this winery’s modern sipping room and feel your worries slip away. Enjoy full-flavoured vintages on the large deck overlooking a carefree, pastoral setting. 2ndstreetlightwines.ca
Bad Apple Brewing Company (St. Joseph)
A renovated century barn taproom and sunny orchard beer garden are the perfect spots to savour delicious craft beer and cider blends. This is the ideal place to quench your thirst and revel in some palate-pleasing libations. Family-owned and operated, Bad Apple is open year-round, and weather permitting, so is the beer garden! Campfires keep you warm while you sip. Here you can purchase Hessenland Inn’s “Helles Beer” or a “Swinging Squirrel”, a Bad Apple and White Squirrel Golf Club collaboration. Five craft beers, Bad Apple swag and other local and Ontario-produced offerings are available! Buy online: badapplebrewingco.com.
Bayfield Brewing Co. (Bayfield)
Located on Bayfield’s charming main street, Bayfield Brewery Co. & Public House is known for outstanding beer, hearty food, and great value. Family-owned and operated, brewmaster Ryan Keys has created a welcoming brewpub that serves a full pub menu next door to the brewery, sipping room, and retail space. A superb spot to stop for supper or lunch. Eight brews are currently available. Buy online: bayfieldbrewingco.com.
Brewster’s Mill Brewing Company (Grand Bend)
Jason and Michelle Wilband and two generations of the Boogemans family – Mark and Laura and Nick and Kaitlyn – invite you to stop by and discover Grand Bend’s first craft brewery, opened in 2021. With an indoor taproom and outdoor patio, patrons have options for a quiet spot to sip and sample. Offering their craft beer and local ciders and wines, they also offer rotating “guest” tap beers to try. Follow them on Facebook or Instagram to find out what events, live music, or food truck will be there this weekend. Stop by and discover what inspired the brewery’s name and why a local group of vigilantes committed arson 150 years ago! The brewery also offers room for rent for small functions of 40 or less. @BrewstersMillBrewery. brewstersmill.com
Cowbell Brewing Co. (Blyth)
This family-friendly destination craft brewery draws visitors from far and wide. Take a self-guided tour of the state-of-the-art brewing facility. Enjoy a meal in the spacious restaurant, on the patio, or in their beer garden. Wander the retail store and purchase an impressive lineup of Cowbell beer, hard seltzers, and ciders. We’re sure you’ll find something to please your palate. Experience Cowbell Country or shop online at: cowbellbrewing.com.
River Road Brewing & Hops (Bayfield)
Husband-and-wife-team Dave and Nikki Andrew purchased a neglected apple orchard property and reimagined it as Bayfield’s first farm-based brewery, dedicated to small-batch brews with homegrown ingredients. Hops, barley, and yeast are all grown on site. Visitors can wander the hop yards and farm fields and learn about the grain-to-glass brewing process. River Road’s fabulous collection of seasonal and unique brews promises something to suit every beer drinker. Shop online: riverroadbrewing.com.
Square Brew Co. (Goderich)
According to owners Alex Menary and Connor Brown, “we brew the beer we like to drink and serve it in an atmosphere that we like to hang out in.” The first and only brewery in Goderich, the name Square Brew pays homage to the town’s centre known as the “square” (really an octagon). This new craft brewery offers a casual and inviting sipping experience. Venture off the beaten track to discover refreshing brews like the “Hop Major” IPA or the “Square One” Pilsner. Square Brew Co. aims to have a beer for everyone who comes in. Buy online: squarebrewco.com.
Stone House Brewing (Varna)
Huron County’s first brewery, Stone House Brewing’s classic Stone House Pilsner amassed a devout following after bursting on the scene in 2016. German-trained brewmaster and owner Mike Corrie’s first beer was a Czech Pilsner, crystal clear and deep gold in colour. Mike uses only the best SAAZ noble hops in his brews, specializing in four styles of lagers. All Stone House beers are brewed using water from a 250-foot-deep on-site well. On Spring and Summer Saturdays, enjoy live bands and food trucks along with your lager on the large outside patio area! Buy online: stonehousebrewing.ca.
Stonepicker Brewing Company (Lambton Shores)
Joe and Mary Donkers say their farm brewery “all started with a bucket used for picking stones, an old turkey burner, water, hops, yeast, and malt.” This unpretentious brewery does two things incredibly well, create community and brew great beer. Named for the early stages of clearing farmland, Stonepicker created an impressive lineup of high-quality beers. Tongue-in-cheek labels will keep you sipping. Try their flagship “Crop Tour” light lager or the “Oops It Fell Out” Pilsner, and that’s no “Kick In The Teeth”. And yes, the tractor hanging on the wall behind the bar is real! stonepickerbrewing.com.
Widder Station Brewing Co. (Thedford)
“Train Wreck” is Widder Station’s iconic and flagship premium lager. This easy-drinking craft beer brewed since 2017 remains the most popular offering in their tap house. Widder’s recent expansion of Widder Flats Event facility & Brewery (opening soon) with more than 27 local brews on tap is now Lambton Shores destination for live entertainment, weddings, and private events. Visit widderstation.com for more info.
Shale Ridge Estate Winery & Cidery (Thedford)
Dedicated to sustainable practices and a passion for cider and wine, the youthful owners of Shale Ridge, Alicia and Garren, come from great farming stock. Alicia’s parents are Rick and Carol Veens, owners of Juicy-Fruit Orchards (local growers/marketers of top-quality vegetables and fruits). Building on their early success with handcrafted hard ciders, they launched a line of wines that are already a smashing success. Drop by their state-of-the-art tasting room, boasting the best view in Lambton County, for a welcoming farm-to-glass experience and learn how the shale ridge terroir produces exceptional homegrown apples and grapes. Sip their tasty range of dry-styled ciders, including Peach Apple Hard Cider and Cranberry Spice Hard Cider. Buy online: shaleridgeestatewinery.com.
Twin Pines Orchards & Cider House (Thedford)
Truly a gem of the county, the Vansteenkiste family-owned and operated Twin Pines has won Best In Show, Gold, Silver, and Bronze international awards for their ciders. A genuine orchard-to-glass operation, the 50-acre property has 40 acres of apple trees and massive fermentation and storage tanks, as well as bottling machinery. They produce more than one million pounds of apples from 25 commercial varieties and 15 heritage and specialty cider varieties that ultimately transform into apple cider, apple wines, hard ciders, and ice ciders on site. Sample their impressive collection of old-fashioned British hard ciders as you gaze out at an expansive fruit orchard. Explore their nature trails, grab some fresh seasonal produce, and shop here for apple-inspired gourmet treats. twinpinesorchards.com.