“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) 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 aging 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. Offering up to 18 different wines per year, Marc and Anne Alton do so through sustainable practices in vineyard and winery. Sheep keep the vineyard weeds under control and soil fertilized. Year-round wine sipping events include cuisine and wine pairing evenings on the patio, wine and chocolate sippings, and Wine Wednesdays. Quench your thirst with a special summer wine slushie, test your wine IQ with a blind sipping, stroll groomed nature trails or simply relax on the patio. Buy online: altonfarmsestatewinery.com
Bayfield Berry Farm (Bayfield)
Operating for 18 years as a sustainable family farm, Fritz and Marlene Beyerlein recently launched a collection of fruit wines, ciders, wine coolers and schnapps. Choose from specialty wines like Saskatoon Berry and Sour Cherry, as well as Blueberry Schnapps and German Plum Schnapps. Prefer ciders? Bayfield Berry Farm offers a semisweet Done Workin’ cider and much more. Buy online: 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. If you are seeking exquisitely-crafted, small-batch wines this is a must-visit destination. 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 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, hree wine collections – Unapologetically, One Horse Town and Valegro – offer 22 wines (red and white). Tours and sipping, special events and meals on the 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 terroir of the farm that includes natural springs and their artisanal approach to fine winemaking results in wines both flavourful and rich. 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. 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, and their family term of endearment – schatz (sweetheart) – became the name of this 5-acre estate winery that surrounds the inn and gardens. Schatz Winery offers a distinctly Huron-inspired palate, a blue-clay-meets-Lake-Huron-breeze microclimate, with a nod to the family’s roots and history. Five wines are on offer, three whites, one red and one rosé. Buy online: 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 wine-maker Steve Byfield, produce six wines – whites, reds and a rosé. The name of the winery 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 savor 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, as well as Bad Apple swag and other local and Ontario produced offerings available! Buy online: badapplebrewingco.com.
Bayfield Brewing Co. (Bayfield)
Located on Bayfield’s alluring main street, Bayfield Brewery Co. & Public House is known for outstanding beer, hearty food and great value. Family-owned and operated by the Keys (Ryan and Sarah with helper Keys Adam and Kelly-Anne) and Bianca Safai and her husband, this youthful entrepreneurial team has created a welcoming brewpub that serves a full pub menu next door to the brewery, sipping room and retail space. Superb spot to stop for supper or lunch. Eight brews currently available. Buy online: bayfieldbrewingco.com.
Brewster’s Mill Brewing Company (Grand Bend)
Launching 2021, this is Grand Bend’s first brewery and the newest for Huron County. An indoor taproom and small patio will offer guests a quiet spot to sip and sample. The owners, three local couples, invite you to stop by and discover what inspired the brewery’s name and why a local group of vigilantes committed arson 150 years ago! @BrewstersMillBrewery.
Cowbell Brewing Co. (Blyth)
This destination craft brewing behemoth 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, wander the retail store and sample an impressive lineup of smash-hit beers. Four brew series, Kölsch-style, IPAs, German-style wheat beer, English-style brown beer, stouts and lagers – we’re sure you’ll find something to please your palate amongst their more than a dozen beers. Buy online: cowbellbrewing.com.
Half Hours on Earth Brewery (Seaforth)
Canada’s first Certified Carbon Neutral Brewery! A commitment to sustainability shines through every facet of this delightful small batch brewery. High-quality Farmhouse Ales, Lambics and other beers are served in a friendly, down-to-earth brewery environment. Creative beer titles like “Astral Travelling” and “Ancient & Vast From Which We Spring” lend a far-out feel. Buy online: halfhoursonearth.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)
The 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, which now include pilsners, lagers and India Pale Ales. All Stone House beers are brewed using water from a 250-foot-deep well located on site. 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 was has been brewed since 2017 and remains the most popular offering in their taphouse. More brews are promised, as owner Allen Stubbs has been busy expanding the footprint of the taphouse and dining facilities. You can also sample many local brews here too. widderstation.com.
Shale Ridge Estate Winery & Cidery (Thedford)
Eco-friendly farmers with 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, Alicia and Garren already have plans in the works to produce wines this year. Drop by for a welcoming farm-to-glass experience and learn how the shale ridge terroir produces exceptional homegrown apples. Sip their tasty range of dry-styled ciders including Pear Apple Hard Cider and Crisp Apple 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 true 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, as well as 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.