Ontario's Top 20 Wineries
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Announcing Ontario’s top 20 wineries of 2020

December 22, 2020

Following the success of our website launch earlier in the year, our small team here at VineRoutes was eager to work towards something that would help put an exclamation point at the close of our inaugural year.

Announcing a list of wineries, which we feel as a team represent Ontario’s best, holds true to our vision of independently evaluating and highlighting wine tasting experiences from all around the province. Through this innovative review, we aim to encourage an exploration of our local wine industry, whilst learning about the passionate work of often previously unheralded wine makers.

Read Also: 2020 Ontario wine snapshot: A year-end recap of visits and tastings

Dubbed as ‘Ontario’s Top 20 Wineries’ of 2020, this evaluation is paneled by our wine enthusiasts who observed key experiential attributes when finalizing their selections. Quality of wine represented the most weighted factor, with other influences consisting of:

  • customer visit experience
  • overall service
  • facility
  • portfolio variety
  • price point & QPR

It’s most important to understand that this is a list of Ontario wineries that can be visited and experienced, and so having a functioning visitor-driven operation is the key foundation here (sorry Bachelder Niagara, Cloudsley Cellars and other virtual wineries).

With our organization being a small one, it’s not possible to assume that this list can be finalized based on wineries visited within a single calendar year. That is why we determined that in order for wineries to qualify for this list, they must have been visited by any member of our team within the past three years, with 2018 being as far back as one could go. This allowed us to explore so many more options, without feeling any critical time constraints. It also meant that we could analyze multiple visits to the same winery within the established time frame and make extra note of consistent experiences and improvements.

Ontario Wines

Click the image to access our compendium of every Ontario wine review written throughout the last year, neatly indexed according to style or type.

Prioritizing these wineries in such a way is done to make casual consumers and wine enthusiasts alike, aware that it is these places that are making significant progress. Maybe that comes in the form of sustainability and wineries that represent innovative approaches, whether in the vineyards, winery or otherwise, demonstrating a sense of responsibility. Maybe it’s terroir-driven decisions that influence quality. Or perhaps it’s a dedication to a more focused and committed understanding of the customer experience (does the place and its people represent the brand well?). In many cases with our selections, these wineries are doing all three, and are reaping the reward of seeing these initiatives unfold in seamless fashion.

So join us in congratulating Ontario’s Top 20 Wineries for their exceptional performance in our tastings and experiences over the past three years. Our process revealed this diverse list, which includes locations visited not just in Niagara (Ontario’s winemaking epicentre), but also Prince Edward County and emerging regions like Norfolk County and Orangeville.

With just over 180 wineries operating throughout the province today, our picks represent the top 10 percent. We honour these places for their outstanding work.

Listed in alphabetical order, the top 20 wineries in Ontario are:

Adamo Estate Winery

Wines made here are not just from what grows on their own estate (which is farmed organically and biodynamically). Adamo also sources some of the best fruit from top growers in Ontario to make their quality-driven, terroir and sustainably focused wines at an excellent price point.

Burning Kiln Winery

This winery, located within Ontario’s south coast, has become the torchbearer for an emerging region that was once fueled by the tobacco industry. Making wines using methods that set them apart from many others, you’re bound to have a memorable visit experience, not to mention some interesting wines.

Cave Spring Vineyard

Sustainably focused with a consistent quality track record, their rieslings are some of the best you’ll come across in the country, but that’s not all they’re known for. You’ll find that they also craft some excellent cabernet franc, pinot noir and chardonnay.

Closson Chase

Experts in crafting premium chardonnay and pinot noir (try their pinot gris too!), they’ve helped put Prince Edward County on the map. Their focus on the customer experience matches their penchant for producing quality, terroir driven wines.

Creekside Estate

If you love syrah, this is the place to get your fill of it, although their entire portfolio is quality driven (some of the region’s best sauvignon blanc is also made here). They’ve worked hard to prove to many doubters that certain varietals not only can be grown in the region, but can be made very well.

Domaine Queylus

This elegant and quaint winery produces very fine, terroir expressive wines with some of the region’s most notable grapes, including pinot noir, chardonnay, cabernet franc and merlot. This place is in such good hands right now, with Kelly Mason now as head winemaker and Thomas Bachelder as chief consultant (formerly head winemaker).

Five Rows Craft Winery

Winemaker Wes Lowrey crafts very special wines, from this very special place, in very small quantities. These are some of the most sought-after wines in the province – and it’s no wonder. The wines are excellent, made with such hands-on precision from vine to bottle. The experience of visiting this place and walking away with your own individually numbered bottles is memorable.

Hidden Bench Estate Winery

An artisanal, terroir-focused winery dedicated to crafting premium wines solely from their own certified organic estate vineyards. Wines produced here have a very distinct and pronounced complexity and character which bear a sense of place and time.

Inniskillin

There’s so much history here. Without a doubt, this is the country’s epicentre for quality Icewine – a style that went from being merely experimental to becoming one of the world’s most preeminent luxury wines. Not just proud ambassadors for Icewine, there’s excellent chardonnay and pinot made here too, along with so much more.

Karlo Estates

Situated on a historic property, people don’t just come here for the wine, they come to experience the barn, the bridge and the fascinating stories. The winery tends to have a wider array of offerings, consisting of interesting single varietals and eclectic blends that showcase both the style and image of the winery and of its winemaker, the very celebrated Derek Barnett.

Leaning Post

A small operation, husband and wife duo trying to make their way into the wine business on their own terms. It’s an inspiring story, the type that defines the spirit of entrepreneurship. So many wineries are started this way yet so few are able to produce as exceptional a product as these folks. This winery has a momentous future ahead of it.

Malivoire Wine Company

A winery that has become a base for innovation, creativity and sustainability. Always a pleasure to visit, taste and speak with the many helpful and knowledgeable service representatives, this is a place that clearly has principles and the initiative to succeed.

Rosehall Run

This place is among a few top tier producers operating out of Prince Edward County right now, producing consistent, elegant and approachable pinot noirs, chardonnays and sparkling wines as well as innovations with unique varietals.

Southbrook Organic Vineyards

Certified organic and biodynamic, Southbrook is a winery that can truly lay claim to making a difference. Each wine is an education, a tasteful result of meticulous farming activity efforts, further proving that green initiatives can work in an Ontario vineyard.

Stratus Vineyards

This is a winery built for modern day winemaking, guided by ingenuity and gravity, all with the smallest possible environmental impact kept in mind. Stratus’ signature wines are much more than just a representation of this adaptable state-of-the-art facility; they are wines that rediscover the noble tradition of assemblage, the art of combining several grape varieties to create a single wine.

Tawse Winery

Inspired by a love for Burgundy and dedicated to producing terroir-driven wines of exceptional elegance, depth and character, Tawse’s portfolio is one of the most diverse in the province. The application of rigorous organic methods to every aspect of production, from grape-growing to winemaking results in wines with year-over-year consistency and excellent quality-to-price-ratio.

The Foreign Affair Winery

This is Ontario’s original Italian influenced winery, utilizing the appassimento method for its wines – a winemaking process that concentrates the ripe flavours in grapes and adds full-bodied character. New world winemaking inspired by old-world tradition. There’s a great story behind this place, and it’s told beautifully through their wines.

Thirty Bench Wine Makers

A boutique-style operation that’s committed to quality ‘small lot’ winemaking, every wine is limited quantity and very special in its representation of place and time. Originally built on producing world-class riesling wines, the portfolio now includes nine varietals, all made with an artisanal approach.

Two Sisters Winery

One of Ontario’s most spectacular estate properties – from sweeping vineyard views to the winery’s elegant tasting room and fine dining restaurant, complete with its stunning patio. Everything done here is with class in mind, wines included. A heightened experience.

Westcott Vineyards

The gorgeous views are usually enough to draw people towards this quaint property, set high atop the escarpment. Wines are a full expression of terroir, made to reflect a belief in a sense of place and implement low yield, low intervention practices.