Congratulations to the Top 20 Wineries of 2021, a diverse collection of producers that best represent the province of Ontario, determined by our team’s visit experiences, and celebrated for their exceptional wines.
As was the case with 2020’s inaugural Top 20 Wineries announcement, the VineRoutes editorial team tastes hundreds of Ontario-made wines through both pre-arranged and casual drop-in visits, and from these tastings and visits (that are allowed to date back three years), the editors select the Top 20 Wineries of the year by way of a preferential ballot. From Niagara – the centre of Ontario’s wine production – to Prince Edward County, further east, and Essex County, further south, this list calls out remarkable portfolios of wines in addition to exceptional service, quality-to-price-ratio (QPR), and other experiential attributes.
As mentioned, for wineries to qualify for this list, they must have been visited by any member of our team within the past three years, with 2019 being as far back as one could go. And with the pandemic being at the forefront of all visit experiences over the last two years, it should be noted that those wineries that have been able to pivot successfully, rising to the constant challenges of delivering outstanding, not to mention very safe, experiences for their guests, have been rewarded for their efforts.
In comparison to 2020’s announcement, we welcome five different wineries to this year’s list, with 15 wineries returning. Most notable is the representation of one of Ontario’s official VQA regions (Lake Erie North Shore) for the first time, with two wineries from the province’s most southern region being included.
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. Be it sustainability and innovation, terroir-driven decisions that influence quality, a dedication to a more focused and committed understanding of the customer experience, or as mentioned, being able to successfully adapt to the ever-changing environment since the onset of the pandemic. In many cases with our selections, these wineries are doing all the above, and are reaping the reward of seeing these initiatives unfold in seamless fashion.
Announcing a list of wineries, which we feel as a team represent Ontario’s current best, holds true to our vision of independently evaluating and highlighting wine tasting experiences from all around the province.
Join us in congratulating Ontario’s Top 20 Wineries for their exceptional performance in our tastings and experiences. With just over 180 wineries operating throughout the province, 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:
Wines made here are not just from what grows on their own 28,000 planted vines 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. With a beautiful retail space, patio seating, and tasting bar, as well as event and meeting spaces overlooking the vines, this is a place that allows one to truly take in the scenic beauty of the region.
This winery, located within Ontario’s south coast in Norfolk County, 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.
Experts in crafting premium chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot gris, they’ve helped put Prince Edward County on the map for wine lovers and casual tourists. An early advocate for sustainable practices, Closson Chase crafts fine wines that reflect each individual vintage, capturing the distinct qualities imparted by the soil and climatic variations of the year. Their penchant for producing quality, terroir driven wines matches their focus on the customer experience.
Located within Ontario’s Lake Erie North Shore VQA region, CREW was established in 2001 by the husband and wife team of Bernie and Nancy Gorski who planted 12 acres of vines on their family land. Today, that land has matured beautifully, producing expressive wines, each of which uniquely generates its own experience and interpretation, and represents the experience and talent of each member of their CREW.
Recently celebrating an exciting re-brand, Flat Rock Cellars is one of only 12 certified sustainable wineries in Ontario. Their strategy here is to combine sustainable, quality-driven vineyard management practices with proven traditional winemaking techniques and an uncompromising commitment to quality and innovation. Utilizing their 5–level gravity flow design, their wine can be crafted using the gentlest of processes from picking of the grapes through to the filling of the barrels. Their ‘Gravity’ Pinot Noir is a true standout and testament to their process.
An artisanal, terroir-focused winery dedicated to crafting premium wines solely from their own sustainably operated and certified organic estate vineyards. Whether single vineyard or estate blends, the wines produced here have a very distinct and pronounced complexity and character which bear a sense of place and time.
Nestled in the quaint community of Jordan, the Honsberger Estate is a family run farm that has been in the family since 1811! Originally a site for growing cherries and peaches, the site as a vineyard for wine growing has proven that it is definitely suited to both cabernet franc and riesling – arguably Ontario’s two flagship varieties. The wines are made with little intervention and are left to express the vineyard and its potential. Aside from its portfolio of wines, Honsberger is famous for its visit experience – from its scenic and atmospheric outdoor areas to its indoor restaurant (inside the almost two century-old barn) that cooks up some of Niagara’s most delicious meals.
Kacaba Vineyards is a family-owned, premium small batch winery situated on prime bench land on the Niagara Escarpment. All wines are top quality, made to have finesse and character, such as their award-winning syrah – hands-down one of the best expressions of the variety in the province. But perhaps even more notable when visiting Kacaba is their stand-out customer service and friendly staff, making a visit here a truly memorable experience from start to finish.
The first vegan certified winery in the world is situated on a historic loyalist property. People don’t just come here for the wine, they come to experience the barn (originally built in 1805), the dry-stone bridge and the intimate live concerts (with food and wine, of course) that act as the perfect escape we all need right now. 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.
A small operation – husband and wife duo, making 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. Their portfolio continues to expand, featuring more wines made with grapes from other neighbouring Niagara vineyards. In 2020, the winery planted more vines on their own estate property (Gamay and Dolcetto coming soon!). And just recently, their hospitality saw an expansion, with a new covered patio extension of their tasting barn that now has a full view of their vineyard.
A winery that has become a base for innovation, creativity and eco-centric 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. Their newly built patio space fits their sustainability mandate, utilizing a Canadian-owned and operated, innovative and environmentally friendly permeable pavement system made from 100 percent recycled plastic. Repurposed old telephone poles and rocks from the local quarry were then used to frame up and contextualize the outdoor design.
A 17-acre vineyard, winery and Bistro producing award winning wines from their own estate-grown grapes in Essex County, Ontario. Husband and wife owners Martin Gorski (brother of CREW’s Bernie Gorski) and Suzanne Dajczak, along with the entire North 42 team are truly welcoming, inviting guests to not only taste their wines, but to experience the natural beauty of their surroundings, their culinary team’s delicious creations, and warm southern (Ontario) hospitality. They offer an authentic winery experience where you can personally engage with the owners, learn about their history, the viticultural practises and winemaking techniques. Standout wines here include their cabernet sauvignon reserve – the best in the region? – and their lineup of rieslings.
Founded in 2001 by grape grower and winemaker Dan Sullivan, Rosehall Run has been at the forefront of Prince Edward County winemaking and is noticeably among a select few wineries that can be considered a cut above in terms of quality. Producing consistent, elegant and approachable pinot noirs, chardonnays and sparkling wines as well as innovations with unique varietals.
Certified organic and biodynamic, Southbrook is a LEED® Gold certified winery that can truly lay claim to making a difference. Each wine is an education, a tasteful result of meticulous local farming activity efforts, further proving that green initiatives can work in an Ontario vineyard.
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 LEED® certified facility; they are wines that rediscover the noble tradition of assemblage – the art of combining several grape varieties to create a single wine.
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.
Utilizing the appassimento method for its wines – a winemaking process that concentrates the ripe flavours in grapes and adds full-bodied character – the harmony between the winery’s Italian heritage and Canadian roots is tangible; from the Tuscan inspired tasting room, to the rich, balanced wines and warm hospitality. New world winemaking inspired by old-world tradition. There’s a great story behind this place, and it’s told beautifully through their wines.
For over 25 years now, Thirty Bench has firmly placed itself among some of Canada’s finest wineries. 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 at the hands of winemaker Emma Garner.
Located in the heart of the Niagara River sub-appellation, this is one of Ontario’s most spectacular estate properties – complete with sweeping vineyard views of the 130-acre property. The winery’s elegant tasting room, fine dining restaurant and stunning patio complete the standout visit experience, but there’s something that needs to be said about their wines as well. From complex, full-bodied reds, to elegant terroir-driven whites, everything done here is with class in mind. A heightened experience.
On top of picturesque Twenty Mile Bench in Jordan, this family-owned winery is housed in a 200-year-old lovingly restored Mennonite barn and pays homage to the unique terroir it rests on. The gorgeous views are usually enough to draw people in, but it’s the wines and friendly hospitality that keep them coming back. With a specialty in pinot noir and chardonnay, wines produced here are a full expression of terroir, made to reflect a belief in a sense of place and implement low yield, low intervention practices.