By the time 2020’s fourth quarter had arrived, 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 (our website launch was during spring 2020).
It’s safe to say that 2020 was a very challenging year for the wine industry. Therefore, whatever we chose to do had to be something different than just presenting a proverbial top 10 wine list. It had to be ambitious, but without seeming like we were exercising something that was reaching beyond the scope of our qualifications.
It was also important that VineRoutes focus on making this a local story, keeping things within the brand’s wheelhouse so to speak. Therefore, the idea to spotlight the ‘winery’ rather than a singular ‘bottle’ seemed to be an obvious winner considering the numerous stories we share that have either put the emphasis on the place, the process or the wine maker, as opposed to the wine.
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.
Dubbed as ‘Ontario’s Top 20 Wineries’, this evaluation is paneled by our wine enthusiasts who observe key experiential attributes when finalizing their selections. Quality of wine represents the most weighted factor, with other influences being:
- customer visit experience
- overall service
- portfolio variety and depth
- 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 to all 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. (When we launched the list in 2020, it meant that 2018 was as far back as one could go.) This allows us to explore so many more options, without feeling any critical time constraints. It also means that we can analyze multiple visits to the same winery within the established time frame and make extra note of consistent experiences and improvements.
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 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 – an updated list is formed each year – for their exceptional performance in our tastings and experiences. Our process reveals this diverse listing, which includes locations visited not just in Niagara (Ontario’s winemaking epicentre), but also Prince Edward County, Essex 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.