1. Headline
  1. Headline
By
updated 5/8/2011 10:34:16 AM ET 2011-05-08T14:34:16

While many visitors to Canada — especially those who think Canadians live under a permanent blanket of snow — are surprised to learn that wine is produced in Canada, their suspicion is always tempered after a drink or two. Canada’s wines have gained ever-greater kudos in recent years and while smaller-scale production and the industry dominance of other wine regions means they’ll never be a global market leader, there are some truly lip-smacking surprises waiting for thirsty grape lovers.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. Ethan Hawke: Robin Williams was in obvious pain during 'Dead Poets Society'

      As a teacher in 1989's "Dead Poets Society," Robin Williams had an immediate and lasting impact on his students — and on t...

    2. 'Hero' bus driver sacrifices her life to save 10-year-old student
    3. Meghan Trainor is 'all about' her cover of Taylor Swift's 'Shake It Off'
    4. Dog who was attacked by a bear – twice – up for award
    5. Eat cheeseburgers all day! To celebrate Cheeseburger Day, here are 4 we love, plus recipes

Slideshow: Wine-tasting trips in Canada

The best way to sample any wine is to head straight to the source, where you can taste the region in the glass. You won’t want to miss the multitude of top table wineries in Ontario’s Niagara region or British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley — the country’s leading producers — but a visit to the smaller, often rustic wineries of Québec and the charming boutique operations of Nova Scotia and Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley can be just as rewarding.

Wherever your tipple-craving crawl takes you (with a designated driver of course), drink widely and deeply and prepare to be surprised. And make sure you have plenty of room in your suitcase — packing materials are always available, but you’ll probably drink everything before you make it to the airport anyway.

Depending on how thirsty you are, you’re rarely too far from a wine region in Canada. Which means that most visitors can easily add a mini taste-tripping tour to their visit if they’d like to meet a few producers and sample some intriguing local flavors. Here’s a rundown of the best areas, including the magnum-sized larger regions and the thimble-sized smaller locales — why not stay all summer and visit them all?

Okanagan Valley
The rolling hills of this lakeside British Columbia region are well worth the five-hour drive from Vancouver. Studded among the vine-striped slopes are more than 100 wineries enjoying a diverse climate that fosters both crisp whites and bold reds. With varietals including pinot noir, pinot gris, pinot blanc, merlot and chardonnay, there’s a wine here to suit almost every palate. Most visitors base themselves in Kelowna, the Okanagan’s wine capital, before fanning out to well-known blockbuster wineries like Mission Hill, Quail’s Gate, Cedar Creek and Summerhill Pyramid Winery (yes, it has a pyramid). Many of them also have excellent vista-hugging restaurants.

Find out more about BC’s wine regions and annual festivals — and download free touring maps — at www.winebc.com.

Golden Mile
Some of BC’s best Okanagan wineries are centered south of the valley around the historic town of Oliver, where the Golden Mile’s hot climate fosters a long, warm growing season. Combined with gravel, clay and sandy soils, this area is ideally suited to varietals such as merlot, chardonnay, gewürztraminer and cabernet sauvignon. While the 20 or so wineries here are not actually crammed into one mile — it’s more like 12 miles — the proximity of celebrated producers like Burrowing Owl, Tinhorn Creek and Road 13 Vineyards makes this an ideal touring area. And if you’re still thirsty, continue south to Osoyoos and check out Nk’Mip Cellars, a First Nations winery on the edge of a desert.

Vancouver Island
Long-established as a farming area, Vancouver Island’s verdant Cowichan Valley is also home to some great little wineries. A short drive from Victoria, you’ll find Averill Creek, Blue Grouse, Cherry Point Vineyards and Venturie-Schulze. Also consider Merridale Estate Cidery, which produces six celebrated ciders on its gently-sloped orchard grounds. For information on the wineries here, visit www.wineislands.ca.

Niagara Peninsula
This picture-perfect Ontario region of country inns and charming old towns offers more than 60 wineries and grows more than three-quarters of Canada’s grapes. Neatly divided between the low-lying Niagara-on-the-Lake area and the higher Niagara Escarpment, its complex mix of soils and climates — often likened to the Loire Valley — is ideal for chardonnay, riesling, pinot noir and cabernet-franc varietals. This is also the production center for Canadian icewine, that potently sweet dessert drink made from grapes frozen on the vine. Home to some of Canada’s biggest and best wineries, including Inniskillin, Jackson-Triggs and Peller Estates, don’t miss smaller pit-stops like Magnotta and Cave Spring Cellars in the Escarpment area.

Prince Edward County
Proving that not all Ontario’s wineries are clustered in Niagara, this comparatively new grape-growing region — located in the province’s southeastern corner and almost three hours drive from Toronto — is a charming alternative if you want to avoid the tour buses winding through the main wine area. A long-established fruit-growing district with generally lower temperatures than Niagara, cooler-climate wines are favored here — including chardonnay and pinot noir. The most intriguing wineries include Closson Chase, Black Prince Winery and Grange of Prince Edward. If your taste buds are piqued, consider checking out other Ontario wine regions like Pelee Island and Lake Erie North Shore.

Eastern Townships
Starting around 50 miles southeast of Montréal, this idyllic patchwork farmland region in Québec is studded with quiet villages, leafy woodlands, crystal clear lakes and winding countryside roads. A rising tide of wineries has joined the traditional farm operations here in recent years, with rieslings and chardonnays particularly suited to the area’s cool climate and soil conditions. But it’s the local icewines, dessert wines and fruit wines that are the area’s main specialties, so make sure you come with a sweet tooth. Wineries to perk up your taste-buds here include Domaine Félibre, Vignoble de L’Orpailleur and Vignoble le Cep d’Argent.

Montérégie
The dominant player in Québec’s wider Eastern Townships, this bumpy and bucolic area is packed with vineyards and orchards (not to mention a surfeit of maple groves). A major fruit farming region — this is an ideal spot to try ciders and flavor-packed fruit wines — growers here are happy to try just about any red or white varietal, but it’s their rosés that are particularly memorable. Recommended wineries include Domaine St-Jacques, Les Petits Cailloux and Vignoble des Pins; and keep in mind that Québec restaurants often encourage diners to bring their own bottles, so fill your car as you explore the region.

Nova Scotia
Divided into six boutique wine-producing regions — from the warm shoreline of Northumberland Strait to the verdant Annapolis Valley — Nova Scotia’s two-dozen wineries are mostly just a couple of hours drive from big city Halifax. One of the world’s coldest grape-growing areas, cool-climate whites are a staple here, including a unique varietal known as l’Acadie Blanc. Innovative sparkling wines are a Nova Scotia specialty and they tend to dominate the drops that are on offer at the popular stops such as the excellent Benjamin Bridge Vineyards. Other highly recommended destinations to fill up your glass include Gaspereau Vineyards, Jost Vineyards and Domaine De Grand Pre.

This story, Wine tasting trips in Canada, originally appeared on LonelyPlanet.com

Related stories from Lonely Planet
In vino veritas: Italy’s regional wines
Tripping California Wine Country
Top 10 Canadian adventures
A perfect day in Toronto

© 2011 Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd.  All rights reserved.

Video: Toronto city guide

Photos: Vancouver, B.C., 2010

loading photos...
  1. Vancouver, British Columbia, played host to the 2010 Winter Olympics. (Albert Normandin / Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A couple strolls through Stanley Park on a spring afternoon near the city's main boat marina. One of the city's most visited parks, visitors can also enjoy the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center and zoo at the park. (Joe Mcnally / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Rowers glide past a line of yachts at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club.It is said that in Vancouver, it is possible to ski in the morning, sail in the afternoon and take a sunset dip in the Pacific. (Mary Peachin / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Planning to soak up some art while in town? Consider staying at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, which is located right behind the Vancouver Art Gallery. The hotel is located on the VIA Rail route for those who plan to travel to the city by train. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The Granville Island Public Market is perhaps the most well-known market in Vancouver. Dozens of vendors offer food-loving tourists and locals produce, seafood, meats, sweets and European speciatly foods. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The steam-powered Gastown clock blows out clouds of steam during its hourly sounding of Westminister Chimes. Gastown is located in the northeast corner of Vancouver, and is known as the birthplace of the city. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. The Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia is "acclaimed for its spectacular architecture and unique setting on the cliffs of Point Grey," its Web site proclaims. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Totem poles and other artifacts are on display at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. The museum, founded in 1949, is world renowned for its collections. (Kevin Arnold / Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. While in the city, check out the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver. The bridge spans 450 feet across and is situated 230 feet above the Capilano River. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A totem pole decorates Stanley Park in Vancouver. The park covers about 1,000 acres, and offers residents and tourists a wealth of options, including walking, running or biking the 5.5-mile seawall path, a pitch-and-put golf course and more. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A young girl interacts with a sea otter at the Vancouver Aquarium. Tickets for adults cost $22, $17 for seniors (65+) and youths (13-18), $14 for children (4-12) and kids get in free. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Pedestrians walk by Aritizia on Robson Street, the famous shopping street in Vancouver's west end. In the stretch of three blocks, tourists looking for retail therapy can find stores specializing in shoes, clothes, lingeri, candy, souvenirs and luggage, not to mention hair salons, currency exchanges and restaurants. (Christopher Herwig / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. The Library Square building in Vancouver houses the city's public library. (Danniele Hayes / Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Patrons eat in the dining room of Six Acres, a pub and restaurant located in Gastown. Six Acres is "tucked in the oldest brick building in Vancouver," its Web site claims. (Christopher Herwig / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A traditional pagoda sits on the shore of a pond in the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden in the downtown area of Vancouver. Though Canada's third largest city, Vancouver has historically been thought of as the "terminal city," the end of the line and the last remote town before the continent comes to an end at the Pacific Ocean. (Ross Barnett / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. The Granville Entertainment District is an area in Downtown Vancouver known for its vast assortment of bars, danceclubs and nightlife. The entertainment district is centered on a seven-block stretch of the Granville Mall and immediately surrounding streets. (Tourism Vancouver) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. The H.R. MacMillan Space Centre was built in 1968, and was a gift from the lumber magnate to Vancouver's citizens. If you're visiting Vancouver on a Friday or Saturday night, you can catch laser shows to music from Green Day, Radiohead and Pink Floyd. (Christopher Herwig / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Olympic rings are illuminated in the harbor outside the Vancouver Convention Centre. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The Olympic and Paralympic Village Vancouver is set on the waterfront of Vancouver. (Stephanie Lamy / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. The Richmond Oval, located south of Vancouver, served as the long-track speed skating venue for the 2010 Winter Games. (Ben Hulse / Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Skiers and snowboarders gather on top of Whistler Mountain. Whistler was the official alpine skiing venue for the 2010 Olympic Games. (Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Norway's Johan Remen Evensensoars through the air during the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup skiing event in Whistler, British Columbia, in 2009. The venue was the site of ski jumping events during the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. (Darryl Dyck / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Cypress Mountain hosted the snowboarding and freestyle skiing events during the 2010 Winter Olympics. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Canada's Mellisa Hollingsworth zooms around a corner during the sixth training run for the World Cup skeleton race in Whistler, B.C., in 2009. (Frank Gunn / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. The Vancouver skyline, Burrard Inlet and Lion's Gate bridge is pictured at sunset. The Lion's Gate Bridge connects North and West Vancouver with downtown. The suspension bridge is 5,890 feet in length. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Kids who died from flu last season: Most skipped vaccine

    Half of Americans are still failing to get vaccinated against influenza, even though it kills thousands every year, health experts said Thursday.

    9/18/2014 6:06:30 PM +00:00 2014-09-18T18:06:30
  1. Ed Suba Jr. / AP

    'Hero' bus driver sacrifices her life to save 10-year-old student

    9/18/2014 6:45:02 PM +00:00 2014-09-18T18:45:02