Not Your Average Wine Tour: Ontario’s Eco Forward Wineries
It’s a fascinating time for the winemaking world in Ontario. Vintner and viticulture pioneers are simultaneously looking back to traditional practices and methods, as well as employing new, cutting-edge technology to integrate sustainability and innovation. The result: environmentally responsible, economically viable and (most importantly) rich, balanced and bold Ontario-made wines.
An ethos worth cheers-ing!
Some things to do may not be available due to COVID-19.
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One of Ontario’s most unique wineries, Karlo Estates Winery is the world’s first certified vegan winery (by Canadian group VegeCert). You might think that wine is made of grapes, so of course it’s already vegan, but a common practice in winemaking is to use animal based proteins during the clarification process, known as ‘fining’. When clarification is necessary, Karlo uses only plant and clay based products as fining agents. This ‘from the earth’ approach is obviously working as awards and accolades stack up, including TripAdvisor’s Award of Excellence and being named multiple times in the top 10 cutting edge wines in the world. Their century-old, post-and-beam barn is a charming spot to raise a glass of cab franc or pinot noir to our animal friends.
Another game-changer, Martin Malivoire developed Ontario’s first production system that takes advantage of gravity to move the wine on multiple levels. Admire the signature gravity flow facility while you sip a Gamay from the tasting room at Malivoire Wine Company in Beamsville.
Stratus Vineyards (a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified facility) employs a similar practice — they are proud to be a fully pump-free winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The wine is transported in barrels or is gravity fed, a less interventionist approach that requires less electricity, leaves a smaller environmental footprint and is gentler on the product. Happy earth, happy wine.
Situated on the slopes of the Niagara Escarpment in Vineland, Tawse Winery is also taking full advantage of gravitational pull. Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the state-of-the-art, six-level, gravity-fed, geo-thermal system. Sir Issac Newton would surely give two thumbs up.
Organic & Biodynamic
Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Frogpond Farm Organic Winery is the first certified organic winery in Ontario, meaning the vineyard avoids synthetic or chemical additives and pesticides in both grape growing and wine making. Alternative bug eaters include a resident Guinea Fowl flock.
Nearby, discover Canada’s first certified Organic and Biodynamic winery at Southbrook Vineyards, where you can taste the goodness with the ‘less is more’ holistic approach, in which all required materials are produced from within, from farm to vineyard.
Extraordinary, complex wines, including their signature Sauvignon Blanc, are a testament to how lovingly the Lowrey-Harber family, owners of Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery in St. Davids, has farmed and harvested over the past 150 years. Using biodynamic practices, the farm, the vineyard, the restaurant and winery all function organically as one system.
From solar power to rainwater collection, environmental sustainability is the way of life at Hinterbrook Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Nearby, Featherstone Estate Winery in Vineland employs ‘sheep labour’ in removing the grape leaves in the fruiting zone (a process that allows the grape clusters to grow stronger), so look for these furry farmers on your tour. There’s even a wine named in their honour: Black Sheep Riesling.
Over in Prince Edward County, Redtail Vineyards, just south of Consecon, is an organic, off-grid property using a combination of solar energy and geothermal temperature control. While in Wellington, minimal intervention and proactive, eco-friendly farming practices like organic pest prevention are producing wonderful results for Rosehall Run Vineyards, who offers award-winning chardonnay, pinot noir, Riesling and sparkling wines. Fun fact: Rosehall’s Chardonnay was selected for tasting during the 2017 visit by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.
Viticulture Research & Education
Take the comprehensive Winegrowing Discovery Tour at Chateau des Charmes, a 35 hectare vineyard in the St. David’s Bench. Learn about their innovative research and taste the benefits of sustainable agriculture.
Named 2017 Canadian Wine Producer of the Year (by International Wine and Spirits Competition, London, UK), Reif Estate Winery is one of Niagara’s founding family wineries, and a visionary group in viticulture study, specifically in the production of their internationally acclaimed Vidal Icewine. Make time for their educational tasting experiences with themed flights, blind tastings, food pairings and even a sensory wine garden.
Read up on more eco-awesomeness with the Sustainable Winemaking Ontario program. Most importantly, don’t forget to thank your designated driver.