Foodie Day Trips / Tasting Ontario’s terroir

Pour it on

Photos courtesy of vendors, except Pearl Morissette, Southbrook and Stratus by Chista Glennie Seychew


Total Mileage: 96.2 mi. (round trip)

Total Drive Time: 2 hrs.


Pearl Morissette
3953 Jordan Road
Jordan Station, ON L0R 1S0


242 Mary Street
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0


114 Queen Street
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0


Il Gelato di Carlotta
9 Queen Street
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0


Stratus Winery
2059 Niagara Stone Road
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0


Silversmith Brewing
1523 Niagara Stone Road
Virgil, ON L0S 1T0


Southbrook Vineyards
581 Niagara Stone Road
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0


International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration
July 21–23, 2017
Various locations, ON



Beautifully funky wine is where it’s at these days, and some of the most exciting we’ve tasted are being made just across the border in Niagara-on-the-Lake (NotL). It’s a busy tourist town most of the summer, but there are plenty of days from late summer through fall that are equally lovely and with less hustle and bustle. If you can score tickets to one of Shaw’s remarkable productions, don’t hesitate to turn your NotL visit into an overnight adventure.


Ontario is divided into dozens of sub-appellations, several of which include NotL and its surrounding region (discover more at Learning about each of these areas and what they offer is a worthy endeavor, but if you only have time to enjoy a day or two of backroad Canadian wine travel, we have a select list of favorites just over the border.


On a bright and early morning, take your favorite of the three bridges and head straight up the QEW to your first stop. Just a bit past St. Catherines, Pearl Morissette is located in Jordan Station, which is part of the Niagara Peninsula appellation. Its greatness earns it inclusion here, though it is somewhat of a geographic outlier. A small estate winery, Pearl Morissette is run with exacting standards by vigneron Francois Morissette. Morissette, who trained in Burgundy, possesses a singular vision that has earned him status as, let’s say, a “challenging” person in his industry (one article called him “bristly”), but he is also recognized for his genius. The portion of the winery’s website dedicated to the “Black Ball Wine Society”—a frequent buyer club of sorts—is an ode to those (presumably like Morissette) who feel ostracized for having unpopular opinions, bucking against the norm, or otherwise standing out from the crowd. On this small farm and winery in Southern Ontario, uncompromising, rigid standards culminate in one fantastical, magical wine-drinking experience.


Pearl Morissette


Limited varietals, including Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Pinot Noir, and Riesling express varying degrees of excellence. As a proponent of natural winemaking, Morissette’s Rieslings have been turned away by the VQA for being overly oxidized, a trait that, viewed through the lens of a natural wine enthusiast, may be more compliment than slur. You won’t find any bridezilla bus tours or vans full of newly legal young adults with crude plastic wine glasses in hand. Nor is there a fancy, fully-staffed tasting room or stage meant to host live music productions. What you will find is really delicious wine sure to curl your toes with delight. After you’ve finished your appointment, remind yourself to buy a few bottles of anything you liked because you’ll be hard pressed to find any of it at an LCBO (Liquor Control Board Ontario) shop.


NotL proper is next, thirty miles north. Two area restaurants here take terroir to heart, and since that effortlessly coincides with the evocation of terroir expressed by this trip’s featured wineries, either option is a good lunch bet. (Reservations absolutely must be made in both instances.)




If it’s Saturday, head to Backhouse on Mary Street for its casual-yet-modern vibe and woodfire cooking (see full dining review here). Three minutes away at Treadwell, longtime locavore Stephen Treadwell has been making the most of this region’s four-season climate since 2006. Visitors will find elegant service in a comfortable but well-appointed dining room with a smashing wine list to match. If traveling as a pair, sit at the bar for a full view of the open kitchen. The outdoor patio is also a lovely choice as it’s set back from Queen Street. Luncheon at Treadwell is served Monday through Sunday in the warmer seasons.


Treadwell Cuisine


Not far from both lunch suggestions is Il Gelato di Carlota, making some of the finest gelato in Canada. Available in myriad flavors, the use of organic milk and dedication to wholesome ingredients set this gelato apart from most frozen desserts. If you have room after lunch, stop by for a cone.


Now sated and clearheaded, buckle up for a few more tasting opportunities before heading back over the bridge. Niagara Stone Road happens to be demarcated in nearly equal thirds by these three businesses of merit.


Stratus Vineyards


Stratus Vineyards makes some of the finest wines in Canada thanks to the efforts of winemaker/international consultant Paul Hobbs and assembleur Jean-Laurent “J-L” Groux. This beautiful winery is also open for tastings on a regular schedule and offers frequent events during warm weather, so be sure to check its calendar.


To break things up a bit, a pause at Silversmith Brewing is never a bad idea. Erected in a beautiful former church, Silversmith’s a real looker. Its beers are approachable and reliably good. Those in the mood can stand in the brilliantly colored reflections of the brewery’s stained windows and suck down a few oysters from Tide & Vine, which operates onsite.


Silversmith Brewing


Five minutes from Silversmith is Southbrook Vineyards, a biodynamic winery sporting a selection of wines that will please everyday wine drinkers as well as lovers of the more eccentric, boutique-style wines. Its tasting room operates with regular hours, though formal appointments can be booked ahead and even include cheese pairings. This winery’s Poetica series has our heart.


Southbrook Vineyards


So, there you are, a whirlwind wine-soaked trip of NotL. Be sure to make reservations, doublecheck pricing, and tip well. We’ve managed it in a few hours with the help of a designated driver and a well-planned schedule. If the schlepping around is a bit much for you, consider hitting up the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebrations (aka i4C) in late July where some of the best cool climate winemakers from all over the world sample Chardonnays (as well as other styles) over the course of one long and heavenly weekend.


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