Situated at the same latitude as the Mediterranean The Lake Erie North Shore Region benefits from it's proximity to Lake Erie which offers a unique maritime climate in a continental region. Grape growers in The Lake Erie North Shore and Pelee Island Designated Viticultural Areas grow some of the world's finest vinifera and French hybrid wine grapes that continually and reliably produce award winning, world class wines, including naturally produced ice wines.

The region is a winemaker's paradise blessed with exceptional soil conditions and a regional climate which offers longer sun hours and greater heat units than any other area in Canada. In fact, geographically speaking, it is located as far south as northern California and the Tuscany region of Italy, and further south than the renowned Bordeaux and Burgundy wine regions of France.


Wine making in the Essex County has a proud past, dating back to the 1860s when three gentlemen farmers from Kentucky came north looking for winemaking opportunities. They found them on Pelee Island, just off the shores of Lake Erie. In 1866 the trio, D.J.Williams, Thomas Williams and Thaddeus Smith opened Canada’s first commercial estate winery Vin Villa Estates. Soon after, Pelee Island attracted another wine venture. Two brothers from England Edward and John Wardoper founded Pelee Island Wine and Vineyard Company.

By 1890 there were 41 wineries in Canada, 23 of those were in the corridor between Windsor and Pelee Island. Grapes had become one of the major crops on the mainland, as well as Pelee Island. By 1900, Essex was one of the most important grape production areas in Ontario. Acreage peaked in 1904 at 1794 acres, and then dropped. By 1914, there were only 275 commercial acres of grapes, and less than 50 a few years later.

Although the reasons for this rapid decline are both diverse and debated, the competition for land for tobacco production which proved more profitable along with prohibition fears in the U.S. appear to have been the main contributing factors.

With the decline of the tobacco industry in North America, the wine industry is once again flourishing in Essex County! Commercial wine making returned to Essex County in the early 80’s with the openings of Pelee Island Winery, Colio Estate Winery and D’Angelo Vineyards.

In 1989, Canada adopted a designation system known as the VQA system (Vintners Quality Alliance) which was initiated by the winemakers of Ontario in recognition of the importance of having standards against which Canadian wines could be measured against the wines of other countries. The system was modeled after the French system which is based on origin and identifies specific geographic areas that have been singled out as having characteristics favorable to the cultivation of grapes. Essex County was officially identified as having two of Ontario’s three Designated Viticultural Areas. The two areas were named Lake Erie North Shore (mainland) and Pelee Island (Island). The third area in Ontario is Niagara, there are also 4 DVA’s in British Columbia. Since then, a growing number of vintners have been reclaiming the soil and the region’s reputation by producing some of Canada’s best wines. Today there are approximately 1,000 acres of grapes in the Lake Erie North Shore and Pelee Island Designated Viticultural Areas.

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Lake Erie North Shore Wine Region

1. D'Angelo Estate Winery - The home of the 1999 Ontario Grape King, Sal D’Angelo. Small, focused and dedicated to quality are the traits that continue to make Sal the producer of some of the finest Canadian wines.

2. Sanson Estate Winery – One of the areas newest wineries, Dennis Sanson has already won several medals at various wine competitions, including the all Canadian Wine Championship in June 2003 and 2004.

3. Erie Shore Vineyard & Winery – The winery of Harvey and Alma Hollingshead is located on the shores of Lake Erie. Enjoy the warmth and hospitality of this family run cottage winery while sampling their selection of VQA fine wines.

4. Colio Estate Wines – The 2000 Canadian winery of the year. Winemaster Carlo Negri oversees production of 200,000 cases of wine. His focus on quality has led to the latest feather in his cap from Bordeaux France where Carlo’s 2000 Merlot Reserve was awarded the 2003 “Prestige Trophie” from Les Citadelles du Vin, one of the most prestigious wine competitions in the world.

5a. Pelee Island Winery – Pelee Island Winery produces wines with grapes from Canada’s most Southerly grape growing region, Pelee Island. Operating since 1979, Pelee Island Winery, located on the mainland, strives to offer the most unique wine varieties available as a result of the distinctive climatic and geographic characteristics of their vineyards on Pelee Island.

5b. Pelee Island Pavilion – Canada’s most southerly grape growing region. The island off the coast of Kingsville in Lake Erie was also the home of the first winery in the region, Vin Villa Estates.

6. Wagner Estate Winery – Enjoy one of the newest wineries in the county. Harold Wagner specializes in fruit wines. He also has an apple orchard and raises livestock.

7. Mastronardi Estate Winery – Although not officially open to the public, Tony and Eadie Mastronardi are making large strides in their new winemaking venture. Look for their wines at local restaurants and stay tuned for their Grand Opening in 2006.

Aleksander Estate Winery – Aleksander Bemben has worked for Pelee Island Winery for 20 years. Now, he and daughter Izabela have opened their own winery. Their first wines, including a crisp and fruity Riesling, have been a great success.

Viewpointe Estate Winery – Sure to be one of the most impressive wineries in the area, John and Steve Fancsy's winery is not yet open to the public but their wines are already turning heads. Look for their wines in local restaurants and stay tuned for their Grand Opening.

Wineries Coming Soon
A) Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery
- Summer 2006
B) Colchester Ridge Estate Winery - Summer 2006
C) Muscedere Vineyards - Spring 2006
D) Smith & Wilson Farms - Summer 2006


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