Exploring Ontarios's Wine Region

By Anna Guy

The Days of Wine and Chocolate in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a Dionysian celebration of Ontario’s prodigious wine region held every weekend in February, gives the (unofficial) May 2-4 beer weekend a fairly good run for its money. Every February, a $38 “passport” gains access to some of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s wineries which feature a wine and chocolate pairing. Companies such as the Grape Escape provide customized tours of the region and wineries which allow guests the experience of fully enjoying their libations.

“During the summer—our high season—we have visitors from across the world and it’s extremely busy,” says Patrick Gedge, President and CEO of the Winery and Grower Alliance of Canada. “But also we want to focus on so called ‘shoulder seasons’, outside of the late spring and summer period, and try and get people to enjoy wine country during all parts of the year. It’s another way to get people to think about the fact that they have this world class wine region on their doorsteps.”

Ontario’s wine industry has blossomed, with 103 VQA wineries in the province. Gedge points to a 2008 study conducted by KPMG which found that the sale of Ontario wine added more than $529 million in economic value to the Province of Ontario. Not only does the Ontario wine industry create jobs in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors, it creates vibrant tourism destinations and adds value to the economy in many associated support industries, primarily hospitality and the arts.

“I always find it rather interesting when one looks at the trajectory of the wine industry in the Niagara Region in comparison to that of the Shaw Festival Theatre,” says Odette Yazbeck, Public Relations Director for the Shaw Festival, purveyor of the theatrical arts in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“For the past 50 years (the Shaw celebrates its 50th Season in 2011), each industry has paralleled one another as they’ve developed into world class leaders in their respective industries.”

Ryan Murray, General Manager of the Shaw Hotel and Spa, says that wine tours bring in a “huge percentage” of his guests to his upscale boutique hotel. No matter what, if there is a wine event, certainly we see the numbers increase because Niagara is a destination for its wineries,” says Murray. “It really depends on the actual event; there is everything from wine and chocolate pairings, to wine and herb pairings to the icewine weekends, where the whole town basically gets taken over.”

“People are very busy, highly stressed and they need breaks,” says Gedge, “and we want to package these breaks and give a change of pace from all of the hard work they are doing. Here, they can disappear for a couple days and thoroughly relax and have a unique experience.”

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s next celebration will be the Wine and Herb tour held every weekend in May. 

For more information on Ontario’s wine region, please visit:




Source: KPMG Study, May 2008