Wine Lovers’ Getaway In Ontario: Essex County
Original blog by Solmaz of The Curious Creature | September 29, 2020
Pack your bags. It’s time to head to a wine region you’ve probably never heard of. Located on the 42nd parallel (the same latitude as northern Cali and Tuscany), Lake Erie North Shore receives more sun than anywhere else in Canada which basically translates to happy grapes (and a happy Solmaz)…
Go to Essex County. Trust me. Those who live there already know it’s special, but for the rest of us it’s still a hidden gem. The incredible (I mean incredible) accommodations in the heart of wine country and the more than 20 wineries dotting the region make it the perfect getaway in Ontario for wine lovers’.
Essex County is a destination you’ll want to explore with someone who truly appreciates food and wine. For me, it was farm-to-table advocate, TV personality, chef & all-around great human: Irene Matys. I knew she’d be the perfect companion given her deep connection to food and wine. Together, we visited the many farms, wineries and local businesses listed below to get a good understanding of what the region has to offer…
Wine Lovers’ Getaway In Essex County
Stay In The Heart Of Wine Country
And by heart, I literally mean heart. These two accommodations (although completely different) are both hugged by vineyards. Just close your eyes and imagine waking up to the sun rising over rows of Cab Sauv. Dreamy, right? The only decision you’ll have to make is which one you’d like to call your home for the night. But if you ask me, a night (or two) at each is a must so book both!
EDITORS NOTE: The Floating Wine Barrels are currently closed.
Floating Wine Barrel – Journey Airbnb
When I heard that I could sleep in a floating wine barrel, I knew I had to experience it. I mean, it’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
The hosts are incredibly sweet and have thought of every detail — from electricity and an outdoor shower to a flatscreen TV and a floating tiki bar!! It’s literally perfect — at least it was for me (warning to those who are tall, claustrophobic or avoid portable washrooms). My teeny tiny home brought me so much joy. Waking up to a calm creek, herons floating by and the glorious sunrise was reason alone to stay here…
But it was the sunset, oh the sunset, that I’ll never forget.
We literally didn’t want to take our eyes off of it. Thankfully, we didn’t have to because we picked up a mouthwatering and healthy dinner from Green Heart Kitchen and bought some wine from Pelee Island Winery earlier that day so we just sat back and enjoyed our little deck…
The “pinch me” moments continued throughout the night as the sun dipped below the horizon, tiki bar lights turned on and we cozied up by the campfire. It was pure magic.
If luxury travel is more your cup of tea, this stunning new B&B is for you. Think: old world charm meets modern amenities.
Beautiful on the inside and out, Magnolia Ranch is owned by two women who radiate warmth. From the moment we stepped foot on the property we felt like we were a part of their family. Did I mention they also happen to have impeccable taste? Yah, that too…
The four bedroom bed and breakfast is perfect for a girls’ trip or romantic getaway. If you don’t want to share bathrooms, you’ll want to book the Magnolia Room. The pièce de résistance? A soaker tub with views of the lake and vineyard. Basically a wine-lovers’ paradise…
I think my favourite part of the property was the front porch (maybe because I’ve secretly always wanted one). It was so relaxing during sunset as we stared out at the vineyard across the street while drinking the beaut sparkling from North 42 Degrees next door…
The porch is a lovely spot for breaky too! Although they do have a formal dining room inside, I preferred sipping on coffee and enjoying this beaut spread outdoors.
Le sigh, Magnolia Ranch quickly became one of my favourite B&Bs in Ontario. The location, the details, the food and the hosts are sure to make any visitor a repeat guest. I can’t wait to return!
While you can certainly visit all of the wineries on your own, I recommend being zipped around by a knowledgeable guide so you can actually enjoy all the wine. For this, book a tour with Peter at Grape Vine Wine Tours. He will make sure you’re taken care of as you explore the EPIC Wine Route. Here are some of my favourite wineries in the region…
North 42 Degrees Estate Winery – If you can only visit one winery in Essex County, I hope it’s this one. There’s something very special about Martin and the wines here are, in my opinion, world class. One sip and I understood the wines – they’re distinct, memorable and actually say something. The perfect balance between confidence and vulnerability, bold and delicate notes, science and artistry. The estate is also stunning. Do NOT miss this gem!
Muscedere Vineyards – I have a special place in my heart for Melissa at Muscedere and now that I’ve met her mom (the cutest), I love the family even more. This is a winery I’d bring my entire fam jam to. It’s comfortable, welcoming, has a playground, animals, wood-fired pizzas, you name it. The kind of place you could spend an entire day at. Their wines are excellent and often found in my cellar at home — if they last that long!
Oxley Estate Winery – This is the first winery I ever visited in the region and there’s a reason I keep going back. The grounds and gardens are dreamy, the food is excellent and the wines are unique (get a glass of their Regent – a German grape varietal).
Sprucewood Shores – Canada’s only beachfront winery, this family-run estate is headed up by a female winemaker (YAY!) They offer picnic baskets and grazing boxes so it’s the perfect spot to have lunch surrounded by vineyards and the beach!
CREW (Colchester Ridge Estate Winery) – Head here for some of the best food & wine pairings in the region and sit on either of their two, new patios to enjoy. Expect many local ingredients, beautifully-plated dishes and a chef who is cooking with a lot of heart.
Paglione Estate Winery – Ruuuun here for their arancini and stay for the beaut patio and wines. This family-run estate also serves up amazing thin-crust pizzas and homemade gelato! The service is also on point.
Pelee Island Winery – You guys know how much love I have for this winery! I had a chance to visit their estate on Pelee Island last year and have been obsessed with their wines ever since (I’ve officially lost count of the number of Lola bottles and cans I’ve gone through this summer). They usually offer tours, but were only open for curbside pickup during our visit due to the pandemic.
Other Stops To Enjoy While In Essex County
If you’re looking to round out your itinerary and want to experience more of the region, here are some other stops to add to your itinerary…
Dutch Boys Chocolate – Swing by this chocolate shop and grab some truffles to pair with all the wine you’ll be drinking. The chocolate is handmade, has a beaut mouthfeel and is combined with interesting flavours. The local lavender and local peach were the standouts for me — some of the best chocolate I’ve had in the country!
The Fruit Wagon – Pop by this farm stand to pick up some high quality fruit & veg. Make sure you carve out time to chat with the family — they’re pretty special and have the best vibes. I somehow managed to capture farmer Doug’s incredible aura in this unedited shot…
Oh, and don’t leave without trying their apples. That’s what they’re known for! Irene even brought some home and made this beaut recipe.
Jack’s Gastropub – I’ve been to Jack’s a few times and it never disappoints. They have a sun-soaked wrap-around patio, serve up some great beer and the food is always on point. It’s very popular so make sure you snag a reso!
Cindy’s Home, Garden and Gifts – These guys have been around since 1989 and have a huge store filled with beaut home decor, tasty olive oil and unique gifts for the entire family. Irene bought my little guy the cutest tractor from here!
Kings Bakeshop – This may just be the most Instagramable shop in Essex County. But wait, it isn’t just a pretty shop, their desserts are amazing — I highly recommend the cupcakes!
The Grove Brewing Company – Only serving what they brew themselves, this is a very popular watering hole in Kingsville. I’m a huge fan of their peach sour! Oh, and if you have a few extra beers you can stay at their adjacent hotel (which we did a few years ago).
Lee & Maria’s – These guys offer a tour via Airbnb Experiences which includes a fruit & beer tasting at the end. The family is very welcoming and knowledgeable so it’s a great spot to spend a couple of hours.
Dairy Freez – This family-run drive-in restaurant has been around since 1954 and is loved by so many in the community. It’s the kind of place that takes you back in time and forces you to slow down so you can appreciate the important things in life. We loved sitting out back and eating our spicy curly fries with their famous Boston Coolers!
Meleg’s Orchards – If you love pick-your-own as much as I do, you’ll want to head to Meleg’s! They have all kinds of apples and berries to fill your baskets and a fun corn maze too. We picked blackberries and raspberries during our visit.
Priscilla’s Presents and Here’s the Scoop Ice Cream Parlour – A spot were you can shop AND have a little ice cream break?! Sign me up. Get a scoop of Grammy’s Cupboard (Shaw’s Ice Cream) and thank me later.
Beach House Grill – We asked a few locals where we should have breakfast and they all pointed to Beach House Grill. It’s a fantastic breakfast spot that serves up one of the best eggs bennies I’ve ever had!
Sunflowers For Smiles – Not only do they raise funds for a great cause (Windsor Ronald McDonald House), but it’s a beaut field with plenty of photo opps. We had a bit of fun there… just a bit.
Well, that wraps up our epic trip (see what I did there? it’s EPIC wine country). The locals we met in Essex County were some of the most passionate I’ve met in the province. They have heart, are doing what they love and will captivate you with each conversation. We had such an incredible time exploring the region and will be back!
To explore this itinerary or other suggested itineraries, download it HERE.