Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 18, 2021

© Stefanie Grubb

Hoity Toity’s wines and ciders retail for $9 to $20.

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Crossing the vine

Four new Ontario wineries that aren’t anywhere near Niagara

Once native to the Niagara region, Ontario wineries are popping up in imaginative locations north of Toronto. From Grey and Bruce Counties to Muskoka, there are several cellars worth discovering. Along with wines, many producers are also bottling hard ciders made from local apples and pears. Here are four wineries worth visiting.

Hoity Toity Cellars

1723 Highway 9, Mildmay
tel: (519) 507-1723;
Wednesdays to Sundays in December; Fridays and Saturdays January to March

Making approachable wines is Hoity Toity Cellars’ philosophy. “Wines are often considered snobby and intimidating,” explained Gary Fischer, who started the winery in 2010 with his wife Diane. “We’re about having fun and making wines with a wide appeal.”

Demystifying wines is reflected both in the cellar’s name and its products. Amusing bottle monikers such as Kicked Out of the Country Club and Maid’s Night Off, give visitors a chuckle. “There’s nothing fancy about us,” he continued. “We’re just hard-working farmers making artisan wines and craft ciders.”

Red, white and dessert wines are made from Bruce County cold-climate grapes, while its trendsetting ciders are made from local apples and pears.

There are complimentary tastings and impromptu tours can be accommodated, but calling ahead is recommended. “Visitors love the behind the scenes stuff,” chuckled the winemaker. “Even if you are just washing out a barrel, they want to know what’s going on.”

During the holidays, baskets filled with wines, ciders, chocolates and cheeses will be available in the gift shop. Visitors are also invited to snowshoe and ski along the Bruce County Rail Trail that borders the winery. Guests will also get a kick out of Elvira the sheep and her two wooly friends who serve as professional vine groomers as well as the farm’s friendly Australian Shepherds, Nellie and Stella.

With 12 products lining the shelves, Fischer recommends taking home a bottle of 66 Pickup. “We just won gold for it at an international cider competition in the United States,” he boasted quietly. “Hard cider is the hottest market going right now. The market is growing about 60 to 70 percent per year….”

Fischer suggests Belle of the Barn, a Frontenac rose for red; for white, Dusty White Glove, a crisp Frontenac gris.

Bottles can be purchased online. “We can ship a case of wine or cider pretty much anywhere in Ontario for about $20.”

Coffin Ridge Vineyard and Winery

599448 2nd Concession North, Annan
tel: (519) 371-9565;
Daily through December; Thursdays to Sundays January to March

As the first commercial winery in Grey County, Coffin Ridge opened its retail store in 2008. “An out of control farming hobby led my family into the winery business,” admitted GM Mike Todd with a smile. “My stepfather Neil Lamont and my mother Gwen bought a [40-hectare] farm and decided to grow grapes. After a bumper crop, we opened the winery and the rest is history.”

Coffin Ridge produces small-batch wine made primarily from hand-planted, hand-picked Grey County grapes. The boutique winery also focuses on unique outings starting with complimentary tastings. “From there you can retreat to the fireplace for a glass of wine and our vintner's picnic made up of local artisanal breads and cheeses which have been paired with the glass of wine you are drinking,” explained the wine maker. The picnic costs $21 and serves two. “Visitors can also take the vintner’s picnic home or use it for gifts….”

Enjoying the views at Coffin Ridge is part of the experience. “We overlook the crystal blue water of Georgian Bay and we’re in the shadow of the Niagara Escarpment; the setting is stunning,” said Todd. “Our modern tasting room has massive windows so the outside really comes in.”

Guests can also enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on 10 hectares of trails. The winery also offers tours.

Coffin Ridge's signature wines — Into the Light White, Back from the Dead Red and Resurrection Rose — express the Grey County terroir exquisitely. For visitors leaving with just one bottle, Todd recommends Marquette. Crafted by head winemaker Steve Byfield, this varietal has won many awards. “With this red, we have found the new standard cold-climate red-grape variety,” said Todd.

Wines and Coffin Ridge’s Forbidden Fruit hard cider (sold out until spring) can be purchased online and at select LCBO locations.

Georgian Hills Vineyards

496350 Grey Road 2, Blue Mountains
tel: (519) 599-2255;
Wednesdays to Sundays Thanksgiving to June; daily July to Thanksgiving

Robert Ketchin is excited to be part of Georgian Bay’s emerging wine region. “For over a century, Beaver Valley apple farmers have been talking about a microclimate along the Georgian Bay shoreline that’s perfect for growing grapes,” explained Ketchin, who owns and operates Georgian Hills with partners Murray Puddicombe and John Ardiel. “Sooner or later, someone had to give it a try.”

With its first commercial harvest in 2006, Georgian Hills is a trailblazer within the local industry. “The Blue Mountains has become a four seasons playground with a viable local food and culinary industry.” Ketchin added. “All that was missing was a wine region.”

The cottage-style tasting room is situated on the winery farm at Victoria Corners. While enjoying a glass of wine, guests can take in the beautiful view of the vineyards and hills, and get a glimpse of Georgian Bay.

Various tasting options are available at the winery that grows seven hectares of grapes: anything from sampling four varietals (complimentary to guests who buy a bottle, otherwise $5 per person), to wine and artisanal cheese tastings ($15) to the perfect pairings tasting ($20), which features five contrasting wines.

Georgian Hills focuses on the cool-climate grape varieties of northern Europe that have proven to be hardy and make outstanding wine. The cellar offers a full range of locally grown white, red, rosé and dessert wines. “Our wines are delicate, fruit driven with good acidity and light tannins. We are known for our delicious sweet wines.”

Signature wines include Riesling, Seyval Blanc, Gamay Rose and Maréchal Foch. “If a customer is to leave with just one bottle, I would recommend Seyval Blanc because it’s what nature does best every year,” suggested Ketchin.

Winter is a great time to visit. Starting in November, the tasting bar will focus on wines suited to festive entertaining. Gift packages will be available for purchase. Guests are also invited to snowshoe or cross-country ski along the vineyard’s trails.

Wines can be purchased online. Seyval Blanc is available at select LCBOs.

Muskoka Lakes Winery

1074 Cranberry Road, Bala
tel: (705) 762-3203;
Daily, except for some statuary holidays

When cranberry farmers Wendy Hogarth and her husband Murray Johnston started Muskoka Lakes Winery, they wanted to create a product that reflected the rugged beauty of the region. “Grapes don’t grow in Muskoka,” explained Hogarth. “But cranberries and other fruits do.”

The Johnston family have been Bala cranberry growers for over half a century, and own and operate Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh. The farm cultivates more than 11 hectares and produces about 137,000 kilograms of cranberries a year. As crimson red fruit experts, they opened Muskoka Lakes Winery in 2001. Working only with fruit native to Muskoka, the winery now boasts a range of award-winning wines from dry to dessert.

“There is a misconception that all fruit wines are sweet,” Hogarth, who is also a sommelier, noted. “They don’t have to be, it just depends on the fermentation process. They can be full-bodied or light, crisp and refreshing. You can find a Muskoka wine for any occasion and all types of food.”

The Muskoka Lakes Winery sells about 5000 cases per year. Their flagship cranberry wine has a crisp, tart and fruity flavour. It’s the perfect pairing to turkey, ham or venison. “Even though our cranberry wine is our bestseller, a close second is our cranberry-blueberry wine.”

Visitors to the winery can enjoy the bog to bottle experience ($10 per person), which runs daily at 1pm. The guided farm tour takes visitors from the peat bog to a tutored wine tasting. Guests can also rent a GPS to embark on a high-tech hidden treasure hunt.

Various cranberry preserves, wines and local artisan wares are on offer at the gift shop. In winter, visitors can also rent snowshoes and tour four hectares of trails. “It’s a real Muskoka experience,” said Hogarth.

Wines are available online and at LCBO stores.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.


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