Travel Guide to Canada
DRINK: A TOAST TO CANADA
Canadians love a good homegrown drink. Of late, craft breweries, artisanal distilleries and cideries have blossomed across the nation. Spirits range from the unique Birmingham’s Dill Pickle Vodka to the sublime Royal Crown Northern Harvest Rye Whisky called out last year by a British critic as the world’s best whisky. This northern country is also home to over 700 licenced wineries and is the world’s leading producer of icewine.
BRITISH COLUMBIA SUNNY WAYS AND SUNNY VINEYARDS
Sunny Okanagan is the place many Canadians think about moving to for their retirement years. The Canadian version of a Riviera, it has glittering lakes as a backdrop to ski hills, golf courses, cycling and hiking routes, and wine trails. Three 10-day annual wine festivals take place in winter, spring and fall as well as signature events throughout the summer (www.thewinefestivals.com).
Winter season mountain-top wine festivals at Sun Peaks are days filled with skiing, wine crawls, sparkling brunches and progressive tastings (www.thewinefestivals. com/events/festival/4/Winter_Festival). Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country has some great signature events: the Half Corked Marathon in May, an 18 km (11 mi.) run through beautiful vineyards; Festival of the Grape in October, with a grape stomping competition; and Pig Out in April (www. oliverosoyoos.com).
Many of the wineries have excellent restaurants and some have great accommodations. Mission Hill’s Terrace Restaurant, open May to October, offers an unforgettable alfresco dining experience overlooking the vineyards and set against the spectacular backdrop of Okanagan Lake. Locally-sourced fare is complemented with herbs and vegetables from their own varietal gardens, along with locally foraged ingredients (www.missionhillwinery.com). Quails’ Gate offers flights of wines and locavore meals in their Old Vines Restaurant and patio overlooking the same lake (www.quailsgate. com). The Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery (www.burrowingowlwine.ca) and Tinhorn Creek’s Miradoro Restaurant (www.tinhorn.com) have both breathtaking views and delectable food. Hester Creek, one of the oldest wineries in the region, has a great restaurant, Terrafina, and unique accommodations (www.hestercreek.com). Spirit Ridge at Nk’Mip Resort was the first Aboriginal owned and operated winery resort in Canada. Here the Osoyoos Indian Band has created a wine and cultural experience, bar none (www.spiritridge.ca).
On Vancouver Island, travellers can visit wine, mead, cider, and premium spirits producers. The first commercial vineyard was established in the Cowichan Valley in 1970 and the Island’s first winery opened in 1992. Today, around 80 vineyards cultivate grapes for over 40 wineries (www.wine islands.ca). Vancouver Island Expeditions offers local food and drink tours such as A Taste of Nanaimo and the Comox Valley Craft Brewery Tour (www.vancouverisland expeditions.com).
The BC Distilled Festival is the largest spirits event in Canada, exclusively for local distilleries (www.bcdistilled.ca). For brews there is the BC Ale Trail (www.bcaletrail.ca).
THE PRAIRIES CRAFTY TIPPLES
While the Prairies are not known for their wines—the climate just isn’t suitable—the craft brewery business is booming and spirits are on the rise.
Winnipeg Tasting Tours takes customers to the city’s best microbreweries—including PEG Beer Co., Little Brown Jug, Barn Hammer Brewing and The Common at The Forks Market (www.winnipegtastingtours.ca).
Capital K Distillery, Manitoba’s first craft distillery, led by master distiller Jason Kang, makes Crystal Vodka and soon will have small-batch rum, brandy and whisky. Visitors are welcome for cocktails in their tasting room and tours for up to 30 people at a time (www.capitalkdistillery.com).
Royal Crown Northern Harvest Rye Whisky, distilled in Gimli, Manitoba, was named the best whisky in the world in 2016 by renowned British whisky reviewer, Jim Murray (www.crownroyal.com).
Alberta also has a booming craft beer scene. Calgary Brewery Tours offers several tours showcasing the local breweries and distilleries. The Spirit of Alberta Tasting
Tour along the Cowboy Trail takes participants to the region’s earliest craft beer producers, to makers of mead and to Eau Claire Distillery, a farm-to-glass operation in Turner Valley (www.calgarybrewerytours. beer).
A CENTRE OF WINE FESTIVALS AND ICEWINE
The Niagara region is a major Canadian wine district with more than 100 wineries and 5,665 ha (14,000 acres) of grapevines. The wine route starts less than an hour from downtown Toronto (www.winecountry ontario.ca). In Niagara-on-the-Lake a Winemakers’ Selections Tasting Pass allows purchasers to enjoy a local wine at some two dozen wineries around town (www. wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com).
The annual Niagara Wine Festival takes place over three weekends at wineries and other locations throughout Niagara. The fall harvest celebration is packed with live entertainment, culinary and wine seminars, parades and, of course, Niagara wines at favourite local restaurants. The wineries get into the groove by offering wine and culinary pairings (www.niagarawinefestival.com).
Icewine, made from frozen-on-the-vine grapes, is an iconic Canadian wine often touted as Canada’s greatest liquid luxury. Niagara’s Icewine Festival offers wine lovers, cocktail fans and foodies fabulous winter experiences. Held over three weekends in January, there are gala dinners, icewine tasting menus, fireside samplings and lots of icewine poured at the outdoor street festivals in the towns of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Jordan Village (www.niagarawinefestival. com/events).
Prince Edward County, Ontario’s newest wine appellation, has been touted as one of Canada’s top tourist destinations. The area’s allure in the past had been its giant sand dunes, quaint towns and nature trails. Now it has grown into an important wine region with close to 40 wineries; some, such as Huff Estate, with excellent accommodation and dining (www.princeedwardcountywine.ca).
A visit to Essex Pelee Island Coast (EPIC) Wine Country could mean meandering along the shoreline to sample the wares of any one of the 16 or so wineries, lunch or dinner at a winery and an overnight stay in a unique B&B (www.epicwineries.com). Take an overnight Cycle and Snore Wine Trail Ride for both exercise and relaxation (www. windsoreats.com/packages/wine-trail-ride).
SUPER COOL WINES AND CIDERS
Visitors can plan their own tours on the website choosing from five distinct wine
growing regions: Eastern Townships, Montérégie, Ouest-du-Québec, Centre-duQuébec and Est-du-Québec. Located 40 minutes east of Montréal, The BromeMissisquoi Wine Route links wineries along a 140-km (87-mi.) signposted route in the beautiful Eastern Townships (www.laroute desvins.ca). On this route, you will find the province’s first winery, Domaine des Côtes d’Ardoise, opened in 1981 in Dunham, which is remarkable not only for its wines but for its exhibition of sculptures gathered from more than 80 artists (www.cotesdardoise.com).
The Magog-Orford Wine Festival, held annually on the first two weekends of September, offers an opportunity to sample Québec regional food and wine products in a picturesque setting (www.fetedesvendanges. com/en).
With an annual production of over 60 ciders, Montérégie is the pioneer of cider production in Québec (www.maroutedes cidres.com/en/cider-mills). Ice cider (made from frozen-on-the-tree apples) was first made in the Eastern Townships by a French winemaker, Christian Barthomeuf, at his winery/cider house, Clos Saragnat, in Frelighsburg (www.saragnat.com). Domaine Pinnacle, famous for its flat, sparkling and ice ciders, exports to more than 50 countries (www.domainepinnacle.com/en).
Top microbreweries in Montréal include Dieu du Ciel, Harricana, Boswell, HELM, Benelux, Broue Pub Brouhaha, McAuslan, Brasseur de Montréal and Bistro Soeurs Grises, many which also serve gastro pub food. In 2016, RateBeer named Dieu du Ciel, in Mile End, the best microbrewery in Québec and in the Top 100 in the world (www. montreal.eater.com/maps/best-montrealbrewpubs-beer-bars).
On Île d’Orléans, Cassis Monna & Filles cultivates 16 ha (39.5 acres) of blackcurrants to produce over 40,000 bottles per year of cassis liqueurs (www.cassismonna.com/en).
THE MARITIMES LOCAL FLAIR COMING ON STREAM
Nova Scotia is Canada’s fourth largest wine producing province. Its wine trail has about a dozen wineries making quality wines from 100% locally grown Nova Scotia grapes and fruit (www.winesofnovascotia.ca). Grape Escapes offers a number of tours, some which include lunch or dinner at a winery (www.novascotiawinetours.com). Domaine de Grand Pré, the oldest farm winery in Atlantic Canada, has an award-winning restaurant, Le Caveau, which focuses on regional Nova Scotia product prepared with a global flair (www.grandprewines.ns.ca). Benjamin Bridge makes champagne-method sparkling wines recognized as among the top in the world (www.benjaminbridge.com). The Good Cheer Trail offers an exciting mix of tours, tastings and special events at wineries, cideries, microbreweries and distilleries (www.goodcheertrail.com). The Halifax Beer Bus takes people around Halifax to taste and learn all about Halifax’s exploding craft beer scene (www.halifaxfoodtours.com).
The new state-of-the-art Authentic Seacoast Distillery opened its doors as the home to award-winning spirits and craft beer brands, including the new GLYNNEVAN whisky (www.authenticseacoast.com).
The Halifax Distilling Company is the first of its kind on the Halifax waterfront (www. halifaxdistillingco.ca).
New Brunswick has around a dozen wineries to visit (www.tourismnew brunswick.ca/Products/Groups/Wineries).
At Motts Landing Vineyard & Winery in the beautiful St. John River Valley, wines are made from estate grown grapes such as the unusual Louise Swenson grape (www.motts landingvineyard.com). At Magnetic Hill Winery and B&B, in a restored 1867 historic site overlooking Moncton, visitors can picnic on the grounds while enjoying a sip of estate-grown fruit wines such as blueberry, cranberry and strawberry, as well as those from local New Brunswick grapes—all vinted on the premises (www.magnetichillwinery. com). In 2012, Distillerie Fils du Roy opened in Petit-Paquetville making absinthe and a gin that uses a local tree, the Thuja occidentalis evergreen, in its botanical recipe (www. distilleriefilsduroy.com).
In P.E.I., the Rossignol Estate Winery offers a remarkable variety of table wines, fruit wines and liqueurs. Family-owned Matos Winery & Distillery offers tours and tastings just minutes from Charlottetown, and the Beamish Family Organic Orchard has expanded to produce craft spirits and liqueurs reflecting an authentic Island taste experience at Deep Roots Distillery. Prince Edward Distillery makes PEI Wild Blueberry Vodka, and Canada’s first and only vodka made from PEI potatoes (www. tourismpei.com/wineries-distilleries).
In Newfoundland, Rodriguez Winery, Auk Island Winery, Quidi Vidi Brewery, Port Rexton Brewing Co., YellowBelly Brewery and WesternNL Brewing Co. have all come on stream.
SPIRITS AND BREWS
In 2016 Yukon Brewing Company released Two Brewers Yukon Single Malt Whisky— one of only two single malt whiskies made in Canada. The Company has international award-winning craft beers and does brewery/ tasting tours on a daily basis, except Sundays (www.yukonbeer.com). The NWT Brewing Company opened in the fall of 2015 (www. nwtbrewingco.com).
With all these new craft distilleries, breweries, cideries and over 700 licenced wineries, a good local drink is always near at hand in Canada.