With culinary walking tours and many award-winning restaurants, Ottawa is one of North America’s great foodie destinations! But did you know Canada’s capital, despite its cold winter months, is also home to many vineyards and award-winning wineries, which are located at an easy drive from the downtown core? What better to go with great food than great wine! You might wonder how vines and grapes can survive in a climate that is cold for about five months of the year (roughly November to March), but the Frontenac grape (used by several local wineries) thrives in colder regions. As a result of this characteristic, Frontenac grapes are widely used across Canada and the northeastern part of the United States. If you crave unique wines, make sure to visit Ottawa and its surrounding region!
East Of Ottawa
Domaine Perrault: Domaine Perrault is an award-winning family-owned vineyard and winery located in nearby Navan, Ontario, only a 20 minutes’ drive from Ottawa’s downtown core. Domaine Perrault produces 10 different kinds of wine, including Liquor De Vignoble, an ice wine. To give you an idea of this picturesque vineyard’s size, Domaine Perrault has a production capacity of more than 11,000 bottles. This is also a popular spot for tastings, weddings and group events! Domaine Perrault is open from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from June to December.
Vankleek Hill Vineyard: This vineyard is located in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, about an hour’s drive from Ottawa’s downtown core. This organic wine maker is known for its Yellow, Pink and Purple Cow wines, which can be savoured by the glass, the bottle or by the case. This vineyard is home to 4,500 plants, including Frontenac red and white vines, as well as Servengy red vines. Vankleek Hill Vineyard is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Strathmore Orchard & Winery: Located in Monkland, Ontario, this winery is open daily from April to December and specializes in fruit wines, offering a selection of raspberry, strawberry, apple and cranberry wines. Special events are planned throughout the year highlighting wine making, farming and you can pick your own apples.
West Of Ottawa
Blue Gypsy Wines: This winery is located in Oxford Mills, Ontario, and specializes in fruit wines including apple, blueberry and cranberry wines. Blue Gypsy’s wines are made locally and most ingredients are sourced from within a 50-kilometre (31 mile) radius of the farm itself! Blue Gypsy also offers a maple wine, which makes a lovely ice wine or aperitif. The winery’s Tasting Room is open on Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Sundays from noon to 5:00 p.m.
South Of Ottawa
Jabulani Vineyard & Winery: Jabulani is located in nearby Richmond, Ontario, offering a selection of more than 15 wines, including Frontenac grape blends. This picturesque, 11-acre winery is open seasonally, from June until the September Labour Day weekend.
Just Across The River (in Quebec)
Le Vignoble du Clos Baillie: This vineyard is located in nearby Aylmer, Québec, only 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) from downtown Ottawa. Created in 1999, the family-owned vineyard now boasts more than 3,500 vines that grow near a small lake in the Gatineau Hills. Along with different selections of red and white wines, the winery also offers a Glacie aux Pommes—a unique ice cider. Visits to this winery are by reservation only.
Verger Croque-Pomme: Verger is not a winery, but an apple orchard located in Thurso, Québec, offering a selection of apple wine, alcoholic and non-alcoholic cider. Verger started making “hard” (alcoholic) ciders in 2008 and now offers five different types. Verger is open seasonally, from roughly June to October from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can head out to explore these wineries on your own or you can opt to hop onto a Brew Donkey Tour, which makes stops at local craft beer breweries and a few wineries. Brew Donkey’s main focus is craft beer, but certain tours make stops at Domaine Perrault and Vankleek Hill Vineyard. The tasting tours typically take place on the weekend and have a duration of five hours.
Or if you would rather not leave the city, Signatures Restaurant at Le Cordon Bleu boasts fine French cuisine and an impressive wine list, including several Ontario wines. Signatures Restaurant has been expertly led by Executive Chef Yannick Anton since 2006, who offers show-stopping and delicious modern cuisine using classic French techniques. Lunch and à la carte dinners are offered in an 1877 historical mansion located in downtown Ottawa.
On the Québec side, located at the Casino du Lac-Leamy, there is Le Baccara — a gourmet French-inspired restaurant. Pair your meal with a superb vintage selection from the restaurant’s extensive wine list. You can also visit Le Baccara’s wine cellar, home to 500 different wine varieties and part of a 13,000-bottle collection!
Vineyards Wine Bar Bistro in Ottawa’s ByWard Market neighbourhood is also worth a stop. This candlelit cellar has been honoured every year since 1988 by Wine Spectator with its ‘Award of Excellence’ for having one of the most outstanding wine lists in the world. Vineyards offers more than 300 bottles of wine, with 80 selections available by the glass. Enjoy a glass of wine, candlelight and live Jazz music on Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday nights!
Or if you're looking for a more guided wine tasting experience in Ottawa's downtown core, give Runaway Grape a try. Operated by Tania Thomas, a wine columnist and expert wine reviewer, Runaway Grape offers delicious, educational and fun gourmet wine and food tastings that feature some of Ontario's best products. Savour some delicious wines and learn basic wine tasting techniques!