The Ultimate Canadian Winery Crawl


Five of the country’s top sommeliers on the Canadian wineries they’re most excited to visit this summer (and which bottles to bring back).

A red barn at the Lock & Worth winery in Naramata
Shelves of wine bottles sold by Lock & Worth in Naramata
   Photos: Lionel Trudel

Lock & Worth, Naramata, British Columbia

On the southeast shore of Okanagan Lake, where some of the driest, hottest weather in Canada sweetens merlot and cabernet franc grapes, two next–gen winemakers with a minimalist sensibility are bringing natural(ish) wines west.

Sommelier says “Matt Sherlock and Ross Hackworth make wines with the least amount of intervention possible. A couple years ago, they didn’t rack or filter their cabernet franc rosé – it made a chunky blush that wasn’t very commercially viable but tasted great. I like that they’re willing to take a risk like that. Instead of producing what they think the consumer wants, they’re playing all the time.”

July 5, 2018

The Sommelier

  • Lisa Haley — The brains behind wine programs at two of Vancouver’s buzziest restaurants – L’Abattoir and Coquille Fine Seafood – Haley was named Vancouver Magazine’s Sommelier of the Year in 2017.

Trophy Bottle

  • Merlot — “The Lock & Worth merlot ($22) tastes nothing like what we’ve come to expect from merlot. It’s light, refreshing and high–acid. Meant to be drunk in its youth, it’s a real vin de soif.” – L.H.


  • Naramata Heritage Inn & Spa — Snag a light–soaked room overlooking the lake at this century–old estate that was once owned by an Okanagan fruit baron. Stays include mountain bikes for a ride along British Columbia’s longest rail trail, which cuts through the wild and rocky Kettle Valley.

Get on Board

  • Sun n’ Sup — Squeeze in a laid–back stand–up paddleboard workout on Okanagan Lake’s emerald bays while admiring Naramata’s northern Sonoran Desert hills – Mad Max–parched cliffs alongside luscious vineyard quilts. (Rentals at Sun n’ Sup.)

An exterior view of the main building at Sea Star at Pender Island
A person attending to the vines at Sea Star at dusk
   Photo: Reuben Krabbe (right)

Sea Star, Pender Island, B.C.

Gulf Island–hopping used to mean tours of pottery studios and/or roughing it in provincial parks. But as the archipelago’s vineyards come into their own, day trippers from Vancouver and Victoria are hitting wineries, too. On the eastern edge of sleepy North Pender Island, Sea Star Vineyard’s ortega vines tumble toward the Pacific, an adorable pest–control squad of Babydoll sheep mows the estate’s grass and visitors queue for food truck charcuterie. The seven–year–old operation, which supplies seafood–friendly wines to Vancouver hot spots like Chambar, is so popular that its owner, David Goudge, recently bought a 40–acre plot of pinot noir on nearby Saturna Island.

Sommelier says “Germanic grapes like ortega, gewürztraminer and pinot gris suit the mineral–rich soil and longer, frost–free growing season, and Sea Star is a very good representation of a coastal B.C. vineyard – the wines are quite balanced, light and fresh.”

The Sommelier

  • Roger Maniwa — Former sommelier at Hawksworth in Vancouver, Maniwa moved to the comparatively tiny Mak N Ming, where he pushes diners outside their comfort zones with obscure varietals and sakes.

Trophy Bottle

  • Siegerrebe — “The Sea Star Siegerrebe ($22) is crisp, with a little yellow fruit, a fleshy peach tone and some mineral notes – something to crush in the summer.” – R.M.


  • WOODS on Pender — At this grown–up summer glamp snuggled into seven acres of island rainforest, rent an Airstream trailer outfitted with a hammock and barbecue, or upgrade to a plaid– and pelt–strewn log cabin with a cedar hot tub. At night, duck into Woods’ cozy café for one (or more) of seven B.C. wines on tap.

Follow the Fizz

  • Twin Island Cider — Stop by this cidery, where heirloom apples and wild pears plucked straight from orchards around Pender, Saturna and Mayne islands are transformed into spontaneously fermented cider (when the juice fizzes, without additives, in a cocktail of its own yeast, bacteria and sugar).

The elegant dining room at Pearly Morissette in Ontario
Pearl Morissette exterior at sunset
   Photos: John Cullen

Pearl Morissette, Niagara–on–the–Lake, Ontario

Long known for icewine and stuffy tasting rooms, the limestone–rich Niagara Peninsula is barrelling into the future thanks in part to François Morissette’s lo–fi winery, which helped spark the natural–wine craze in Canada. Visitors drive from all over the province to taste his cult rieslings and cab francs and stroll among the ducks and Berkshire pigs on the unmanicured farm.

Sommelier says “François Morissette is helping put Canadian wines on the world stage. He’s Burgundy–trained but wants to make wines that speak of Niagara. The most beautiful thing about his approach is a total willingness to let go: not adding anything and not taking anything away. He wants to make the best from what nature gives him.”

The Sommelier

  • Véronique Rivest — The Air Canada sommelier and owner of SOIF Bar à Vin in Gatineau, Quebec, has won a cellar’s worth of awards, including runner–up at the 2013 World’s Best Sommelier Competition (the first woman ever to do so).

Trophy Bottle

  • Cuvée Métis — “The Cuvée Métis Cabernet Franc ($35) was the first wine from the vineyard’s four–year–old cab franc vines. I tasted it blind with a bunch of wine geeks, and everyone thought it was old–world – it was a fascinating mix of fruit and earthiness.” – V.R.


  • Harbour House Hotel — This stately, shingled 31–room hotel, where windows look out over sailboats bobbing in the Niagara River, serves an excellent breakfast of homemade granola, yogurt, scones and croissants, and offers free wine tastings, so you can swirl away happy hour before taking to Queen Street’s restaurant row nearby.


  • Pearl Morissette — Plan your visit around a five–course meal at the winery’s new French–inspired restaurant housed in a big black barn, where dainty plates, like Newfoundland snow crab with egg yolk mousse and dandelion, are earning it destination dining status.

Barrels of wine at Le Vignoble du Ruisseau in Quebec

Le Vignoble du Ruisseau, Eastern Townships, Quebec

An hour’s drive southeast of Montreal, the tiny township of Dunham is home to 22 vineyards run by intrepid winemakers who are broadening Quebec’s rep beyond cider and maple syrup. The most ambitious and youngest of the bunch is this 350–acre estate anchored by a sprawling mansion with multiple terraces for sipping and soaking in the Sutton Mountains view.

Sommelier says “Le Vignoble du Ruisseau installed a geothermal system that keeps the vines, shoots and buds at no less than –10°C during the cold season. That same energy is used to warm the winery and fermentation vats, so they’ve basically created an underground greenhouse that can ripen beautiful cabernet sauvignon and merlot. It shows what you can do when you play with nature.”

The Sommelier

  • Carl Villeneuve–Lepage — Villeneuve–Lepage snagged an oenophile’s dream job – wine master at Toqué! in Montreal – and the title of Canada’s Best Sommelier in 2017, all before he turned 35.

Trophy Bottle

  • Chardonnay — “The 2014 chardonnay ($27), the winery’s second vintage, exudes ripe stone fruit and delicate vanilla with no trace of sugar, yet the overall sensation is nice and round.” – C.V–L.


  • Manoir Hovey — Cloistered on 30 acres of woods bordering Lake Massawippi, this 36–room Relais & Châteaux property houses Le Hatley restaurant, which puts both land and water to good use on whimsical plates trimmed with wild morels, birch vinegars and sea urchins pulled from the St. Lawrence Estuary.

Break for Beer

  • Brasserie Dunham — Pull up a picnic table on the cobblestone patio at this Dunham brewery, known for its hoppy IPAs and barrel–aged brews. For summer suds that fall somewhere between a rosé and a funky fruit beer, try a bottle of the Cuvée Hupin/Marler, which blends zweigelt, pinot noir and pinot gris juice with gently hopped saison.

L’Acadie Vineyards in Nova Scotia
   Photo: Jamie Robertson

L’Acadie Vineyards, Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia

A region on the rise, the Annapolis Valley has grown from 13 wineries to 20 in the last five years, and doubled its cultivated vineyard land in that same time. So promising are local makers, who turn out cool–climate sparklers and hearty hybrid varieties from the area’s shale–dense soils, that Acadia University will open a new wine research and innovation lab by 2020. L’Acadie, in the Gaspereau valley near Wolfville, was the province’s first–ever producer of traditional–method sparkling, and the first to achieve an organic certification, back in 2006, for both the vineyard and the winery.

Sommelier says “Head winemaker Bruce Ewert is careful and observant, while still being hands–off. He focuses on l’Acadie blanc, a hybrid grape that’s become a Nova Scotian specialty because it’s hardy and can thrive in our cold climate.”

The Sommelier

  • Heather Rankin — As co–owner of Obladee Wine Bar in Halifax and a judge at Canada’s National Wine Awards, Rankin has established herself as a champion for East Coast viticulture.

Trophy Bottle

  • Pétillant Naturel — “The inaugural pét–nat ($40) made from l’Acadie blanc was released last month. Fermented with wild yeast and unfiltered, it shows fresh pear and basil on the nose and has a dry, nutty palate with notes of mandarin and crab apple.” – H.R.


  • Blomidon Inn — Crawl into a plush four–poster bed at this 31–room Victorian mansion, where quaint floral wallpaper and red velvet high–backs leave you wondering if you time travelled into a Jane Austen novel.

Catch a Wave

  • Raft three–metre tidal bores in the Bay of Fundy, home to the highest tides on the planet, with the pros at Shubenacadie River Runners. Then level post–adventure nerves with a visit to Barrelling Tide Distillery for small–batch spirits, like Annapolis Valley haskaps (the love child of a raspberry and a blueberry) liqueur.

An illustration of a wine bottle packed in a suitcase

Bottle on board

How to pack wine in your checked luggage.

  1. Balaclava your bottle with a long, thick sock. No sock? A shirt or scarf will suffice.

  2. Double–cozy the besocked vino by rolling it in your heaviest piece, like a sweater (or fleece if you’re in B.C.).

  3. In the bottom of your checked bag, lay down a soft layer of clothing and place the bottle in the centre.

  4. Build bumpers with jeans, tees and sneakers, and save one last jacket to tuck overtop of the baby, er, bottle.