Escape the city and head to greener pastures in Ontario’s wine country where the business of events takes on the palate-pleasing harmony of experiential tastings, tours and activities. With over 170 wineries across the province, it’s easy to put a group itinerary together with loads of ideas no matter the season.
To get you started, here are a few event-perfect wine venues from each of our designated viticulture regions – Niagara, Prince Edward County, and Lake Erie-North Shore:
Peller Estates Winery
The Setting: With its magnificent chateau-style architecture and sweeping vineyard vistas, Peller Estates is a Niagara-on-the-Lake must. At its heart: innovative tasting and dining experiences created by chef Jason Parsons and winemaker Katie Dickieson.
Event Perfect Because: The Barrel Cellar – a stunning black-tie worthy setting for up to 160 guests. In summer, host progressive dinners in the vineyard. Group dine in Peller Estates Winery Restaurant, or invite guests into the kitchen for a reception hosted by chef. Winery buy-out for up to 800 guests.
Wine Worthy Notes: Peller produces an impressive range of varietals including award-winning Chardonnays and Rieslings. Wines in the private reserve and premium signature series are a special treat. Get your group sipping and savouring with fun activities such as Wine Country Casino, an interactive betting game involving tastings, aromas and wine trivia.
Added Bonus: Seamless two-in-one event coordination with Trius Winery at Hillebrand, Peller’s just-as-impressive neighbouring sister property. Oh … and chef Parson’s signature Icewine martinis and marshmallows!
The Setting: Located in St. David’s, adjacent Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ravine Vineyard is a certified 34-acre organic winery with restored heritage post-and-beam buildings, Berkshire pigs, gorgeous organic garden, onsite bakery and cannery, and a crazy fun approach to sharing the land with visitors.
Event Perfect Because: Entertain under graceful event canopies fluttering in a clearing by the vineyard. There’s also a clear-span tent to accommodate up to 180. Circa 1820s, the historic Woodruff House offers a charming parlour for intimate events of up to 30, a 10-seat boardroom, and walk-out patio. In the cellar, wine barrels flank a 60-seat harvest table dotted with candelabras. A record player spins an impressive collection of classic hits vinyl … it’s a “vintage” cellar, after all. Farm-to-table is the focus of an on-site restaurant with wrap-around verandah dining.
Wine Worthy Notes: The estate’s gentle gravity flow winemaking process is one the secrets behind the award-winning quality of its 100% certified organic estate-grown label.
Added Bonus: Let’s go geo caching! Check out Ravine’s clever Indiana Jones & the Cellar of Wonderment video. Arrange for each GPS coordinate to lead to an onsite activity such as identifying herbs or making pizza in an open-air wood-burning oven.
Calamus Estate Winery
The Setting: Rustic, scenic and just an hour from Toronto, adjacent Balls Falls Conservation Area. 18 Mile Creek and ravine run through Calamus Estate Winery’s 42-acre property making it ideal for hiking, group games and picnics.
Event Perfect Because: A restored two-century-old dairy farmhouse boasts tasting room, prep kitchen – bring your own catering or let them arrange – and an upper event loft accommodating up to 42 people. Tiered decks criss-cross the exterior for optimal vineyard and crush area viewing. Team cooking and blending sessions are among the wine-centric activities.
Wine Worthy Notes: Known for its consistency in producing award-winning wines, a recent release Pinot Gris is garnering excellent reviews.
Added Bonus: The silo perched on the winery’s roof is actually the Chronos Observatory housing a deep space telescope for those who enjoy stargazing with their wine.
Sue-Ann Staff Winery
The Setting: Perched high atop the Niagara Escarpment less than 15 minutes away from Niagara Falls, Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery offers gorgeous vistas of Toronto’s skyline and stunning sunsets. With the largest acreage in the region – the Staff family has cultivated the land for over 200 years – the property boasts a three-acre hourglass pond, gazebo and groves of birch trees.
Event Perfect Because: Big means versatile, with teambuilding among the vines, around the property and along the Bruce Trail which meanders in front of the wine shop. Exclusive caterer Feastivities Events & Catering books only one event per day with outdoor tenting by the pond for up to 1,000 people.
Wine Worthy Notes: Winemaker Sue-Ann Staff, Ontario Winemaker of the Year and twice-nominated “top women in wine in the world,” leads private wine tastings and dinners for up to 15 in her family home’s elegant dining room. Rieslings are a specialty.
Added Bonus: Fly in by plane or helicopter for touch down on the estate’s two manicured grass landing strips. Now that’s VIP!
PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY
The Grange of Prince Edward
The Setting: Surrounded by pastoral farmland, The Grange of Prince Edward Vineyards & Estate Winery’s 60-acre vineyard is nestled within a 600-acre working farm – a true agribusiness. The winery, located in the Hillier region of Prince Edward County, is reachable by scenic country roads. “Monet-style” has been used to describe the winery’s pond and garden settings.
Event Perfect Because: A restored circa-1820s barn housing the tasting room-cum-event space pays homage to the Loyalists who settled the area. Authentic harvest tables set beside the rustic limestone fireplace under the room’s dramatic soaring ceiling seat up to 80 guests. A patio overlooks the millpond. In summer, dine au naturel in the vineyard with multiple courses cooked on open fires.
Wine Worthy Notes: Winemaker and vineyard manager Caroline Granger oversees the seven estate-grown varietals that produce The Grange’s three distinct lines of wine. Pinot Noir is a standout.
Added Bonus: A Day In The Life tour encourages participants to get their hands dirty while gaining a new perspective of grape-growing, farming and winemaking.
The Setting: Sitting pretty on a gently sloping hillside overlooking Lake Ontario, Waupoos Estates Winery — located in its namesake hamlet community — is the oldest winery in the county. Beautifully manicured lawns, orchards and vineyards wrap around picturesque white-washed buildings. The wine boutique also houses a chocolate and gelato specialty shop. Waupoos is native Indian for rabbit.
Event Perfect Because: Group’s can arrive by water. The winery’s lovely peak-roofed Gazebo Restaurant is perfect for group dining on local fare; available for private events of up to 70 guests. Add in The Pavilion tent for larger events of up to 180 or pre-Gazebo outdoor cocktail receptions.
Wine Worthy Notes: Honeysuckle, an LCBO list, is a lovely white hybrid blend of Seyval Blanc and Vidal. Baco Noir is a multiple award winner.
Added Bonus: Stage events on the lakeside dock where a private Cabana transforms into an intimate dining room with sunset backdrops.
LAKE ERIE–NORTH SHORE
Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery
The Setting: Italy meets Ontario on the banks of Lake Erie at Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery’s stunning Tuscan-style tasting and event centre. Surrounded by picturesque ponds, the building’s exterior is peppered with Juliette-style balconies with lake and vineyard views that go on for as far as the eye can see.
Event Perfect Because: Steeped in “old world” ambience, a balcony walk-around encircles the main floor from above with doors leading to several exterior vantage points. Warm wood and a 17-ft. custom made bar grace the spacious tasting room. Adjacent is a designated dining and event room for up to 90. Two separate break out rooms accommodate small meetings. Peaked tents shelter outdoor events for up to 300 people.
Wine Worthy Notes: Known for its Cabernet-Merlot blends such as Meritage. Local chefs pair event menus to wines.
Added Bonus: Follow the garden path to the sandy beach for team-building activities and picnics (grab food baskets to-go from the retail shop). Don’t forget the wine!
The Setting: Overlooking the western basin of Lake Erie, Viewpointe Estate Winery in Harrow is located on 55-acres. Expansive lawns, patios and on-site galleries encourage exploration.
Event Perfect Because: Reportedly inspired by an 1890s luxury hotel and casino built in the region by Canadian Club whiskey magnate Hiram Walker, Viewpointe’s event centre is grand, multi-functional and elegantly decorated. The second-floor Erie Room conference and reception space offers sweeping lake views, balcony walkout and room for up to 140. Host small groups and break-out meetings of 10 to 50 in the ground-level Colchester Room.
Wine Worthy Notes: Viewpointe’s Chardonnay and several reds enjoy French Oak barrel aging for distinctive flavour. Auxerrois, a fragrant white, is a signature offering being the only winery in the region to produce it as a single varietal wine.
Added Bonus: Enjoy panoramic views of Lake Erie while learning to sous-vide, just one of the hands-on cooking courses available in the winery’s bright and spacious state-of-the-art culinary arts centre.