Our annual culinary road trip, consisting of a scenic drive through the towns and hamlets along the Georgian Bay coastline, through the remarkable Beaver Valley and along the top of the Niagara Escarpment, brought us past Georgian Hills Vineyard. Unknowingly, we were following a similar route to that of the Blue Mountain Apple Pie Trail. The trail is a year-round culinary route that winds through the apple and pear growing country from just east of Owen Sound to Collingwood and offers a truly top-notch culinary experience.
Over the last seven years, the trail has continued to expand by offering travellers a diverse complement of agricultural and culinary partnerships, tours, events and experiential adventures that focus on Ontario’s apple orchard country. At last count the trail connected 37 stops for local apple-inspired products and fare, including restaurants, orchards, food merchants, breweries and wineries. A winner of the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence, the trail also received Tourism Ontario’s Culinary Experience Award in 2012.
Georgian Hills Vineyard
At the Georgian Hills Vineyard our hospitable and intelligent hosts spoke about the winemakers and explained the Niagara Escarpment’s unique terroir and the microclimate created by the proximity to Georgian Bay. Georgian Bay’s moderating effects produce favourable grape growing conditions. The area has been designated “an emerging wine region” by the Wine Council of Ontario. We sampled several varietals that included a Perry, a Seyval Blanc, a Vidal Blanc, an unoaked Chardonnay, a Marachel Foch and a Vidal (Frozen on the Vine). We retreated to the terrace, where comfortable chairs overlook the vineyard, with glasses of Riesling in hand and an outstanding platter of local cheeses and charcuterie. Georgian Hills makes its own sweet dessert wine called Frozen to the Core, created from peaches and apples. Tasting room hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 12–5 p.m. www.georgianhillsvineyard.ca
Beaver Valley Cidery
Our next stop was the Beaver Valley Cidery where hard ciders are crafted in small batches from select varieties of heritage apples grown in the orchard or supplied by local Georgian Bay growers. The restored century barn has been converted into a cidery and tasting room. Co-owner Judy Cornwell told us that they kept the barn’s foundation, and posts and beams, replacing the cladding, floor and roof. The tasting room and the outdoor gardens are stunning. Two types of hand-crafted ciders can be tasted and paired with a plate of superb artisanal cheeses. 235853 Beaver Valley Rd (Grey Rd 13), Kimberley. Open May to December, Thursday to Sunday 11-6 p.m. www.bvcider.ca
Bruce Wine Bar & Kitchen
Bruce Wine Bar is a scratch kitchen, featuring farm-to-table menus which showcase local and regional products. Downstairs in The Kitchen, dine on traditional Neapolitan wood-fired pizzas (funghi, artisan salumi, fennel sausage, etc.), salads and sandwiches. Or head upstairs to the wine bar for quality wines, spirits and craft beer, shared plates and charcuterie. Think smoked local whitefish fritters or beef striploin tartare with sous vide duck egg yolk. The chef follows sustainable principles. The restaurant is a Feast ON certified taste of Ontario establishment for people who seek out authentic “tastes of place” when travelling. Open daily, lunch and dinner; closed Mondays from September to June. 8 Bruce Street South, Thornbury; (alley behind TD Bank).
The Cheese Gallery
Casey Thomson’s Cheese Gallery on the main street in Thornbury is a cheese shop in a gallery setting, showcasing the talent of local artisans who craft local foods, beverages and art. We usually visit the Cheese Gallery several times a year. This unique experience offers a licensed tasting bar with cozy seating, charcuterie and a truly dazzling array of salumi and international and artisan cheeses. Open year round, daily. 11 Bruce St. South, Thornbury.thecheesegallery.com
Blue Mountain’s Apple Pie Trail
No matter what time of year you visit, the Apple Pie Trail is a year-round culinary destination. Last year the culinary trail added six new stops, including the Northwinds Brewhouse and Eatery, and Bonnie Dorgelo Jewellery and Paintings in Collingwood, Twist Martini Restaurant and Bar, Booster Juice in the Blue Mountain Village, and the aforementioned Bruce Wine Bar in Thornbury and the Beaver Valley Cidery. For a special treat be sure to stop at the hospitable Kimberly General Store for some locally-sourced provisions and a delicious sandwich.
Bryan Lavery is eatdrink’s Food Writer at Large.