Three local wineries with a focus on the grape

Written by Kim Miller


Finally it seems the deep freeze is over. The sights and sounds and smells of spring are finally upon us. If you are anything like me, then this change of season results in the need to break free of your four walls and explore new territories.

If you find yourself up for a scenic, meandering sort of drive, this is the trip for you. In just over an hour’s travelling time southeast of London, you will discover Norfolk County, billed as “Ontario’s Garden.” It is a haven of family-run farms that offer an abundance of family fun, fresh produce, crafts and, of course, wine.
Most of the wineries here produce fruit wines, which in their own right can be quite delicious. Here, however, we will focus on the three wineries that have endeavoured to repurpose their once profitable tobacco farms and ­produce their wines from grapes.

grapes-lavenderBonnieheath Estate Lavender & Winery
Bonnieheath is owned by Steve and Anita Buchner, lifetime farmers each in their own right. Their extensive property includes vineyards, orchards, prairie grasses, lavender fields and natural wetlands, all of which are available to be explored. It is their goal to provide guests with an authentic agricultural experience and at the same time provide a sophisticated winery atmosphere.

Winemaker Terry Rayner, of London, takes his craft very seriously, despite the whimsical names he gives to his wares. One might say he has boldly gone where no winemaker has gone before. Terry has taken two hybrid grape varieties, both used rarely, and then only for blending, and turned them into blockbusters — namely Frontenac Gris and Frontenac Rouge.

chickens-bottle“don’t count your CHICKENS” is the 2012 Frontenac Gris, available at the winery for $16.95. It is a pale straw colour and exhibits lots of tropical fruit on the nose. It is medium bodied with loads of pear and papaya on the palate. The finish is strong with citrus, honey and mineral.

“crooked wrench RED” is the 2012 Frontenac Rouge, also $16.95. This wine is a rich, dark cherry colour which exhibits aromas of thyme, blueberries and violets. The palate is intense with earthiness and spice. Beautifully balanced tannins provide a long, lingering finish.

Bonnieheath Estate Lavender & Winery
410 Concession, 12 Townsend, Waterford



front kiln & sign 2Burning Kiln Winery
This is the home of the Ontario Wine Awards “Winemaker of the Year” award winner for 2012, Andrzej Lipinski. His wines are extra special because of an ancient method of grape drying that he has modernized somewhat to suit our climate. He is considered the pioneer of “appassimento” in Ontario, a method whereby the grapes are picked and basically sun-dried in whole bunches. This method intensifies the fruit flavour which can be extracted from the berries.
The 2010 VQA Chardonnay at $14.95 a bottle is a gem. It is lightly oaked and gives off the perfume of apple pie and mineral. A full mouth feel tapers off to a smooth, clean finish.


Even more striking is the 2012 VQA Strip Room, 60% merlot, 40% cabernet franc. Impressively, this wine was chosen as the official wine of the Ontario Legislature in 2012. It is a dark plum colour sporting a huge nose of dark fruit, black pepper, cedar, coffee and smoke, all of which soften into a long appealing finish.


Burning Kiln Winery
1709 Front Road, St. Williams



Villa Nova Estate Winery

troutCarol and Phil Ryan are the proprietors of this incredibly diverse estate. The property is bisected by an ancient river valley, resulting in a wide range of terroir. Hilltops provide the perfect vantage point for vines; old pastures, wetlands and hardwood forests are home to grassland birds, wild turkeys and deer.

The 2012 VQA Trout Fly Off Dry Riesling, $12.50, is a classic example of this European vinifera varietal. It has a pale yellow green colour which compliments its floral bouquet. This is a crisp and refreshing wine that basically punches you in the mouth with green apples and ripe apricots. The finish is long and lingering.

The 2012 VQA Pinot Noir, $15.95, is another classic grape varietal from across the pond that responds beautifully to our climate here in southern Ontario. This prime example is a beautiful deep garnet colour. The nose is reminiscent of Burgundy with tons of ripe cherries, strawberries and earth. A very easy drinking and well balanced wine!

Sandpiper nest amid the chardonnay vines

Sandpiper nest amid the chardonnay vines at Villanova

Villa Nova Estate Winery
1449 Concession 13, RR#4 Simcoe


Norfolk County has lots and lots to offer for those taking the time to explore it. Take the time to peruse www.norfolkfarms.com. It is an easy to navigate site which will help you make the most of your visit to the area. Have fun, buy much, travel safely!



Kim Miller lives in London with her spouse and two children.
This is why she studies the many attributes of wine.

About the author

Kim Miller

Kim Miller has years of experience in the hospitality industry and lives in London with her spouse and two children. This is why she studies the many attributes of wine.