Sip your way through a magical vacation in Eastern Canada.
Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec, in Eastern Canada, each offer unique adventures into spectacularly scenic wine regions, where master wine makers turn locally grown grapes into award-winning vintages. Whether you are experiencing the history and culture of Ontario and Quebec, the joie de vivre of Montreal and old-world elegance of Quebec City, or the seafaring charm of the Maritimes, wine tours and winery visits can be easily added to your Canadian train vacation.
Here are three amazing wine regions in Canada to explore.
Wine Regions of Nova Scotia
The Maritime province of Nova Scotia is renowned for postcard-perfect lighthouses, glorious beaches, just-caught seafood — and wine. With a wine-making history that goes back to the 1600s, Nova Scotia is considered Canada’s original wine region. The province is home to 19 grape wineries in seven wine regions that produce about 211,000 cases of wine per year. Impressive for a province with a population under one million.
Seventy different grape varieties flourish in Nova Scotia’s soil and climate, including some notable for producing distinctive varietals — L’Acadie Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Lucie Kuhlmann, New York Muscat and Baco Noir. And with more than 90 grape growers in the province, you don’t have to go far to capture vineyard views.
The Eastern Annapolis Valley is particularly famous both for the number of wineries in close proximity — 12 and more on the horizon — and for the quality of the vintages. From May through December, Sip and Taste Tours offers a wonderful three-winery tasting tour that includes transportation, a professional wine tour guide, tasting fees, and a delicious lunch.
The wineries visited may include Benjamin Bridge, known for their critically acclaimed wines, and Grand Pré Wines, the oldest farm winery in Atlantic Canada. Luckett Vineyards offers distinctive wines and beautiful views of the Bay of Fundy, while L'Acadie Vineyards is renowned for their traditional method sparkling wines.
Wine Regions of Ontario
Another amazing wine region in Canada can be found in the province of Ontario, in the famous Niagara area. While wine making in Ontario can be traced to 1811, the modern era didn’t begin until 1974, when the first new winery licence since 1916 was granted. Since then, wine making in Ontario has flourished, thanks to the unique combination of latitude, lakes and limestone, as well as the cool climate.
Today, an estimated 17,000 acres of vines in eastern, southern and southwestern Ontario grow the grapes, while more than 180 wineries produce about 71 per cent of the total Canadian wine volume.
In the Niagara region, you can sample red, white and rosé wines, as well sparkling wine and Icewine. Chardonnay and Riesling are Ontario’s two signature varieties in the white category, while Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon stand out among the reds.
Explore the Niagara wine region on our Canadian History and Culture by Rail journey. With all these winery choices, it helps to have professionals narrow it down to a manageable vacation itinerary. Consider a guided private tour — options include a lunch tour, a cheese and charcuterie tour, and a dinner tour. All three options feature three wineries and a minimum of 10 wines to sample, as well as a knowledgeable guide and transportation. Wineries on the tours change but may include the likes of Jackson Triggs Winery, which has been noted for its 2022 Grand Reserve White Meritage and sparkling wines, or Caroline Cellars Estate Winery, with its wonderful Farmer’s White, Farmer’s Foch, and Meritage.
Wine Regions of Quebec
Canada hasn't always had amazing wine regions. Legend has it that settlers in Quebec attempted — and apparently failed — at making wine as long ago as 1535. Even Jacque Cartier and Samuel de Champlain gave grape growing a try — also without success. Fortunately for wine lovers everywhere, viticulture in Quebec started up again in 1980, and artisanal wine production was underway. It was so successful that 75 wineries were established in the decade that followed.
Now, Quebec boasts 146 vineyards and 800 hectares of vines producing 2.5 million bottles of wine per year. The province has seven grape-growing regions, each distinct for its geology, climate and soil, where dozens of grape varieties are grown to produce some dazzling wines. Frontenac Noir is the most cultivated black grape in Quebec, loved by growers for its resistance to cold and by wine makers as the basis of colourful wines with aromas of black cherry, blackberry, cassis and plum. Second most cultivated grape? Frontenac Blanc, the basis for sparkling and dessert wines with aromas of tropical fruits, pear and peach. Those are just two of many.
To sample the brilliant work of Quebec’s wine makers, you don’t have to go far off your tour of Montreal and Quebec City. Montreal is surrounded by wineries, and more are scattered eastward and up along the St Lawrence Seaway to Quebec City. Very near Montreal, try Vignoble Les Vents d’Ange, a family run winery that offers a great selection, or Vignoble Pigeon Hill, notable for its focus on organic wines made from Marquette grapes, Frontenac Gris and Frontenac Noir. Near Quebec City, two of several L'Île-d'Orléans wineries to add to your itinerary are Saint Pierre de Vignoble, where you can sip wine on the terrace overlooking the St Lawrence, and Vignoble de Bacchus, which founded the first vineyard in this area more than 25 years ago.
Talk to a Canadian insider at Fresh Tracks Canada to learn more about exploring Eastern Canada by train, including adding wine tours to your itinerary.