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Colio Estate Wines
Terry & Kathy Sullivan

Summary: One of the oldest wineries in the Lake Erie North Shore Appellation, Colio Estate Wines produces several lines of wine. The winery is located just north of Harrow, Ontario, Canada. Their 200-acre vineyard is less than a quarter mile north of Lake Erie.

Colio Estate WinesColio Estate Wines was established in 1980. At that time, wineries could purchase additional licenses. Colio has thirteen licenses. They have a small retail sales area in different grocery stores throughout Ontario. Colio provides the staff for their satellite retail sale areas. Today Colio Estate Wines is Ontario’s largest independent winery producing about 240,000 cases of wine. Colio Estate Wines has over 200 acres of vineyards and also sources grapes from vineyards in the surrounding area and from the Niagara peninsula.

The tasting room is located inside of a chalet-style building. Outside of the tasting room, a single row of grapes lines the driveway. Beyond the tasting room and winery is a large pavilion with a large view of one and a half acres of vineyards. The main source of grapes is the Colio 220 acres of vineyards a short distance away, close to the shores of Lake Erie. The Carlo Negri Pavilion is a short walk from the parking area. The walkway is lined with bright red geraniums.. Several hanging baskets with petunias, sweet potato vines and begonias decorate the pavilion. Delightful for summer time events, the pavilion also has plastic curtains to draw in case of rain.

The tasting room is comfortable with shelves of wines, a friendly wine consultant, and wine related items available for purchase. We enjoyed the wine sayings of several bright colored logo t-shirts. “At first we were crushed, but now we are quite happy with the aging process.” “Outstanding in my field for so long, if I was a grape, I’d be ICEWINE.” When you visit check out the other t-shirt sayings.

Colio Estate WinesOn the day of our visit, we had an opportunity to observe a white table wine being packaged in plastic bags and boxed. Jennifer Ring, Hospitality & Events Coordinator, explained that this is the wine one would put in the refrigerator and have on tap. As the wine pours out of the bag, the bag encloses on the remaining wine, thus preventing oxidation. Colio Estates Wines also produces wines for businesses. A tank held a blend of wine for Air Canada. During the tour Jennifer showed us the bottling line, tank room and crush pad. Our tour ended in a barrel room where we met the winemaker, Tim Reilly.

Colio Estate WinesThe barrel room is a long room with barrels on both sides of the main aisle. Two colorful wine murals are painted on the sidewalls. At the end of the barrel room two large oval tanks rest at the sides of a tasting bar. Behind the tasting bar is a wine library. Tim joined us in a tasting of three Colio Estate white wines and three red wines.

We first tasted the 2007 Chardonnay Musqué VQA. This unoaked Chardonnay had an apple and tropical fruit nose and taste. It finished dry with a lingering fruit aftertaste. The 2006 Sauvignon Blanc VQA offered a citrus nose and grapefruit taste. There was a very long grapefruit aftertaste. The 2007 Reserve Riesling VQA started with a fruit and floral nose. The taste changed from citrus to pear then to apricot. Although perceived as sweet due to the fruit, it finished dry.

Colio Estate WinesColio Estate WinesThe three reds we tasted began with a 2005 Cabernet Franc that had a cherry and earthy nose. The cherry and earthiness was also perceived on the taste and aftertaste. The 2006 Meritage offered a black fruit nose. This Meritage was a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc and had a black cherry taste. There were some tannins on the smooth finish. The 2006 Shiraz VQA had a cedar nose. It had a blackberry taste and a hint of cedar. It finished smooth with a long fruit aftertaste.

Colio Estate WinesThere are one and a half acres of Vidal grapes used for icewine on the premises of the winery. Less than five miles from the winery, towards Lake Erie is 200 acres of vineyards. These well-manicured vineyards bask in the sunlight and stretch as far as the eye can see. Merlot grapes were just begining verasion. The north shore area of Lake Erie has the most heat units of any vineyard location in Canada. At the vineyard we met Kevin Donohue, vineyard manager, who discussed the uniqueness of the vineyard.

Few birds were observed flying near the vineyard that at times is protected by two bald eagles. Other predatory birds have been observed in the area. However, one cannot always count on predatory birds so other measures are employed to control birds. One of the challenges of this vineyard location is the occasional winter temperatures that dip well below freezing endangering certain grape varieties such as Merlot. At times the wind machines are turned on to push the cold air near the ground out and replace it with slightly warmer air above the vineyards. The machines are also used in the fall and spring. The perfect rows of grapes will be machine harvested from September through early November. The Vidal icewine grapes are hand harvested when the temperature drops to a minus eight degrees Celsius, usually in January.

You will enjoy your visit to Colio Estate. There are many different wines to taste and you will likely enjoy several. There is a marvelous pavilion where you can enjoy a picnic lunch. The pavilion is adjacent to the Vidal Icewine vineyard. The north shore of Lake Erie is only minutes away.

Colio Estate Winery
1 Colio Drive
Harrow, Ontario Canada

GPS: N42° 04.080' W082° 91.547'

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