Bounded on the northwest side by Lake St. Clair, to the west by the fast flowing Detroit River and with Lake Erie to the South, Lake Erie North Shore appellation is almost completely surrounded by water. Numerous short shallow streams found throughout this appellation flow freely in the spring but often dry down to a trickle in the warm summer. The appellation is made up of long gentle slopes that face in all directions with an elevations ranging from 172 m to 196 m with an average of 185 m. With no major topographic barrier to the prevailing southwesterly winds this appellation enjoys the full effect of the lake breeze that moderates the entire area during the growing season.
Plantings in Lake Erie North Shore are well developed close to the Lake Erie shoreline, where topographic and climatic conditions are particularly favourable and support full and balanced ripening of grapes.
The soil composition of this appellation was greatly effected by the glacial lakes, which deposited large amounts of unsorted stony materials in the area. When the glacial lakes retreated in other areas, this area remained covered in deep waters for a long time allowing for waves to smooth out the ridges and deposit considerable amounts of sediment. The light-textured, well-drained soils around the lakeshore contain mostly sandy loam and gravel deposits punctuated by small, irregular stony ridges, which overlay shale limestone bedrock.
Lake Erie North Shore has the longest growing season and the highest number of heat units of all of Ontario's viticultural areas. It benefits from the quick summer warming of the shallow waters of Lake Erie as well as from an abundance of sunshine during the growing season. Early harvests are the norm, with picking usually beginning at the end of August and late-harvest often reach their peak by late October.
The topography of the Pelee Island appellation is simple but ideal for ensuring even sun exposure and ripening. The island is flat with its highest point at only 12 meters above the lake and an elevation of about 174 meters above sea level.
Pelee Island is the site of Canada's first commercial winery, VinVilla, which began operations in 1866. A hundred years later, its vineyards of native grapes were replanted with premium Vitis Vinifera vines.
This appellation has a soil make up very similar to the mainland in southwestern Ontario, sandy loam and clay over a limestone bedrock. The soils here have only moderate drainage due to the underlying bedrock but dry out later in the season as dry conditions often prevail later in the season. The majority of vineyards are planted on the southwestern corner and centre of the island, where the soils are the deepest and allow for root systems to properly set. Careful stewardship of the soils, with the help of drainage canals and protective dykes, have made for a productive experience with viticulture.
Pelee Island has been characterized as humid continental, with warm summers and cool winters. As the shallowest of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie warms quickly and has the warmest surface temperature of the five lakes. This warms the Island during the spring, summer and fall, and produces a longer growing season than any other wine appellation in Canada, often thirty days more than on the mainland. This makes Pelee Island Ontario's best location for long season, late ripening grapes.
WIN gratefully acknowledges VQA Ontario as the source for the Terroir backgrounds provided on www.vineandtreefruitinnovations.com
VQA Ontario (2009)