Georgian Bay is known for many things, the gorgeous coastline, stunning cottages, and relaxing beach towns. But did you know that the Georgian Bay area is also an area known for its apple production? And what better way to enjoy this bounty than through cider! Georgian Bay is home to at least 10 cider producers, and you can explore them all with this self-guided Georgian Bay cider tour.
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Cider is one of Ontario’s greatest treasures. Known for its abundance of apple orchards, Ontario has more than 100 cider producers, all creating new and exciting concoctions. In fact, Ontario is home to the most cider producers and the largest apple-growing region in Canada.
The craft cider industry – which uses local apples to make the alcoholic beverage – has taken off in Canada, especially because most ciders have no added sugar and are gluten-free!
What is cider?
Cider is an alcoholic beverage of anywhere between 5% to 7% (some are lower or higher) made from fermenting apples (and sometimes other fruits and flavours). There are more than 40 apple varieties grown in Canada, so every cider will taste different based on what mix the producers use. Some use only one apple variety, others use a combination.
Cider also has a long history in North America. According to the Ontario Craft Cider Association, cider was the first alcoholic beverage produced and consumed in North America. It’s now the fastest-growing category of alcoholic beverages in Canada.
I get it. Cider delicious, and by buying a cider in Ontario, you’re not only helping the local economy and supporting family-owned businesses, but you’re also savouring a beverage tied to the history of this province.
Classifications of cider
Just like wine and beer, there are several classifications of cider flavours. Here are some of the ones you might see in a Georgian Bay cider tour:
Dry: These ciders are less sweet and more tart. I find that most ciders produced in the Georgian Bay area are labelled dry.
Semi-sweet or Sweet: As the name suggests, these ciders range on the sweet side. This can be through the addition of honey or sugar, or through naturally sweet apples.
Rose: Like wine, added berry juice gives this variety a pink hue and a little sweeter taste.
Farmhouse: These ciders have more a funky taste through techniques like wild fermentation and barrel ageing.
Georgian Bay cider microclimate
Ontario is Canada’s largest apple producing province. Almost the whole southern half of the province has an apple grower somewhere. The chilly climate is ideal for growing apples that have an intense flavour and crisp acidity, aka, the perfect cider apple.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the Georgian Bay Microclimate is one of nine fruit growing regions in Ontario and one of the most northern apple-producing areas. It’s not a very large area, but the protection from the surrounding Niagara Escarpment and the cool waters of the Nottawasaga Bay (part of the larger Georgian Bay) create this unique microclimate perfect for growing apples.
As you might have noticed, cider is an alcoholic beverage, which means you should drink responsibly and don’t drink and drive. This self-guided tour can be broken up into chunks, done all at once or individually.
The self-guided Georgian Bay cider tour
Diving into local cider has never been easier since there are so many great places to visit in Ontario. This Georgian Bay cider tour allows you to whet your appetite for delicious local cider in a do-it-yourself way. Before you head off in search of liquid gold, be sure to know what’s open and what precautions are in place.
Duntroon Cyder House
Duntroon Cyder House is one of the newer cider producers on the block, but it should be your first stop on a Georgian Bay cider tour. It’s a little further out from the rest of the cideries, located in Simcoe County, rather than Grey County.
Duntroon Cyder House prides themselves on their authentic English styles of cider using local heritage apples. The cider produced here is sulphite free, gluten-free and nut-free.
The Cyder House is tucked away on a working farm. You’ll see the sign for it next to a giant Garlic. Yup, a GIANT Garlic. The little tasting shop also has fresh produce, baked goods, and, of course, lots of garlic! There’s a quaint little outdoor sitting area, called the Cyder Common Green, overlooking the farm and surrounding hills.
Duntroon has three ciders, including: Standing Rock, which is a little sweet, a little tangy; Raindance, a rhubarb-infused refreshing taste; and Net Zero – Organic Dry, a clean and crisp dry organic cider.
You’ve got to try: Raindance. This tangy, cloudy cider is perfectly refreshing for a summer’s evening. If you love fruit-infused ciders or wine, you’ll love this rhubarb cider.
Tastings: While their tasting events have been temporarily suspended from their cidery, you can still pick up your favourites at the farm and do a quick tasting at the Cyder Common Green. Their hours vary, so make sure to check online before you go.
Georgian Hills Vineyards and Ardiel Cider House
Ardiel Cider, a century-old farm in the Beaver Valley, nurtures their old orchard to make some exceptionally delicious cider. They opened their property, creating the Georgian Hills Vineyard along with their orchard and farm. They renovated the old barn to become the home of the winery and opened a rustic tasting room in 2010. You can even get married here! It’s a gorgeous location for the second stop on a Georgian Bay cider tour.
You’ll love exploring this vast vineyard while sipping your cider tasting. You won’t be able to see the apple orchards from the patio, but make sure to drive past the Ardiel farm nearby to see the beautiful old apple orchards.
Ardiel makes three ciders, including: Ardiel Dry Cider, a dry, full-bodied cider; Big John Hop Cider, a tangy, hoppy cider; and Victoria Pear Cider, a refreshing pear cider.
Georgian Hills Vineyards also produces two ciders, a sparkling perry and a sparkling dry cider.
What I love most about Georgian Hills/ Ardiel Ciders are the iced ciders, which are produced somewhat like ice wine. Made from the juice of the apples and pears that were harvested in season, the liquid is left to freeze naturally in early winter; then, it begins a cold fermentation process to produce frozen apple/pear wine. It’s definitely the sweetest (and most delicious) iced wine I’ve ever had. Georgian Hills produces two iced fruit wines, pear and apple.
You’ve got to try: Victoria Pear Cider. O.M.G. This is one of my favourite pear ciders. I love the refreshing and sweet taste of pear with the tangy, bubbly taste of cider.
Tastings: Their outdoor patio and tasting bar is open from Wednesday to Sunday, but the shop is open daily. Reservations are encouraged.
Spy Cider House and Distillery
At the third stop on this Georgian Bay cider tour, folks at Spy Cider are on a mission: make the best darn cider on earth. No biggie, right? Well, they’ve got an incredible selection of ciders and spirits at their place in the Blue Mountains. I love their commitment to the Spy theme, from cider names to descriptions to cocktail recipes.
The Spy House, where you’ll find their production, is a beautiful grey building tucked away on a side street in Grey County. With views of the surrounding orchards on a quaint little patio, you can soak in this fantastic cider. Spy also has a few in-house made spirits, including organic gin made with 13 botanicals, triple-distilled apple vodka and their apple-infused spirit Eau-de-Vie-de-Pomme.
Spy Cider has three flavours, including: Golden Eye, a refreshing and dry cider; Never Say Never, a crisp organic cider; and Crimson Tide, a light black currant infused cider.
You’ve got to try: Never Say Never, it’s so crisp and refreshing, perfect for a summer’s evening.
Tastings: The Spy House is open Friday to Sunday for pick up and patio sessions. You can also pick up Spy spirits, including gin, vodka and Eau-de-Vie.
Grey and Gold Cider Company
While Grey and Gold Cider Company looks like an old heritage farm, but it’s relatively new. They just opened their cider tasting room this year, and you can now purchase their cider directly. That’s why you’ve got to stop here as the fourth stop on a Georgian Bay cider tour.
Many of their ciders have earned medals at an international cider competition and other similar accolades.
I also love their tasting area, located just outside their barn with cute picnic tables and rustic touches all overlooking their orchards. It’s a perfect place to sit and enjoy.
Grey and Gold Cider company currently has six ciders, including: Heritage Dry, a farmhouse-style acidic cider; Modern Girl, a refreshing and tangy cider that is my favourite among the bunch; Spruce of the Bruce, a citrusy sour cider with a burst of Spruce aromas; Northern Gold, a fruity, spicy cider; Wildflower, a dry cider steeped with chamomile and other wildflowers; and Sparkling Heritage, the classic cider with a bubbly addition.
You’ve got to try: Spruce of the Bruce. You’ll either love it or hate it, but you definitely need to try the Spruce of the Bruce cider. It smells like you’ve walked into a forest, and tastes very earthy. But I’ve never had anything like it before!
Tastings: The Grey and Gold Cider orchard-side bottle shop is open for sampling and for purchasing bottles from Thursday to Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm.
Windswept Orchard Cider
Windswept Orchard Cider is a 100-acre farm, the picture-perfect setting in the Niagara Escarpment for some delicious cider. This huge orchard, which even has a rare grove of wild pears, is the fifth stop on a Georgian Bay cider tour.
What I love about Windswept is their Lost Orchard project. They recover fruit from abandoned orchards in the South Georgian Bay area, many of which have ancient or heirloom varieties.
Windswept Orchards has several flavours of cider, which change every season. So, instead of listing them all, you’ll have to check out their store to see what’s available. I highly recommend the Perennial blend of apples that has a hint of wild honey to it. Or, if you can snag it, the Lost Orchard blend or the Wild Heirloom Perry from their ancient wild pear grove.
They just opened their tasting room, which is attached to their farm property, this year. So when you visit for this Georgian Bay cider tour, you’ll be among the first people to do a tasting. Many of their ciders are on the tart side and almost have the flavour and consistency of white wine. It’s quite an interesting combination. They’ve won a ton of awards for their ciders too!
You’ve got to try: Lost Orchard or Wild Perry. Both ciders have such an interesting background to how they were made, and they have such a complex and delicious flavour that’s hard to nail down.
Tastings: While they don’t have a huge set up for visitors, Windswept Orchards does have a bottle shop and tasting room, open Thursday to Sunday for pick up. PS: They also make their own Kombucha, if you’re into that!
Beaver Valley Cidery
Beaver Valley Cidery is a small-batch cidery in the heart of Beaver Valley near Kimberly. Housed in a renovated 19th-century barn, this traditional little orchard is the perfect place to relax and unwind on the sixth stop of the Georgian Bay cider tour.
Beaver Valley Cidery has six cider flavours to choose from, including: Flagship, a very dry, tart blend of five apples; Dry Pear, a light pear drink; Ginger, similar to ginger beer without the bite; Bumbleberry, unexpectedly dry and tart; Cranberry, a refreshing combo; and Vinifera, a bold mix of apples and grape skins.
Sit and enjoy your tasting samples in their relaxing outdoors space overlooking the Niagara Escarpment.
You’ve got to try: The Ginger cider. It’s something that is way out-of-the-box, which makes it super exciting, and it has a complex taste. But, if you go for a tasting, try this one last.
Tastings: Open from Thursday to Sunday, 11 am to 6 pm, until Dec. 31. Beaver Valley Cidery offers outdoor seating. They also have a great selection of cheeses to sample with the cider for purchase.
Thornbury Village Craft Cider
Thornbury Village Craft Cider is in my top three favourite ciders from Ontario; they are amazingly local, taste delicious and are located in one of the most charming towns in Ontario. This seventh stop on the Georgian Bay cider tour is a great place to sit and relax.
What’s neat about their building in downtown Thornbury is that it used to be a wooden apple storage building before it burned down in the 1920s. It’s had many lives since then and now, as Thornbury Village Craft cider house, it’s back to apple roots. Thornbury Village Craft dates back to 2007 and has recently added a brewery component to their business.
Thornbury Village Craft currently has eight flavours of cider including: Thornbury Premium Apple Cider, a dry crisp taste; Cranberry Apple Cider, a tart and refreshing combo; Wild Blueberry Elderflower Apple Cider, a floral and sweet-tasting cider; Spiced Apple Cider, a very sweet and spicy fall drink; Blood Orange Apple Cider, a tropical, zesty flavour; Rose Apple Cider, a crisp and colourful mix of wine and cider; Honey Crisp Apple Cider, a delicious cider from my favourite kind of apples; and Raspberry Apple Cider, a refreshingly delightful berry cider.
But they also have several seasonal and small-batch ciders available at their Cider House, so be sure to have a look when you visit.
You’ve got to try: Ah, which one to choose, they are all so good. Honestly, Thornbury Village Craft has only disappointed me once with their ciders. Each one is so freaking good, but I’ve got to say that Honeycrisp Apple Cider has knocked it out of the park. It’s refreshing, delicious and a little sweet. Absolutely perfect for a warm summer day.
Tastings: The Thornbury Village Craft Cider and Brew House is normally open seven days a week for tastings. They also have a terrific patio that is perfect for summertime lounging. There is a small selection of food items, and you can even book a tour of their facilities. Make sure to check what their current hours are during this crazy time.
Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery
The eighth and final stop on the Georgian Bay cider tour is Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery. Located along the Niagara Escarpment, this cidery/winery has some killer views. They began in 2001 with just five acres and expanded to over 25! They offer five white wine varieties and six red wine varieties. In 2008, they added the cider component to their farm. Coffin Ridge is all about the experience, with all their branding and names relating back to the grave – Resurrection Rose, Back from the Dead Red, etc. etc.
With an incredible view of Georgian Bay and the surrounding vineyard, Coffin Ridge makes for a great last stop of the Georgian Bay cider tour. Coffin Ridge has a lot to offer with more than a dozen wines and ciders to choose from. You can get a flight of three 2oz glasses of whatever you’d like to try. I highly recommend getting the Vintner’s Plate with a mix of cheese, meats, spreads and more to pair with it.
Park yourself on one of the several Muskoka chairs overlooking the ridge and Georgian Bay or head down into the vineyard to sit at picnic tables among the grapes.
Coffin Ridge has several ciders, each with a distinct flavour. The main ones available in cans are: Forbidden Dry Cider, which is nice and crisp; Forbidden Hopped Cider, a complex, hoppy cider; Forbidden PINK, a fresh raspberry and apple combo; and Lavender Earl Grey Perry, which mixes three of my favourite things: lavender, earl grey, and pears.
They also have some limited-edition ciders that are only available at the winery. Some of the past ones have been Maple and Rosemary, Black Currant and Juniper and Craft Haskap and Honey, a bright red berry cider with a slight honey taste.
You’ve got to try: Craft Haskap and Honey, I’ve never seen a hue quite like it. It’s a little tart, a little sweet and is made from Haskap berries (native to northern Japan) grown right here on the shores of Georgian Bay with a tiny touch of wildflower honey.
Tastings: Coffin Ridge is open by reservation only from Thursday to Sunday. You can reserve a table for up to six people for two hours. You can get a flight of three ciders and/or wines. While they don’t have a menu, Coffin Ridge offers a Vintner’s Plate, which includes a selection of artisan cheeses, breads, meats, seasonal fruits/veggies and chocolate, etc.
Other local ciders
Some Georgian Bay cideries make fantastic products, but don’t sell directly to the public, which is why you’ll have to check their inventory at your local LCBO.
Duxbury Cider Co, made here in the south Georgian Bay area, has three available ciders, including: Sideroad Dry Cider, Heritage 1650 Dry Cider and Hopped Tilted Barn Cider. You can find them at your local LCBO.
The Reinhart Cider apple orchard in Stayner has been around for over a century, producing some delicious varieties of apples. Reinhart Cider has two ciders, Red Apple Light, a sweet, refreshing cider; and Red Apple Strong, a bold, flavourful cider. You can find them at your local LCBO.
If you’re looking to extend your stay by checking out local wineries, breweries or pubs, you can check out South Georgian Bay Tourism’s selection on Wine, Ciders and Brews. You can also find more things to do in the area here.