South Eastern Ontario is known for its noshing opportunities and savouring a drink or two. But the heart of this region belongs to the producers and thriving farms, restaurants, breweries and wineries in it. Within our region is SDG Counties – Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry, which is an emerging mecca for wine and beer enthusiasts.
Spending the weekend away in SDG Counties on a little couples escape sounded like an ideal Fall experience. We visited North and South Stormont, North and South Dundas, and North Glengarry – all of which are a part of SDG Counties. I thought two days would be plenty of time to visit but I barely scratched the surface on my list of places to check out! In my opinion, this magical place is one of the most underrated destinations in the South Eastern Ontario region.
Please note that this trip was from October 2nd – 3rd 2020. There are currently no travel bans within South Eastern Ontario. However, if you don’t want to travel at this time, save this post for a time when you feel most comfortable. Remember that you’re responsible for your own health so wear your mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance from others.
4:00 PM: Begin your trip by checking in at the Russell Manor
Operating since 2003, the Russell Manor was built in 1871 by Thomas Russell, a Scottish stonemason. The outside is constructed in the French Second Empire style and the interior has all the charm of Victorian decor but also looks like it was ripped straight out of a fairy tale.
We enjoyed on-arrival snacks and a complimentary French 75 cocktails as we chatted with the owners Ron and Michael. Michael has a background in interior design and fashion and Ron is a natural foodie. Their charming personalities and background experience made them excellent host for our stay!
We stayed in the St James Suite which included a queen-size bed, three-piece ensuite with heated bathroom floors, and a sitting room that would be perfect for a ‘workcation.’ The design of Russell Manor is stunning from top to bottom – the designs on the walls are even hand-painted! Every corner had its own story – the jaw-dropping antiques and memorabilia were arranged into vignettes on top of tables and shelves. This is an enchanting spot to visit with your Prince, or Princess, Charming!
6:00 PM: Head out to dinner nearby at Butlers Restaurant
We were having such great conversations with Michael and Ron that it was hard for us to leave for the evening. They’re the kind of people that, after a long day, you want to sit down and have a couple cocktails with.
Located 20 mins away in a mini-mall you’ll find the family-owned restaurant, Butlers. It’s easy to see why Butlers is a local favourite in SDG Counties, everything is homemade! Their menu is much more than your average pub food. I had the bacon macaroni and cheese and Alex had the goat cheese salad. His salad didn’t have crumbles of goat cheese in it, it had a baked goat cheese hockey puck in the middle filled with different herbs. We shared a dessert which was a deep-fried cheesecake. Alex described the crunch on the outside as a sweetness carnival flavour. Which just means it was really good. Give this place a try! You won’t be disappointed.
If you’re a craft beer drinker, head over to the small-batch brewery Humble Beginnings Brewing Co.located right beside the restaurant. Unfortunately, Humble Beginnings was closed for the evening, which just meant we would have to make another trip to visit.
7:30 PM: Check out Pumpkinferno at Upper Canada Village
Finish your evening with a visit to Upper Canada Village for Pumpkinferno. Between 6,000 – 7,000 replica pumpkins are on display in about 30 different exhibits at the 19th-century village. You’ll be humming ‘This Is Halloween’ for the rest of the evening. Word to the wise, buy your tickets early, like really early. But if you miss out, there’s always next year and there’s also Alight at Night that starts up in November.
9:00 AM: Wake up to an enchanting breakfast at Russell Manor
In the morning, we were treated to freshly baked scones by Ron, delicious omelettes with fresh herbs from the garden, fresh fruit and the Russel Manors signature coffee blend by Coffey’s Coffee. After breakfast, Ron took us for a tour outside and showed us their harvest table that was beautifully decorated by Michael.
11:00 AM: Take a scenic drive to North Glengarry
An hour away from Morrisburg is North Glengarry which is where we were headed for the day to tour between breweries and wineries (Alex was DD). Driving along the countryside captures the essence of Fall and we were able to see most serene views.
12:00 PM: Have a beer-y good time at Wood Brothers Brewing Co.
“Beer is fun” is what the team at Wood Brothers Brewing say and I couldn’t agree more! There’s a lot of pride and craftsmanship in the brewing industry that it’s great to see so much growth happen over the last couple of years. Because of this geographic location, brewers can include local ingredients in their beers – which is exactly what Wood Brothers does.
We had the Cherry Tropic Thunder and the Jack beer which were both juicy and tasty. We shared a delicious charcuterie box from Forage Eats which changes weekly to include seasonal ingredients.
Wood Brothers Brewing Co has been awarded the Smart Stamp for travel which is recognized globally for adopting proper, standardized health and hygiene protocols. Everyone was wearing masks unless seated, tables separated, servers keeping their distance and wearing masks, and sanitizer was accessible throughout the brewery.
2:00 PM: Keep sippin’ at Stonehouse Vineyard
Stonehouse Vineyard is a five-acre vineyard that not only features a beautiful stone house that was built in the early 1800s, but a large renovated barn house that provides scenic views of the surrounding vineyard and farmlands.
In 2008, Craig MacMillan and his wife Joanne purchased the farm and were the 8th generation of Macmillan to own the property. There was a small vineyard where the previous owners were experimenting with cold-climate grapes and within a few years, Craig and Joanne worked on those crops and opened Stonehouse Vineyard in 2019.
Stonehouse Vineyard is open for patio tastings, tour and tastings packages, you can pick up outside of the wine store and they cover shipping. Joanne chatted with me about the different types of grapes they have for cold climate growth. The Frontenac includes a blanc, gris, and noir. I always make sure to chat up the winery staff about their grapes, process, and which flavours I like and dislike. After all, they can bring you closer to discovering your ideal bottle! We spent our time enjoying the fresh county air and strolling spacious grounds and multiple patios. I’ll have to come back to try the ‘1793,’ which I’m told tastes like Christmas in a glass because of the spices and plum flavours. Before leaving, I purchased a bottle the 2018 Frontenac Blanc.
4:00 PM: Enjoy an early dinner at Buvette du Marché
Buvette du Marché used to be the site of the town’s local meat market, Meloche & Sabourin from 1904-2000. The building was nearly vacant for 18 years before local couple Michelle Daprato and Serge Bellefeuille bought the business and opened up on July 26, 2019.
This chic little spot has impressive cocktails and a creative tapas-style menu at fair prices. Eating here will have you feeling like you’re in a sophisticated resto bistro in Montreal. With patio heating and an extended patio with fire pits, it’s easy to see why people would spend a couple hours eating and sipping their way through the menu.
I had the feature cocktail which was smoked Maker’s Mark® bourbon with local apple cider. Using Maker’s Mark® which is softer, lighter, and smoother than most other bourbons – plus has notes of vanilla, caramel, toffee and local cider basically created a symphony of flavours in my mouth. We enjoyed the steakhouse bruschetta, coquille St Jacques, and the smoked salmon plate – which went well with the blueberry mojito I ordered.
7:00 PM: Arrive at Terrace Green Bed & Breakfast
After dinner, we headed to Terrace Green Bed & Breakfast in Winchester which is in North Dundas. The B&B sits on 5 acres of countryside and Annette and Jim have been in business for 14 years. Before entering, we went through the same necessary COVID screening at Russell Manor but also had our oxygen levels checked with an oximeter – a helpful tool for early signs of COVID.
Their home was charming and spotless and our room had an ensuite bathroom. Our room was also steamed with a UV/C operation light. If you’re sensitive to scents, the home is completely scent-free. Our host Annette, Jim, and Fred (their gracious Labradoodle) made us feel welcomed as could be!
8:00 PM: Toughen up and keep your eyes peeled at Acres of Terror
For over 20 years of the Halloween season, Cannamore Orchard transforms itself into the Acres of Terror, which includes wagon rides, house of horrors, a spooky village and a fog maze. Keep your eyes peeled – you never who—or what—will appear!
You will be guided by a Witch or Devil who keeps the group COVID friendly while never breaking character. After the tour, you can enjoy their plentiful stock of treats, apples, and freshly made fudge! We called it a night pretty soon after (you know, cause we’re 80). In the morning, we had a delicious farm-fresh breakfast which included scrambled eggs, smoked local bacon, artisan bread and speciality jams. After chatting with Annette about our plans for the day we checked out.
10:00 AM: Visit Mountain Orchards and pick out fresh apples
A visit to the orchard is a must have experience during the Fall season. And with several apple varieties grown in the region, you’ll find endless uses for your fresh apples! There were so many orchards to choose from but we chose Mountain Orchards that has been a mainstay in the community for more than 50 years. Be sure to try the legendary apple cider doughnuts from the on-site bakery!
12:00 PM: Have a little slice of heaven at Iron Forge Pizza
Iron Forge Pizza in Winchester is serving up fresh ingredients with their famous heirloom sourdough crust. We each got personal size pizzas which was more than enough to fill us up. I got the Iron Forge Special – pepperoni, bacon, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions. Next time, I would opt-out on the onions since there were too much for my taste. Alex got the Chicken Bruschetta pizza which was tasty! Their chewy yet crispy crust was perfect to dip in their home-made garlic sauce.
1:00 PM: Do a little shopping and visit Vanderlaand The Barnyard Zoo
After lunch, we went to Cassbridge Gift Shop in Winchester which is a one-stop-shop for gifts. They have a variety of home decor, candles, print, as well as women’s accessories including Canadian designer jewellery, leather wallets, purses and more. Cassbridge is unique because it was the first cheese factory in Dundas County in 1891. You can still buy locally made cheese from there and in the summer they sell delicious ice cream!
Our next stop was Vanderlaand Barnyard Zoo. The cost for entry is $5 and has been that price since they opened 10 years ago! Vanderlaand is not an animal rescue, but they have helped rehome animals. The animals are so friendly and come right up to you looking for a pet or a treat – most of the time it’s a treat. All COVID-19 protocols are adhered to include plenty of hand sanitizing stations. The farm is also on a very large piece of land so there is plenty of room for social distancing. I loved my visit here and wish I could visit more often!
Sherry’s has ready-to-go homecooked meals and a fully-stocked convenience store, gas bar, lottery and LCBO. I stopped in for a snack and ended up buying $50 of food! The Sheppards Pie and Macaroni and Cheese were just heavenly for dinner later that night, but I regret not getting a Bumbleberry pie to take home.
3:00 PM: Sip more wine at Stone Crop Acres
At Stone Crop Acres, the winery and grounds are now open to the public for wine tastings and sales by the glass or by the bottle as well as a selection of local organic cheeses and bread.
Noreen Hyatt-Gervais and her and her husband Mark opened up the vineyard in 2019. The former veterinarian has lived on the property with her family for the last 30 years, but within the last 10, planted the grapes that would become Stone Crop Acres. Noreen was fortunate enough to travel around the world and learn about wines first hand and completed a Sommelier course at Algonquin College. Each wine is crafted in small artisanal batches and the grapes are hand-harvested, crushed and pressed on-site.
This place was a relaxing spot to end the day with a glass of wine on the deck. We enjoyed 4 samples, 2oz each, of amazing artisanal wines at $5 a flight! There was a sense of community with the neighbours and locals (and dogs) hanging out. Noreen has plans to offer wood-fired pizza and is currently working with Smyth orchard on a crisp and dry cider. I purchased a bottle of that was a blend of riesling Frontenac and frigio grapes. It had a bit of a sweetness and wasn’t too dry.
4:00 PM: Return home
It hasn’t been an easy year and COVID has affected a lot of people in different ways. It was inspiring to hear about how these businesses owners have thrived through their hardships. It’s a privilege for me to travel and highlight these local owners and businesses. We loved our weekend away in the SDG Counties because of the flavours we got to discover and the kind community of people we met. We can’t wait to get back to this area.
Know Before You Go:
Where: SDG Counties is about a 1.5-hour drive from Kingston and 40-minutes from Brockville)
What to bring with you: A cooler for all of the yummy goodies you will pick up.
COVID Tips: The best way to make any dining plans is to call the location directly and ask if they’re doing walk-ins or reservations only. Avoid touching your face and tie your hair back. Pack hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes to regularly sanitize surfaces.
Learn more about this destination here: whereontariobegan.ca