From christening ships on their maiden voyages to toasting in all that is new, sparkling wines have a long history of being part of joyous celebrations.

Although you may be familiar with the sparkling wines of the world today, what may come as a surprise to many is that the Lake Erie North Shore (LENS) wine region, the South Islands in particular, have a long history with sparkling wine as well.

Excerpts from “The Vinedressers” by Ron Tiessen

“Pelee Island grape planting began in the 1850’s with the establishment of a small vineyard by Henry Price. Winemaking occurred just over a decade later, with the efforts of Thaddeus Smith, the Williams brothers and the Wardropers. Their work represented a very early commercial wine enterprise in the Province of Ontario. It was not long before others followed their example, resulting in the building of at least six wineries on Pelee Island.”

Pelee Island's  J.S. Hamilton
From “The Vinedressers”

In 1873, Thaddeus Smith bought out the William’s brothers shares in the Vin Villa Vineyards. After sampling the Vin Villa wines J.S. Hamilton found himself so pleased that he purchased the entire lot. Thus began the long business relationship between Vin Villa Vineyards and J.S. Hamilton. Through a progressive advertising plan Hamilton successfully marketed Pelee Island wine in several places, including Europe.

They were so successful that in 1878, the Canadian Commissioner in London, England offered the following assessment:

“I have much pleasure in informing you that a bronze medal has been awarded to your firm: also that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales tasted your wines at the opening of the Canadian Trophy and expressed himself much pleased with the flavour and and quality.”

This group continued to grow taking on an ambitious undertaking in 1894 to produce L’Empereur Champagne. This wine was made on the island and allowed to ripen under the natural fermentation process in bottles.

Back to the Future

These days the term “Champagne” may only be used in reference to those sparkling wines from the Champagne region in northeast France made in the Traditional Method. A law was passed in 1927 established this and the first Champagne quality rules. But today, 126 years later, we can say that in 1894, the first sparkling wine was made in the Traditional Method on Pelee Island.

Traditional Method at Pelee Island Winery

Our current offerings of sparkling wines are made in the Charmat Method (see our blog “The Difference Between the Bubbles“). SPOILER ALERT – stay tuned for 2021 as one of our Winemakers Martin Janz, has something very special in the cellar.

Our current sparkling wine line up can be found in our Mix & Match package this holiday season. It’s perfect for toasting those traditions rich in history and those holding a spark of hope for the future.

LOLA Nero Red Sparkling VQA Ontario wine from Pelee Island Winery
Pelee Island Winery Secco Sparkling VQA Ontario. Pale in colour. Light and frothy while green apple and pear dance on the palate. A great choice to celebrate with friends or enjoy with a light meal.
Pelee Island Winery Lola Secco VQA Sparkling Bubbles. Pale in colour. Light and frothy while green apple and pear dance on the palate. A great choice to celebrate with friends or enjoy with a light meal. Ontario Sparkling wine.

Pelee Island Winery Lola Sparkling Blush Rosé VQA Ontario rosé wine. Ontario Wine Awards Gold Medal Winner. This blush sparkling wine has hints of strawberry and blood orange flavours, serve chilled.
Pelee Island Winery Bella Sparkling Pinot Noir VQA and Auxerrois Rosé. Rated 94 pts by Carolyn Hammond, Wine Critic for the Toronto Star. Ontario wine. “Bella”, the Italian word for beautiful, is a perfect and simple description for this wine. She is a sparkling beauty with a lovely cherry and lemon bouquet. This pink bubbly wine makes a refreshing addition to any meal, especially a romantic one with your partner all’aperto.
Pelee Island Winery Ontario Bella Red Sparkling VQA


The Vinedressers by Ron Tiessen - Pelee Island's book about wine history on the island.


“The Vinedressers – A History of Grape Farming & Wineries on Pelee Island” – Ron Thiessen, Pelee Island Heritage Centre