Sip ‘n Cycle

The wonder of Canadian wine tours

Rosehall Winery
Prince Edward County, Ontario.
(photo credit: www.gosacha.com)

Autumn is arguably the loveliest time of the year to enjoy the tours and tastings hosted by your local wineries. The mere thought of spending a few delicious hours in those peaceful vineyards and scenic estates makes you want to grab your keys and head for the car, doesn’t it? Well, hold up! You’d be amazed by how much more pleasurable and physically rewarding your wine tour experience can be when you choose two wheels over four.


It’s no surprise that cycling tour operators have set up shop in the many beautiful wine regions across Canada. Just as good wines are to be sipped and savoured for maximum enjoyment, so too are the gorgeous landscapes that produce them best appreciated at the slower pace a bicycle affords. Picture yourself leisurely peddling down quiet country roads lined with rolling vineyards, fertile meadows and lush orchards.

Yes: “leisurely.” These aren’t leg-pumping, heart-thumping, butt-bumping, multi-day cycling excursions. Featuring a relaxed pace and gentle terrain, cycle tours of wineries are often described by tour operators as “easy riding” and suitable for all fitness levels. “Some of our routes are what we call ‘gravity-assisted,’” says Ed Kruger, who operates Tour deVine in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. “Sure, you have to pedal some of the way, but a 2-percent downhill grade makes it a whole lot easier.” Ed’s recent clients have included an 85-year-old man and a rider who hadn’t straddled a bike in more than 45 years. Leisurely, it is!

Besides that, a cycling trip is a fun and social way to get the most out of a wonderful fall day. So grab a friend—or all of your friends—and sign up for an adventure that does a body good from your taste buds down to your tootsies.

Stop and smell the rosé
In most cases, the cycling is done in two to five legs, so there are plenty of scheduled breaks (and sips) throughout the day. These “one-day” tours are generally just 4 to 6 hours in length, and riders visit as many as four neighbouring wineries in that time. Total biking distance depends on the geography of the wine region, the proximity of wineries to one another and the chosen tour option. Some trips tally fewer than 10 km, while others are more than 40 km. With so much variety, it’s easy to ensure that your trip matches your fitness level and that you’ll enjoy several restful stops.

PointsPlus to ponder (or spend)
Even at a leisurely pace, 80 minutes of cycling earns you 4 Activity PointsPlus values—enough for 10 ounces of wine or some guilt-free indulgences at lunch (many wineries boast superb restaurants that feature delectably prepared regional cuisine). And if the bucolic landscapes and flights of wine aren’t relaxing enough on their own, cycling itself can help reduce stress and promote well-being. “Endorphins are the body's natural feel-good chemicals, and when released through exercise, they boost your mood naturally,” says Canada AM fitness expert Libby Norris. “Along with endorphins, exercise also releases adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine—all of these chemicals work together to make you feel good.”

You may even rediscover the joy of bike riding. Kathy Roy, an Ottawa-based personal trainer and group cycling instructor, enthuses about the benefits of taking up the sport: “Cycling is a low-impact aerobic exercise that allows you to burn calories while taking it easy on your joints,” she says. “Regular cycling can improve strength, stamina and cardiovascular fitness, as well as lower blood pressure and resting heart rate. And if you get hooked, you can join a Spinning class in the off-season.”

Learn something new
Unlike your Mapquest route, your cycling route may well take you through conservation areas and along pathways you couldn’t travel by car. And your tour might include scheduled rests at local markets, cheese farms and historic landmarks you’d otherwise breeze by. Since your tour guides will likely be experienced riders who are knowledgeable about the region and the wineries you’ll visit, they can provide interesting and unique insights into the local area that help make the day all the more memorable. You’ll come away wined and dined and edified.

Save your dollars
Typically ranging in price from $90 to $150 per person, these day trips are affordable mini-vacations that clear the mind, please the palate and stretch the legs. The fee generally includes the use of a touring bicycle, a tour guide, several wine tastings, a meal at a winery (ranging from picnic-style snacks to three-course affairs), water, passenger van support, transportation to and from surrounding area accommodations and pick-up of products purchased during the tour. Small wonder this day-tripping pastime is growing in popularity! “We’re seeing a noticeable increase in the number of groups who are choosing to enjoy the tour by bike,” says Susan Biggs, administrator of Prince Edward County Wine and Culinary Tours in Bloomfield, Ontario. “The landscape is so well-suited to recreational cycling—it’s a lot of fun!”

There are wineries in all 10 provinces and day-trip cycling tour companies operating in the most established wine regions—especially the Okanagan in British Columbia, the Niagara Peninsula and Prince Edward County in Ontario, the Eastern Townships in Quebec and the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. Contact provincial tourism offices for more information on tours operating in these and other wine regions. Long-recognized for its wide variety of stunning landscapes, and enjoying increasing international appreciation for its wines, Canada is a country worth exploring on so many levels. Get out there and get a taste of what you’re missing!

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