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In Windsor Essex for a delicious getaway

Head south – but not too far south – for a whole new libation experience because big things are brewing, fermenting and distilling in Ontario’s southern-most region.

Essex County has come to be recognized as a third wine region in Ontario – following the more established ones in Niagara and Prince Edward County – and the vintners there display their wares to visitors along the wine trail that winds its way along the north shore of Lake Erie, a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds. Many of the wineries are located right on the shores of the lake, offering stunning views to enjoy while sipping samples.

Couples heading off for weekends or longer retreats which respect the Canadian dollar and offer no border challenges can drive along the wine trail or leave the driving to professionals by hopping aboard the Windsor Essex Wine Tour Trolley. With all the vintages to sample along the way, the latter is definitely the smarter choice.

Smaller settings, like Muscedere Vineyards, are family-run and you’re likely to be served a story, along with your sample. Surrounded by 12 acres of vines, Nona’s wood oven pizza is served to those who choose to rest a moment and enjoy the pastoral vista.

In an elegantly converted tobacco barn, food and fire are available at Oxley Winery. The menu concentrates on locally produced ingredients, and those who enjoy a full-bodied red will love their Red Ripper. Oxley’s sommelier has paired samples with appropriate musical choices; both can be enjoyed next to the large outdoor wood-burning fireplace. To check out a variety of wineries and get your EPIC passport, go to www.epicwineries.com.

Windsor and Essex County are becoming real foodie destinations, with choices in the larger centres as well as the smaller towns. For instance, City Grill in Windsor is an elegant setting for a night out downtown, and features a large selection of cocktails and menu items. Conversely, a relaxed meal while sitting on The Keg’s patio affords a panoramic view of Detroit’s night skyline. Or, if you’re looking for something off the beaten path, a cozy dinner featuring handmade pasta awaits in Amherstburg at the Artisan Grill.

Before heading out on a self-guided walking tour of the historic Walkerville district (download a map at www.citywindsor. ca), stop into Twisted Apron for a quick breakfast or lunch. This funky eatery offers original twists on traditional faves, such as homemade pretzel rolls topped with maple glaze and smoked salt. You’ll work off the extra calories checking out the many turn-of-the-century homes on the tour, including the grand Willistead Estate, which belonged to Hiram Walker’s son.

The Canadian Transportation Museum features both antique and contemporary automobiles,

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Local craft breweries carry on the proud tradition of supplying the area with tasty libations by offering a mind-boggling array of beer like those being produced at places such as Windsor’s Walkerville Brewery or Jack’s Gastropub (under the Banded Goose label) in Kingsville. These are just two of the stops on the Barrels, Bottles and Brews Trail. Trying a sampling of brews (usually called a paddle or flight) at each of the stops will ensure that you have a good handle on the local craft brewing scene. (Download passport for tour at www.barrelsbottlesbrews.ca.)

Hiram Walker knew a good thing when he settled in Windsor and new kids on the block at Wolfhead Distillery have assumed the mantle. Located near Amherstburg, these distillers are taking whisky and vodka over the top by infusing them with naturally derived flavours, like grapefruit (vodka) and coffee beans (whisky).

Lodging choices aren’t in short supply, either. From cozy B&Bs, like Honor’s Country House in Amherstburg, to the splendour of Caesars Windsor’s luxe casino setting or the family-friendly Best Western Waterfront, you’ll be able to change rooms each night to try something different. The newest offering in Kingsville is The Grove Hotel and it’s a fun place to lay your head. With hints of a steampunk décor, each room in this boutique hotel is differently decorated and the service is as friendly as it is efficient.

Arts and culture are also always on the menu in this travellers’ destination. Enjoy wandering through Windsor’s waterfront park, featuring original sculptures, or taking a guided tour by Robert Honor to learn about Amherstburg’s role in the War of 1812. This local historian is also one of the area artists featured at the Mudpuppy Gallery, a co-operative gallery.

Those who love antique automobiles will want to stop into the Canadian Transportation Museum and Historical Village outside of Kingsville. Transportation through the ages is highlighted indoors, while a walking tour through area history is available in a park-like setting. Fuel up first at its 1950s Diner, located inside the museum building, with a bite of all-day breakfast at old fashioned prices.

When all the walking involved in touring has tired you out, drop into the Dalhousie Bistro in Amherstburg for a glass of local wine or a Spanish coffee. Positioned across from King’s Navy Yard Park, this rest stop offers the added attraction of a nice view of the Detroit River.

Heading south for a taste tour of Windsor-Essex is a sure way to flavour your summer travels.