While it’s difficult to say when the term après originated, it’s not hard to guess where: France. Obviously. The tradition of going out for drinks, food and socializing after a day on the snow was perfected in the Alps, but has spread throughout the world.
For some, après can be more important than the outdoor activity itself. Whether you’re snowshoeing or cross country skiing, the afterglow that comes from fresh winter air and a couple libations is a memorable part of the experience. In Grey County there is no better place to honour this age-old French tradition than the vineyards and wineries: Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery and Georgian Hills Vineyards.
Established in 1999, Coffin Ridge’s scenic location just outside Owen Sound looks out over the Escarpment and down towards Georgian Bay. It’s a beautiful spot, made even more so when covered in a fresh layer of snow.
With cross-country ski and snowshoe trails throughout the 25 acres of vineyard, there are plenty of opportunities to get lost in amongst the vines and found again back at the winery. The winery itself has a great atmosphere made all the more inviting in the winter, with a cozy wood fireplace and complimentary wine tastings. Open Thursday through Sunday from 11-4, Coffin Ridge also serves a vintner’s picnic ($21 and serves 2) which features cheese, dried fruits, jams and charcuterie. Glasses of wine range from $5 to $10.
And while most people choose to get outside first, others opt to take the vintner’s picnic with them.
“Some more adventurous people have actually taken the picnic out into the vineyard to our picnic tables,” says general manager Mike Todd. “It doesn’t happen often, but you’re welcome to it!”
Now that’s taking après to the next level!
Georgian Hills Vineyards
Overlooking the Beaver Valley, Georgian Hills Vineyards offers an amazing snowshoe package through Free Spirit Tours or Blue Mountain’s Activity Central. For $65 Free Spirit’s always energetic Jennie Elmslie will take you on an incredible tour of the infamous trails at nearby Kolapore. Free Spirit provides the snowshoes and wintertime in Kolapore is not to be missed: amongst the rocky outcroppings of the Niagara Escarpment, hardwood forests mingle with scenic vistas and tons and tons of snow.
Afterwards you head to Georgian Hills for a tasting and cheese tray. The warmth of the tasting room, complete with a wood stove, is a great way to celebrate après.
If you’re more of an independent type, the winery is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 12-5 and has a one-kilometre loop and a half-kilometre loop on site. The tasting room offers a complimentary tasting, a cheese tray with three wines ($15), a ‘perfect pairing’ of five wines and five food pairings ($20), and a sweet indulgence option of cheese, chocolate and three of their dessert wines ($15).
“It’s something very special,” says Robert Ketchin, the sales and marketing manager for Georgian Hills Vineyards. “Being this far north, we have that exclusivity of saying, we have snow all winter, and we have a winery. You can’t really do that in the Okanagan and I don’t think you can really do that in Niagara. In that way Grey County can offer something that nobody else can.”