Visit Niagara Wineries and sample Niagara Ice Wine and other specialties. Learn about the rich harvest of Ontario wineries such as Peller Estates, Jackson Triggs & more.
When I was growing up in the Niagara Region, Ontario wines were a bit of a joke. Choices at our local Liquor Control Board were limited to things like Baby Duck and Spumanti Bambino.
Photo Credit: Chris Beard, Shaw Festival
But in the past three decades, a new and ambitious generation of wine-makers has changed the landscape dramatically.
Ontario wineries, especially those in this region, are now
winning awards around the world. And Niagara wine country has become a
tourist destination. More than forty wineries line the Wine Route
between Stoney Creek and Niagara Falls, ranging from small, mom-and-pop
operations to large ones with restaurants attached (and even one with
its own hotel!).
I can’t cover all of the Niagara wineries, so here is just a taste to whet your appetite. I’ve divided them into three categories: Showplace Wineries, Boutique Wineries, and Celebrity Wineries.
These are large-scale Niagara wineries with showrooms that can welcome big groups like bus tours and convention groups. Individuals are welcome too.
Peller Estates (www.peller.com)
This estate features a large visitor centre with a posh lobby, huge boutique with a central bar for sampling, and a fine dining restaurant. Their tours include a visit to the vineyards, the underground barrel cellar and a wine tasting. In addition to wines, the shop sells ice wine jellies and chocolates, pasta sauces made with wine, grape-seed oil and other gourmet treats. You can also buy fancy corkscrews, wine chillers, fully-equipped picnic backpacks, glasses and decanters.
Jackson Triggs (http://www.jacksontriggswinery.com/en/)
This winery has its own amphitheatre where they host outdoor concerts during the summer. They have a restaurant and host many special events. Known for their unusual architecture as well as their award-winning wines.
Hillebrand Estates Winery (http://www.hillebrand.com)
Pioneers – they made Niagara’s first icewine in 1989. Gourmet restaurant and a tasting hall with museum-style information display boards. They offer tours, host concerts, and even give courses on wine for “novice wine enthusiasts”.
Cave Spring Cellars (http://www.cavespringcellars.com)
This is the oldest functioning wine cellar in Ontario. The building dates back to 1871. The winery is affiliated with a restaurant, On The Twenty, and the Inn on the Twenty, a boutique hotel with spa facilities. Talk about offering the complete pampering package!
Tawse Winery vault
Photo Credit: Tim Fleming
These are sometimes called “artisan wineries” or “art-house” Niagara wineries.
Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery
Canada’s first fruit winery. Established in 1993, this unique winery specializes in wines made from local peaches, plums, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, pears, apples, nectarines, strawberries and apricots, most of which the family grows on its own farm. No artificial colours or tastes are used. Their retail outlet and sampling area is about the size of a modest living room. While I like their cherry wines, it’s their specialty Golden Peach that I find really impressive. Sweet and thick like nectar, this wine could be served for dessert in lieu of cake. Sunnybrook also sells wine jellies, maple syrup, apple cider and delicious wine chocolates.
A few other small ones of note are:
Marynissen Estate Winery, Rancourt Winery, Frogpond Farm (a certified organic winery), Tawse Winery and Maleta Vineyards and Estate Winery.
Wayne Gretsky Estate Winery – in Vineland. Owned by hockey great Wayne Gretsky.
Dan Aykroyd Wines – made in partnership with Lakeview Cellars. Dan Aykroyd is an actor/comedian born in Ottawa.
Mike Weir Estate Winery – Mike Weir is a golf pro.
Bob Izumi Red and White wines – made in partnership with Niagara-on-the Lake winery Coyote's Run. Bob Izumi is a fishing specialist/tv host.
When I was a child we celebrated the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival. These days, the Niagara wineries host three festivals – count 'em! THREE – each year: The Niagara New Vintage in June, The Niagara Wine Festival in September and the Niagara Ice Wine Festival in January.