Niagara is home to some of the most well-known falls in the world, but is also one of the most up and coming wine regions. Just an hour and half drive away from Toronto, it has lots to offer for tourists. From the falls to charming little town of Niagara on The Lake, to high-qualities wineries: you will never get bored.
When planning a trip to Niagara, we wanted to visit the Niagara on the Lake part of the region. We had been to the falls, but never to the wine region. So we decided to it was a good time to spend a long weekend there and visit the wineries while staying in the charming town of Niagara on the Lake.
The town itself has lots of small stores, houses that date back to the 1800s and also a calm atmosphere that simply makes you relax and get away from the busy city life. While it is recommended to rent a car, in the summer and fall you can also move around with a bike, or by foot and using uber or a taxi. I was surprised indeed by the amount of ubers available on the weekend (though I have to stay there were really few on Sunday night, probably because restaurants close very early, like 9pm).
The first day (Friday) we arrived from Toronto with the GO train and bus. We took an uber to the BeB from Niagara College station. We visited Peller winery, one of the most well known wineries and one of the few that can be reached by foot from the town. It makes a very good Hermitage, good sparkling and sauvignon blanc and… lots of bulk wine (sold at the lcbo). Of course, they focus on their wine estate during the visit. They do, however, buy from a wide number of farmers and that is how they make big volumes. The visit is actually quite interesting, though can be repetitive if you are a sommelier because there are lots of things you would know already.
The guide will talk about the sparkling method and other fun facts related to wine production. I would argue that the best part is the visit to the wine cellar, where you can also taste their ice wine and visit a reproduction of an igloo where the temperature is -15 degrees celsius. It’s fun, and especially if you have a sweet tooth, you will like the wine. What I liked least were the commercial part, when they tried to sold us on the wine club. I would have preferred if they left that to the very end of it. All in all, it was a good experience and one that I would recommend especially if you are new to wine. It is a big winery with a beautiful estate.
For dinner we decided to go the Neapolitan pizzeria Pieza, which surprised me for its quality. The owner is from Naples and the decor is beautiful, with a Mediterrenean style. Very cozy, it offers the very best Italian food in the area. I really enjoyed La Sofia, which feautured fior di latte, fresh cherry tomatoes, organic arugula and San Daniele D.O.P. prosciutto. The ingredients are top-notch and they use an authentic wood-fired pizza oven from Naples. The dough is very digestible, as it undergoes a 24 hour fermentation process. It is one of the few pizzerias in Ontario certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana.
The second day we decided to walk around, relax and visit the falls in the evening. We had breakfast at the local Golf Club, which is condered the oldest existing golf club in North America. I was not impressed with their service (we waited to be served for a long time to be served and the waitresses seemed to ignore us at some point), but I have to admit that the eggs benedicts with smoked salmon are well worth it. At the town we really enjoyed the Greaves jam and mermelade store. It uses local ingredients and makes some of the most delicious jams in Canada. From rasberry, to peach, to rhubarb. There is plenty to choose from. After our shopping, we got an uber to get to the falls (it’s about 25 minutes drive from Niagara on the Lake).
The views in the evening are really breathtaking. To see the power of nature at such close proximity is something that I definitely enjoyed a lot. We had dinner at the Prime Steakhouse, which is one of the best steakhouses in the area and has an outstanding view of the falls. The tenderloin was by far by favorite item in the menu, very tender and flavourful. We paired it beautifully with the Hermitage from Peller Estate, which was the best in terms of quality price. The wine list can be improved: there are lots of expensive wines from large producers. Be careful as the prices are quite high. For dessert we had the whipped cheescake and waffle. Not your typical cheescake, actually decontructed. It is worth trying and can be a good way to end the meal, with something not too heavy in your palate.
In the next post we will talk about our third day, in which we visited four great wineries. So stay tuned!