Would like a little red or white during your exciting Niagara Falls vacation? While the falls on both the American and Canadian sides of the border are big reasons to visit Niagara Falls, this area isn’t limited to the world-famous landmark. After taking a boat tour underneath the falls or getting splashed from the viewing platforms, a fantastic way to unwind is by tasting some of the locally-produced wines. Over the past several decades, the Niagara falls area has become a leading producer of ice wines, which are made in freezing temperatures in order to taste rich and decadent. The following are just a few of the top wineries where you can add wine tasting to your travel itinerary.
While there is no bad place to start on a wine-tasting tour, Reif Winery is a poetic beginning thanks to its status as one of the oldest wineries in the area. Founded in 1983, Reif Winery only grows certified Ontario grapes of the vitis vinifera variety to produce a consistent taste in their ice wines. Reif is also a top choice for visitors because the first glass for tasting is always free, which is a budget-savvy way to begin a wine tour. If you are in the mood to show off your palate, gather a few friends and do the blind tasting at the Sensory Bar. The blind tasting starts with a flight of four unlabelled white or red wines, and your senses have to work in order to determine which glass is which vintage. For something a little less demanding, try the artisan cheese and wine flight, where regional cheese are paired with each tasting of the local wine.
In an area where there are dozens of wineries, Inniskillin is among the best-known wine labels and a popular find at local restaurants. The company owns several vineyards in the region, but the one for tours and tastings is in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, just a few minutes from the falls. The winery is open daily throughout the year, but winter hours are shorter. The standard hour-long tour will take you through the growing, fermenting, and bottling processes, and it is both educational and entertaining. Of course, the best part is the conclusion of the tour, which includes a chance to taste two Inniskillin premium VQA table wines. If you are in a hurry, grab a few of your favourite bottles from the retail store. Otherwise, stick around for the Riedel Stemware Experience, which includes more tasting and a chance to learn about the different wine glasses and how each brings out the very best flavours in the wine.
If you are always on the lookout for eco-friendly attractions, then Stratus Vineyards should definitely be included on your wine tasting tour through Niagara Falls. As the very first winery in Canada with a LEED designation, which is a certificate in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Stratus Vineyards is all about sustainability and green development. The best way to get introduced to the wines at Stratus is with a basic flight, which includes anywhere from four to five pours of various wines produced right onsite at the 55-acre vineyard. If you are planning to make this a longer stop on your tour, sit down for a full meal pairing the wines with regional dishes and fantastic cheeses. This typically requires advanced booking, especially in the busier summer months.
Palatine Hills Estate Winery
For award-winning wines and plenty of variety, Palatine Hills Estate Winery is a wonderful pick. Since the vineyard itself takes up more than 180 acres, there is plenty of space to grow a number of varietals that produce wines like Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Riseling and Vidal. Although Palatine Hills produces and bottles so many options onsite, quality never takes second place to quantity. This is obvious when you see the awards display at the winery that showcases everything from a gold medal at the 2003 Ontario Wine Awards to the silver medal at the 2007 Canadian Wine Awards. You don’t need a reservation to visit the retail store or stroll through the grounds seven days a week, but tours and longer tastings do require advance notice.
Riverview Cellars Estate Winery
This charming winery is a fabulous spot to come for a wine tasting, but it is also a place to relax, soak up the scenery and grab some souvenirs at the same time. Riverview Cellars is family-owned and operated, and they produce cool-weather wines like Gewurtraminer, Riesling and Chardonnay along with favourites like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The biggest appeal of the Riverview Cellars Estate Winery is the fact that it boasts an onsite produce stand, where you can purchase locally-grown grapes or blueberries, along with a gift store with traditionally Canadian products.
If you love wine and delicious food equally, then Strewn Winery should be your number one tasting destination in Niagara Falls. As Canada’s only winery cooking school, Strewn Winery is focused on ensuring that food and drink bring out the best in one another. This is definitely not a place where wine flights are paired with stale crackers and generic cheese, and full meals can be ordered from the onsite restaurant Terrior La Cachette. The best place to start is with the basic 45-minute tour, which gives you a chance to see the grounds, the production of the wines, and a basic tasting introduction along with three different pours. If you are just a little hungry, grab a large flight to share with a friend and pair it with the freshly-baked bread that comes out of the oven several times each day. If you need a little bit of a walk to work off a full meal, join in with the Winemaker Walk, which includes a stroll through the vineyard with head winemaker Joe Will.
Niagara Falls is a hotspot for wine lovers, and there is no shortage of wineries worth a visit. Whether you are visiting the falls for a short getaway or a longer trip, be sure to stop at one or more of these wineries for a memorable wine tasting.
Have you ever tried ice wine before?