Who knew the Niagara region of Canada was so well-known for their wine? Certainly not me. That said, now that I know, I’ve been spoiled for life. I’m pretty sure even a trip to Napa Valley here in the states wouldn’t match up to the wonderful time we had in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada.
If you have a long weekend to explore, you can find my itinerary on a previous post here. Put your relaxation pants on because Niagara-on-the-Lake is full of charming houses, gorgeous wineries and green space for days.
We used this map a lot while there, but please note it is most definitely not to scale. But, it gives you a good reference of how many wineries are in the region.
Below are a few of my favorite Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries. As I mentioned previously, there are 88 total wineries, so it’s pretty much impossible to hit all of them on one trip. But if you do, I want to hear about it. In fact, I’ll give you a gold star and feature you here on this blog, you alcoholic, you.
We stopped at Small Talk Vineyards on our way into Niagara-on-the-Lake because the hubster knows my affinity for hard cider. Small Talk is a colorful setup with lots of fun quotes adorning their walls and bright porch. Each wine or cider has a good pun regarding “small talk” that made this copywriter’s heart happy. They are particularly known for their cider and it did not disappoint.
Try: Shiny Apple Cider and Shiny Pinot Cider
Tip: If you’re coming to Niagara-on-the-Lake from the west, this is a great place to hit up on your way in.
This was the first winery we hit on our personal bike tour and it ended up being my favorite. We had a wonderful tasting guru named Dave who pointed us in the right direction for wines. Stratus Winery is an organic winery that takes pride in that fact — and rightfully so. It’s a tough feat to grow organically when surrounding vineyards that don’t. I personally fell in love with the Gamay red wine. It was just the right amount of medium-body and the perfect amount of peppery undertones for me. Did that just sound like a snotty sommelier? Good.
Try: The 2014 Stratus Gamay
Tip: On certain days you can do wine tastings out on the deck in the back.
It’s my namesake people, so of course it would make the list. Caroline Cellars is basically a huge, rustic barn with a large restaurant, The Farmhouse Cafe. We made our way into the tasting area, after passing some swag that, duh, I bought. I really appreciated the particular font chosen and the kerning used. You can take a girl on vacation away from marketing, but you can’t take marketing out of the girl. The tastings at Caroline Cellars are actually free, which was a welcome surprise. Caroline Cellars is known more for their reds than their whites and we really like their Farmer’s Red and Cabernet Franc. It was a bit crowded about 10 minutes after we arrived because a busload of people came too. But that’s not unusual for any winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake really with busloads coming and going on their scheduled tours.
Try: The 2013 Cabernet Franc and their seasonal Farmer’s Red.
Tip: Grab some Caroline swag. Everyone could use more Caroline in their life.
Just a beautiful bike ride down the Niagara Parkway, on the outskirts of town, you’ll find Inniskillin. We arrived about an hour before they were closing, grabbed a quick glass and sat underneath one of the few tables that still had an umbrella open. It seemed that arriving even an hour before closing meant they kinda sorta wanted to let you know that they were really closing at 6pm, since employees walked around and closed table umbrellas even as we were still sitting at a table. I know the hubster rolled his eyes at me, but I am my father’s child and that really annoyed me and put a bad taste in my mouth about Inniskillin. All that aside, the employees on the inside were helpful and friendly. They are well-known for their ice wine, so we decided to do a tasting and while they were good — it just wasn’t my jam. So, so sweet!
Try: Belly up to their ice-wine tasting bar.
Tip: Don’t arrive an hour before they close.
With probably the prettiest entrance of all the wineries we explored, Two Sisters exemplified the stereotypical winery appearance. Because of this, it’s one of the most popular properties. They are well-known for their sprawling porch out back, where you can eat at their popular restaurant, Kitchen76. We came between lunch and dinner and shared a flatbread margherita pizza that was delicious. If that was just their small menu, I can imagine the full shebang is quite exceptional.
Try: 2014 Sauvignon Blanc. (We bought 2 bottles.)
Tip: Even if there is a wait, it’s totally worth it to have a glass of wine and a meal outside on their porch.
This one is the hubster’s favorite winery and I can’t blame him. It was gorgeous, but still warm enough that you left with a homey-feeling. We hit up Ravine on our way back from Niagara Falls. It’s a touch too far (for us) by bike from the center of town, where we were staying at the Olde Angel Inn. They have hearth fire pizza on their patio in the back, with killer views of the vineyards.
Try: 2016 RosÃ© and The local Lowrey Bros Hard Cider (they had peach while we were there – delicious!)
Tip: Go there for lunch and sit on their patio out back — share a wood oven pizza too.
On our bike ride back into town from Inniskillin, we popped into Reif at the recommendation of Dave from Stratus Winery. Reif has a beautiful porch in the front and a really pretty interior wine tasting section. Our wine tasting guru was helpful and friendly, without being overly pushy.
Try: 2015 Sauvignon Blanc and 2016 Gamay Cabernet
Tip: If you’re riding on your bike, you can leave your purchases here and swing by to grab them on your way out of town.
Overall, like I mentioned before, you really can’t make a bad choice for any of the wineries in the area. There’s so many to choose from that you’re sure to find one that tickles your wine fancy.
Have you ever been to Niagara-on-the-Lake? Which were your favorite wineries?