Niagara Wine Tour Suggestions?
We are planning a wine tour of Niagara, either 2 full days in June or a week in July-August, What wineries, food shops restaurants should we hit?
We are looking for value (wine and restaurants). We can't afford the best of the best, although we will indulge for quality.We love fresh artisanal products that are off the beaten path.
We like white, red and dessert wines equally, we have heard nice things about Ontario wines, but most of them don't it across the Quebec border :o)
So where should we go?
P.S. I would ask for hotel recommendations, but the moderators might delete message :o)
P.P.S. Will trade Quebec cheese & ice cider for local delicacies.
Food wise, I second Gourmando's recommendation for About Thyme Bistro in Vineland. Great fruit can be found in season at Whitty Farms on 4th Avenue in Pelham/Jordan Station. Check out Vinifera for Life, a small business in Jordan specializing in Cabernet Flour.
Winery-wise, I agree with the recommendations of Calamus, 13th Street, and Lenko for off-the-beaten path facilities. I would also include Rancourt in NOTL, Ridgepoint in Vineland, The Ice House in Queenston (icewine), and Mountain Road Wine Co. in Beamsville.
Tried some excellent wines from Hidden Bench in Beamsville recently. The winery should be open for business come June 1st (www.hiddenbench.com). Also, Legends Estates still have several different varietals from the '02 vintage available in their store. The Cab. Franc Icewine, Cab. Franc reserve, Chardonnay, and Chenin Blanc range from good to very good/exceptional.
You've gotten some great recommendations so far, so I'll focus on three things you mentioned:
Food Shops - Olson Foods & Bakery in Port Dalhousie and DeLuca's Cheese in Niagara on the Lake ("NOTL"). Both carry an extensive range of cheeses; the latest I tried and loved was the excellent Commisaire from Quebec, from DeLuca's. It had a multiple personality (crumbly parts, creamy parts, and tangy parts) that was delightful! Willow Cakes & Pastries in NOTL is superb, and there is a great new bakery in Fonthill called De La Terre, which does wonderful organic breads, sweets, and light lunches.
Local Delicacies - Upper Canada Cheese Company in Jordan Station makes a couple of quite nice cow's milk cheeses; they are our only local cheese company, but in one of the food shops you should try any cheese from Monforte Dairy near Stratford. If you can find any prosciutto or cured meats from the Pingue family, they are fabulous. Apart from wines, we are also known for tender fruit, and depending on when you are here, our cherries and peaches are especially good. Look for produce from Wyndym Farm on the menus in the restaurants; they do some really interesting veggies that are not presently available elsewhere.
Value Restaurants - There is a good focus on local ingredients at the restaurants already mentioned. Other good (and great value) choices would include About Thyme Bistro in Vineland, the Epicurean in Niagara on the Lake, PowWow in St. Catharines, and the Niagara Culinary Institute Dining Room at Niagara College.
I'll trade just about anything for Quebec cheese & ice cider!
After several trips to Niagara, I would say that you should see Daniel Lenko winery to experience a small producer, Flat Rock winery for the excellent Pinot Noirs (and delicious Riesling, too) and Stratus for the world-class "Green" winery and white wines (especially white blend and Riesling icewine). Niagara-On-The -Lake is a must visit for B&B lovers and it is such a quaint town. Tony DeLuca's restaurant in the Oban Inn there is as good as it gets for fine dining.
As a general comment: Try the Reislings and the Icewines. To me they are what Niagara wineries do best. The Reislings are not as sweet as Germans, so the style is different, and i prefer it like that. Also try the Baco Noir. It is a hybrid that was rough and cheap several years ago but has gained respect through some nice crafting. Naturally the prices have gone up bu not crazily.
I second Stratus, though it is pricy. Their wines are very complex blends and terriffic. I would buy cases if I had the dough.
I also second the Malivoire Ladybug Rose. It is better than the name suggests.
Vineland Estates is great for lunch, sitting outdoors on the patio overlooking the vineyard.
Lailey Vineyards has made some world-class oaked Chards that in good years can approach a good Meursault.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is a pretty town. There are lots of B & B's there, cheaper than the Hotels. A lot of nice restaurants as well.
The Shaw Festival is also in Niagara-on-the-lake if you want to see a play.
The drive along the Niagara river is pretty between Niagara-on-the-lake and The Falls.
If you get a craving for wings, go to Honey's in Niagara Falls US.
Now, two questions for you: Who makes the better ciders in Quebec, aside from the ice ciders, and who makes some interesting unpasteurized cheeses? I will be driving out to PEI and back with time to make a few stops.
re: Scary Bill
Just returned from a couple of days there. Had a great time. For lunch/dinner would recommend Treadwell in Port Dalhousie (or Port Daloozie as the locals call it). Food is outstanding and the sommelier works very hard to promote smaller wineries to great effect. There is also a bar menu available which looked very tempting.
In NOTL itself, we ate at Stone Road Grille and again were very pleased with the menu. Loved the duck confit, good selection of wines by the glass. Would concur with the wineries mentioned above and would add Flatrock Cellars - very good pinot noir. The sommelier at Treadwell also recommended 13th Street winery for their cava, but unfortunately it is only open on Saturdays. As for accommodation, we were very happy with our B & B at the Logan House in NOTL.
re: Scary Bill
My favorites non-ice ciders are from Cidrerie Michel Jodoin (their rosé cider made from red fleshed apples is fantastic), Cidrerie et Verger Pedneault and Verger Henryville. None of them are easily accessible if you are driving through. The easiest place to get them is in Montreal.
For cheese, my favorites (again not near T-can, but can be found at some supermarkets and ANY vaguely reputable cheese shops in Quebec) are Pied-de-Vent, Victor et Berthold Chèvre noir Sheep's Milk aged cheddar (this one is pasturized), Cru du Clocher (raw milk aged cheddar).
Feel free to experiment and visit the Montreal Chow board for other people's opinions.
Peninsula Ridge has some gorgeous cheese for tasting- and a beautiful facility/restaurant- i'd definitely go there for a tastingt
Thirty Bench does a nice 45-minute guided tasting and sells these great booze filled chocolates
I'd definitely go to Daniel Lenko's- he pretty much only sells wine by the case...this year he had a few bin ends for single sale- it is such a different experience from the bigger wineries and provides a chance to sit at the kitchen table and chat with the guy who makes the wine- cool!
Stratus has a pretty impressive facility- worth seeing-
I'd go to Vineland...but i wouldn't eat there- just do a tasting
Angel's Gate is a nice room and they have a sweet patio to grab a drink or a quick bite on
Make it out to calamus if you can- they;ve got a couple of gold-medal whites this year...and again provide a contrast to the larger places- Calamus is pretty much in a barn.
I guess those would be my top picks....