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Niagara Winery Tours? (Planning ahead)

Which are the best wineries in the Niagara region to tour? I'm trying to plan ahead for the summer months...I haven't been in a while and I'd love to head down with a few people for tours and tastings. I'm interested in the "atmosphere", the tours, the flexibility (do you have to book in advance?), the quality of tastings (location, cost, amount, availability, etc.) and general experience...as well as the quality of the wine, of course:).

Oh - and also, are any of the associated restaurants worth recommending?

Thanks so much in advance!

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    1. I would recommend a couple.

      Stratus is situated in a great modern building off the parkway. They have some impressive red blends, red not being an Ontario strength quite yet. Also, they have the most complex white (Stratus White, a blend) I've ever had. We bought several bottles. It's all gravity fed technology. Not sure that does anything useful, but it's entertaining. Not up to speed on their tour situation.

      30 Bench, which is much more on the Toronto/Hamilton end of the wine area, is a very small place that does great Riesling's. They offer good tastings. Tours would be short based on the size, but they are friendly. Ask for Alex if he is there. He'll get a kick out of it.

      As for restaurants, let me plug two:
      1. Treadwell's, in Port Dalhousie, has a great tasting menu paired with Ontario wines.
      2. Springbank House, in St. Catherine's, is not a restaurant per se. It is a B+B where one of the owner's, Stefan, is a fantastic chef. Great old home with fabulous history, hospitality (a nice dog, for you dog lovers and allergic types), and a fabulous chef who will do dinner for you.

      Bon appetite, J

      1. further to my post:

        if you've not done too many tours, i recommend do one of the "big" guys to get a feel for the whole process - vine to cellar to bottle, etc. either Hillebrand or Jackson Triggs, I'd choose Hillebrand, since tasting is included in the price.

        definately do Stratus if you're in the NOTL end. the wines are PRICEY but worth it. Ditto 30 bench.

        for lunch, if it's summer you're looking at, do the Coach House Cafe at Henry of Pelham, or Zooma Zooma Cafe in Jordan.

        for small wineries, with GREAT wines and some good values, my faves are Marynissen in NOTL, Flat Rock in the Jordan area, and Malivoire and Fielding Estates in Beamsville. i've had really great personal experiences with the tasting staff at these places.

        i've had stunning food at On the 20 with mediocre service, and one of my top five meals ever at vinelands estates restaurant.

        i've stayed at Inn on the Twenty in Jordan, and a B&B called the Black Walnut Manor in vineland. i'd recommend either depending on your price range and whether you're looking for a boutique inn or a more homey experience.

        1. I did the Jackson Triggs "Savour the Sights" last summer and it was great. They served about 6 courses, each course in a different part of the winery. The main course is served in the oak barrel cellar by candelight, sparkling wine in the entrance, appetizer with the steel wine vats...you get the idea. Each course is paired with an accompanying wine. Normally I am not a fan of Jackson Triggs wine, but they paired them so well and pulled out a few special vintages you can't buy at the store for our night so we were pleasantly surprised. The food was incredibly prepared--I still remember the vegatable lasagna with ultra-thin sliced veggies in a beautiful, colourful stack that tasted wonderful. It is expensive but the wine does flow freely all evening, and the food is superb. It was a memorable experience. Here is a link: http://cms.jacksontriggswinery.com/Se...

          1. Vineland Estates is absolutely gorgeous and the food is fantastic.
            http://vineland.com/

            Hillebrand's new restaurant is utterly breathtaking. Check out the two-storey open-air pagoda with fireplaces. I haven't had the food.
            http://www.hillebrand.com/

            Avoid Inn on the Twenty.

            2 Replies
            1. re: grilledcheese

              just had lunch at Hillebrand on Sunday- scallop starter and cassoulet main- could not have been more impressed. in a region with lots of so-so food at high prices, i'd really recommend you check this place out for food.Service was amazing, room is beautiful. Food was fantastic.

              1. re: nummanumma

                Yeah, the service was outstanding. Our waitress matched wines by the course for us. We let her have free reign and it was spectacular.