NOTL - Your favourite wineries?
In Niagara- Definitely Marynissen.
on the wine route (you could visit on your way to or from Niagara)
Definitely Henry of Pelham (and it's a lovely place to have lunch).
and at the riverbend you're next door to peller, so you may as well go for dinner there as the food is quite good.
Not sure exactly what you're looking for, but...
When we're out there we tend to visit small wineries whose products aren't (and probably won't ever be) available in the LCBO. The last trip we we really impressed by the rieslings at Cattail Creek and the Gewurtz at the Organized Crime Winery, amongst others.
That said, these are pretty small operations with not a lot to see - mostly just a tasting room to stop, taste and buy.
We've visited Niagara for business and recreation about 4 times in the last 6 months. We really love it there.
Our favourite winery, each and every time, is Riverview Cellars (http://www.riverviewcellars.com/). We find the staff friendly, knowledgeable, and their wines are well made. Last time I was there (about 2 weeks ago), I tried a newly released Chardonnay that was a blend of oaked and unoaked grapes. Loved it. Also try the Fontana Dolce, a really unique off-dry red.
We also enjoy Coyote's Run and Strewn.
My suggestion would be to stay away from the "big boys", Peller, Hillebrand, Inniskillen, etc. I find their staff to be less trained, and sometimes unenthusiastic about wine. Geez, if you're taking the trouble to go visit, at least they should recognize your effort to come see them!
Oh, I also second the suggestion for Stone Road Grille. It's in a non-descript plaza, but boy is that food amazing. Nice wine pairing suggestions too. Also, the Niagara Culinary Institute at Niagara College is outstanding - service, food and wine. You can find out more here: http://www.niagaracollege.ca/features...
Enjoy your trip!
Here's a very lengthy thread from last summer that's still pretty current:
I would update my comments from August with the following:
* Hidden Bench: everything I've opened from my purchases last year there has indeed been great, including the reds (which had been sitting in the cellar up until recently). The 2005 Estate Pinot Noir is especially nice, really reminded me of a Volnay: delicate, floral, ripe and round cherry and strawberry flavours...
* The new 2005 Stratus wines are back on form (I liked the 2004 white, but wasn't a big fan of the 2004 red wines when I originally tasted them. For what it's worth, I did try the Stratus 2004 Red recently from a magnum at the winery at it had improved a lot from when I had tried it a couple of years ago). Charles Baker's 2006 Riesling is also very good.
* The new vintage of Thirty Bench's single vineyard and estate Rieslings are great, again (2006).
* Last week I tried some of the Tawse 2006 vintage wines, including the Estate Pinot Noir and the Echos Bistro Red and White wines. I was very, very pleasantly surprised with the quality of the wines, especially the Pinot Noir and the Echos Red (a primarily Cab Franc-based blend). For a really lousy year in Niagara (a cool, grey Summer, a wet, cold Fall), especially for red varietals, these wines were extremely well made. Pascal Marchand (a very well-known Burgundy winemaker who is now overseeing the winemaking at Tawse in a consulting role) is doing really good things here. The wines seem more in balance and more elegant than those made under Deb Paskus.
In fact, it's been really noticeable with the 2006 vintage how much many Niagara wineries have stepped up their game in recent years. In the past a year like 2006 would have been a complete disaster, but many wineries produced very good wines, despite the adverse growing season and rainy harvest.
* Malivoire's 2005 Pinot Noirs are very good as well, especially the 2005 Moira Vineyard.
* Le Clos Jordanne: these wines continue to be really, really impressive. The 2005 Chardonnays seem to have outshone the 2005 Pinot Noirs in the most recent vintage release, but all around, every wine they make is very good to great...
On the way out I have always found Vineland Estates to be great hosts. My parents constantly serve their cab/merlots. And Tawse makes awesome wines.
In NOTL, the Speck brothers at Henry of Pelham are passionate.
Looking out from the Riverbend Inn across the vineyard is Peller. Tasting menu with wines is very good (and not too far a cab ride!).
Or of course their is the fudge store...
re: Cam D
LOL!! Thanks everyone for the great suggestions and detailed info, esp. Lemon Lauren, cynalon and cybergod. I will map out all of this and see what we can reasonably accomplish in 24 hours. We're staying at the Riverbend Inn and our plan is to have dinner there as well. I love On the Twenty but don't want to spend the entire day eating, so for lunch, it may be a quick bite somewhere.
We really need to be doing this more often so we are not cramming everything in. I hope to go to Tawse, really enjoyed the Echos Bistro White, Cave Springs for some Chardonny Musque, Le Clos Jordanne and we'll see what else. Oh and of course, FUDGE!! Thanks Cam D.
Oh, so much to say.
Here is my write-up of my trip to NOTL:
Here is my write-up of my trip to Vineland:
if you've not done too many wine tours before, 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. The views, architecture, the whole "green" thing - really nice place and people.
for lunch, if it's summer you're looking at, do the Coach House Cafe at Henry of Pelham, or year-round the Zooma Zooma Cafe in Jordan. affordable and chow-worthy.
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.
sooo that's my two cents.
Now you're talkin' 'bout my turf Millygirl. Living in Burlington and being so close to NOTL and the Shaw Festival we spend many a weekend in Niagara. My favourite wineries are:
Peller Estates - beautiful chateau with excellent tasting facilities. Knowledgeable, helpful staff. Often do not charge for samples. My absolute favourite Niagara Chardonnay - full bodied, barrel aged with soft buttery/toffee tones. If you're looking for a good meal, the verandah overlooking the vineyard is a very nice setting for an excellent, romantic dinner.
Strewn Winery - If you're into Riesling, they do a good job.
Chateau des Charmes - another winery built as a chateau. Excellent wines and tasting facilities. They have a few unusual grapes that you do not see elsewhere in Niagara, e.g. Viognier. A very special visit is in store of Madame Bosc, the co-owner happens to be in the gift shop.
Daniel Lenko - This one will seem like an unusual choice to many. The tasting area is actually the kitchen of a rather nondescript old house. You will not see this winery on the Wine Trail as they do not market themselves to a large degree. They survive on the basis of very good, quality wines. Try a few, you will not be disappointed. Located on Hwy 8 between Grimsby and Beamsville. A hidden gem.
Peninsula Ridge - excellent facilities in a scenic setting. On the bench overlooking the vineyard with Lake Ontario in the distance. Upper end wines in a very nice tasting centre.
Special Tip - If looking for a very good meal at reasonable prices compared to most of the toney eating establishments in NOTL look no further than Stone Road Grill. This is a smallish restaurant outside of the NOTL town centre that is an absolute favourite of the locals. Reservations are a must. It may be difficult to spot as it is in a strip mall and the old, old sign says nothing more that "rest". We make a point of going here a couple of times a year. Try it, you'll like it. Guaranteed!
I was there a few years ago when my office did a cycling wine tour. I think that they are only just now starting to have one or two of their wines available through the LCBO. Other than that you have to order through them.
Another thing to do is ask at the Inn where they recommend. Some of the smaller places that are in that area are really interesting!
It's been a little while since I visited the Niagara Wineries, but the ones we usually venture to are the ones where we like the wines, as in the examples below.
For example - we enjoy Peninsula Ridge (very nice show room and they have lots of wines to sample), Henry of Pelham (lots of opportunities to taste, but on the time we were there last, the staff was not greatly helpful even though it was quiet), and Cave Spring (we like the wines).
We have avoided Inniskillin the last few times - it is too busy and we never seem to get an opportunity to speak with the people at the winery about the wines and the grapes, etc