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Ontario Wine Tasting Best Bets?

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I feel like this has been discussed before, but sadly, CH's search engine is not the best...

Anyway, my wife and I are visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake for 4 days in July and would like to do some wine tasting. I have passing familiarity with upstate NY/Finger Lakes wines so I have some idea of what to expect, I think, but I know nothing about Ontario wines themselves. I see Inniskillin is in that area, and that will be a definite visit.

Otherwise, I have these questions:

1. What places would you recommend? We would prefer to focus on places that are primarily making high-quality wines with red and white "international" varietals as well as icewine. For instance, a selection like they have here: http://www.stonechurch.com/wines.html, rather than, say, "wines" made from fruit or that taste sweet (unless they are late-harvest or icewines).

2. Is it worth leaving Niagara-on-the-Lake area and travelling to other parts of the Ontario wine region? I printed out the guide from the winesofontario.com website and the map, but I just don't have a sense of the scale of the area -- or of where the "best" Ontario wines are located.

3. Does any place require a reservation or anything like that? Are there places that are not heavily promoted that are worth visiting?

4. Am I correct that the limit to bring back into the U.S. without paying duties is 6 bottles?

5. Any restaurant recommendations in Niagara-on-the-Lake would also be appreciated.

Thanks in advance for the help.

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  1. Now I remember what I meant in #1 - vinis vinifera grapes, not "international" varietals.

    1. You might find this Ontario board thread -- Favourite Niagara wineries to visit -- useful: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/406423

      The other main wine-growing area in Ontario is up-and-coming Prince Edward County, which I'd guess is about a four or five hour drive toward Quebec from the Niagara peninsula. Have yet to do the wine tour but have tasted a couple dozen wines from PEC producers and find they show considerable promise. Essentially a peninsula/island in Lake Ontario, it's quite scenic and reportedly has some dining and lodging options.

      2 Replies
      1. re: carswell

        Thank you - that is helpful.

        It seems from that thread that in addition to Inniskillin, 30 Bench and Daniel Lenko are well regarded. Are there others that are favorites of yours?

        1. re: jonasblank

          Am hardly an expert on Ontario wines, but in your shoes I'd probably also visit Stratus and see if I could score an appointment at Clos Jordanne.
          www.stratuswines.com
          www.leclosjordanne.com

      2. I thought I could help out. I work for Le Clos Jordanne and saw this post today. Inniskillin, Le Clos Jordanne, Jackson-Triggs, Stratus, Tawse, Fielding are a few of the wineries I would reccomend. As for the amount you can bring back. It is pretty easy, you have the ability to bring back two bottles, however the amount they charge duty per bottle is about 40 cents a bottle beyond that. This means that you can bring back a lot and not have to pay much, if any. Generally the amount is not enough for them to do the paperwork.

        If you are interested in Le Clos Jordanne, let me know as you do have to book tastings as we are not open to walk ins.

        Hope this helps,

        Del

        1. I hope this reply is not too late for you. My husband and I often take a Saturday trip to that area. You must try to visit Cattail Creek and Lailey Vineard in Niagara on the Lake. They're two of the smaller vineards but they have excellent wines. You may also want to try Rancourt. They have some of the oldest vines in the area there is real history there. I hope you get to speak with Mme Rancourt if you go. We've actually not had great experiences at Stratus. You might also want to take a trip to the "Bench" - a region just outside of Niagara on the Lake near Beamsville. It's no more than a 30 minute drive away from Niagara on the Lake I think. Kacaba Vineards has some great stuff.

          As for restaurant recommendations, Stone Road Grille is fabulous. It looks like nothing from the outside (in a strip mall), but the atmosphere on the inside is both funky and warm. The food is incredible and you might get some ideas for vineards to visit as they have a great selection of local wines.

          Hope you have a great trip!

          1 Reply
          1. re: lynng

            Thanks! No, not too late - going over 4th of July, so still plenty of time. Have my Stone Road reservation booked... Thanks for the winery recs as well, I'll add those to my list.

            Del- I'd be interested in a reservation at Le Clos Jordanne. My email is the same as my Chowhound handle, just add at gmail dot com to the end. If I don't hear from you, I'll just email the winery directly.