HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >


Canadian Wine Content Only Please

For those who truly appreciate the terroirs of Niagara, I'd like to probe fellow oenophiles on top wineries ... my SO and I have been to many, many, many, but want to make sure we're not missing some real gems ... and wine is an art, different people appreciate different aspects of wine, I'm not looking for total "accord" on which ones are the best. Some of our favs include:

Five Rows
13th Street
Hidden Bench
Foreign Affair

We've also enjoyed a few of the virtual wineries, e.g. Nyarai Cellars. Gems that may not be on the Wine Route map would be appreciated ...

(and yes, I know there are other great Canadian wine regions, but not for a day's outing from where we are)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I certainly enjoyed my trip to Thirty Bench.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dinwiddie

      Yes, they have some very respectable wines and the experience is a bit more intimate than with their sister wineries, Hillebrand and Peller, largely because their brand was defined long before they were taken over ...

    2. Skip Gretzky's, that's my only tip.

      12 Replies
        1. re: kaleokahu

          Sorry Coco, but IMHO none warrant a visit.

          I won't mention the taste since some may like it, but I can't get over the shameless amount of imported wine added to our wine (leaving our farmer's berry crop to rot on the vine), AND the ridiculous prices.

          Save your money and fly to Napa / Sonoma, Italy, France, Chile, Argentina, ...

          1. re: PoppiYYZ

            The OP clearly asked about local wines. I'm sure only a few low end operations such as Magnotta blend in foreign juice.

            1. re: PoppiYYZ

              "but I can't get over the shameless amount of imported wine added to our wine"

              Sorry PoppiYYZ... but I'm going to have to call you on this.

              All of the wineries mentioned above produce VQA wines, which, last time I checked, allow for the addition of exactly 0% foreign fruit.

              So, while the wines of Niagara may not be to your personal taste, it's probably best to get your facts correct before making such sweeping, and utterly uninformed, statements?

              Oh... and I'd add Stratus, Malivoire, and Southbrook to that list!

              1. re: Non Doctor

                Yep. What he said.

                And I'd also throw Lailey onto the list to visit.

                1. re: TorontoJo

                  Understood, and I respect that some may favour supporting local wine makers.

                  There are total of 140 licensed wineries and 108 make VQA. MOST also make the previously mentioned "blends" along with their VQA. Allowing "blending" (up to 70%) just seems deceptive (at best). Ask grape producers what they think.

                  There still remains the price issue (again without commenting on the taste).

                  1. re: PoppiYYZ

                    Hey PoppiYYZ ... I follow many of your threads and respect much of your taste ... but this thread was intended for people who appreciate the terroirs of Niagara ...

                    1. re: CocoTO

                      Apologies Coco. I'm very disappointed with the wine making regulations and many of the practices, but I understand that not all local winemakers should be lumped together. Sorry for the diversion of your thread.

                    2. re: PoppiYYZ

                      Huh? Where does your information come from. I'd be very surprised if anywhere near "most" of the wineries in Ontario were making blends with imported juice.

                    3. re: TorontoJo

                      Second the recommendation for Lailey. Very small, very personal and personable. Hubby and I had a very informative tour there that was just for the two of us. How they do it there, apparently. No such thing as a huge group being taken through by someone who was hired for the summer and has memorized their lines.

                  2. re: PoppiYYZ

                    Like I said ... wine is like art - to each his own ... we avoid the wines where they use imported grapes and we love going to Napa/Sonoma/Italy/France etc for wine as well

                    1. re: CocoTO

                      Yes... it is very easy to avoid aforementioned international blends... simply buy VQA!

                  1. re: sloweater

                    agreed! And closson chase, which is based in PEC but has some outstanding single vineyard chardonnays from niagara.

                    1. re: sloweater

                      Stratus crafts brilliant wines and has an architectural gem of a winery. However, I find their tasting room staff and presentation so pretentious that I can't stand going there anymore.

                      Just my 0.02.

                    2. Shhh...don't go telling everybody about Five Rows, or soon there will be none for us!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: bogie

                        psst - thought long and hard about "outing" them but in the end, really want them to do well ;-)

                      2. Also, I would add Organized Crime to your list.

                        Tawse constantly amazes me, every single wine of theirs that I've ever tasted has been excellent.

                        I love Creekside, not only for their Undercurrents program but also for great value everyday wines like their shiraz, sauvignon blanc and Butler's Grant riesling.

                        1 Reply
                        1. hey everyone ... really appreciate the input and just want to say that we've been to almost every mainstream winery in Niagara, like the ones suggested here, which I agree are also very good, even though they didn't make our Top 10 list ... really would love to hear about any of the ones that may not be in Wine Route book ...

                          (and yes, LOVE Closson Chase's Chardonnays ... Deborah Paskus is one of the best winemakers out there!)

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: CocoTO

                            staff winery? by sue-ann staff, though i think she's only not in the wine route book because she just opened this past year. i haven't been to many places that didn't eventually make it into the wine route book a couple years later or simply just do not have open tasting rooms which make it difficult to randomly come across.

                            i know you're looking for recommendations, but if you really want some unique options then your best bet is probably to scan the wine lists of smaller restaurants in the region and see what you don't recognize. it's how i came across coyote's run 5 years ago but they've been on the wine route map for the past couple of years now.

                            1. re: pinstripeprincess

                              Good one ... haven't visited her since she went out on her own, but have enjoyed some of her own label wines through friends ....

                              Here's a question ... last time we were in Niagara (about 3 weeks ago) we too quickly past by a tent-style road sign around Concession 5 or 6 (we were on our way to Coyote Run from Five Rows, so some where in there) and it looked like it might be a fledgling winery, but I could be mistaken ... anyone out there know - maybe Non Doctor?

                              Have gone though the local restaurant wine menus and usually pick James Treadwell's knowledge about new places ...

                              61 Lakeport Road, St. Catharines, ON L2N 4P6, CA

                              1. re: CocoTO

                                Was in Niagara yesterday and again went past the winery I was wondering about in my post above (it's on 4 Mile Creek Road) ... Between the Lines Winery ... anyone been? Any good? We would have stopped but were running late for our lunch reservation ...

                            2. re: CocoTO

                              The Sans Chene Chardonnay is delicious!

                            3. I've noticed a bit of uninformed nonsense here so I though I'd add my two cents:

                              1. Know what VQA is. It is even more restrictive than one would think : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vintners...

                              2. Read the label.

                              3. Understand the label.

                              4. If it isn't on the label, don't make assumptions.

                              5. If at the winery, ask the staff questions. You'd be surprised by some of the answers. (if they know the answer, as some are just hired hands


                              6. Understand the concept of value.

                              7. Read the labels of imported wine. Do you really know where the grapes came from? In many instances, no. The "wine lake" in Europe is pretty big, and results in a lot of crap being sold in shady ways.

                              Agree with many of the wineries mentioned, been a fan of Niagara and PEC for years.

                              1. What about Norman Hardie Winery in Prince Edward County? I really enjoyed my visit and the wines I purchased.


                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Full tummy

                                  Like what NH is doing, and want to love the reds in general out in PEC, but IMO, the vines out there are still too young ... in another five years or so they could be real contenders though, because Norman really does know what he's doing ...

                                2. It also just occurred to me that nobody has mentioned Daniel Lenko yet, excellent wines and tasting with him is a truly special experience.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: bogie

                                    not sure if i would call "cars" on a 52" screen 3 ft away from the wines... special... per se.

                                    1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                      PSP I'm confused. I've never tasted his wines or visited Lenko's winery. Could you elaborate?

                                      1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                        We've visited DL several times and it is unique ... you sit in his 70's style kitchen and his Dad serves you simple homemade snacks (eg. could be toast and jam) ... Daniel is very hospitable and enthusiastic and it's a totally charming experience, and yes, he makes quality wines to boot! His "art" could use some help, but hey, I think it adds to the charm of the experience too!

                                        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                          the wine sampling happens inside the house where there is a tiny u-shaped kitchen and then an eat-in section.

                                          i arrived with a few of my friends and i cannot say i was charmed with the experience the way others are. only daniel was there and he was more interested in watching cars on his new television hung in the dining section than really talking to us about wine. we were seated around the table and he poured when we asked but otherwise that was our interaction. i liked his wines but was not enamoured. we walked away with a case of his ice wine because he was selling it at a ridiculously reduced price. i was with people who buy wine from nearly every place we go to, if it weren't for the cheap bottles they would have left here with nothing and have no interest in going back.

                                    2. All of the wineries mentioned in the OP are solid, the only one I can think to add would be Flat Rock, really like their whites. Plus it's one of the best visits in the region esp with the food truck.

                                      1. I've enjoyed some VQA's from Konzelmann.

                                        1. I would add Organized Crime, Kacaba (there award winning Syrah), Featherstone, Stratus, and Le Clos Jordanne (their award winning pinots).

                                          The claim that no Ontario wines can measure up against the established wine producing regions in the world is simply wrong. Niagara produces some great world stage wines (I am a huge fan of Foreign Affair particularly).


                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: JPJ

                                            I don't really respect Kacaba anymore, they jacked up the price of their 2007 Syrah by $30 after it won red wine of the year.

                                            1. re: bogie

                                              That touches on my main problem with all Canadian wineries. To me most good or better wines are more than likely to be relatively higher priced than comparable imports. It takes a lot of hunting to find real value in Canadian wines.

                                              1. re: Scary Bill

                                                I agree with bogie's comment about Kacaba. I went to their tasting room just after their 07 Syrah won red wine of the year. I was intending to taste it and noted on the way in that the award was featured on their roadsise sign. The wine was on their tasting list with the bottle price. When I asked to taste it, they said, Oh, sorry, it's not available for tasting. Then, when I asked to confirm the price of a bottle, pointing to the price on the tasting list, they said, Oh. sorry, that must be a typo. I thought this was pretty ant-consumer behaviour. I wrote a complaint letter and they never responded. I'll never buy a bottle of their wine, no matter how many wards they win.

                                          2. I think it is fair to say that in Ontario we do a very good job of the white varietals (Riesling, Gewurst, Chardonnay to a certain degree, and blends thereof (Inniskilin's Late Autumn Riesling is nice). In terms of Red wine, Gamay seems to be quite successful (I enjoy the Henry of Pelham Gamay) but to tackle Cab Sauv, Syrah, or any other thick-skinned varietal, we need an atypically warm growing season; 2007 did meet the criteria. Hillebrand's '07 Trius Grand Red is very good, a touch expensive for an Ontario wine but this one will stand up to most Bordeaux labels in the same price range. Avoid the big Ontario reds in cool years, they risk tasting vegetal.