Its that time of the year – Wine tasting season. How else can you spend a lazy day on a budget with friends, than cycling from one winery to another tasting the best of the summer wines that Niagara has to offer. The question however is, where do I go? How do I get there? How much does it cost?
Where else to start than the Niagara Wine Region. This is situated in Canada’s largest megalopolis – The Golden Horseshoe. The Niagara wine region starts from Beamsville in the Niagara Escarpment to Niagara-on-the-lake. Beamsville is an easy 45 minutes drive from Toronto on the QEW highway.
The Niagara wine region is known as the largest source of Icewine in the world. The cold temperatures in the region provide excellent conditions for producing this sweet dessert wine. There are over 80 wineries in the region growing different varieties of grapes such as Merlot, Cabernet franc, Pinot noir, and Riesling to name a few.
With such a variety of wines to taste lets visit the top 5 places to get started.
Beamsville Wine Tasting
The Beamsville area is known for french wines. This is a great area to pick up a nice Riesling, Pinot Noir or Cabernat Franc. There are a cluster of wineries within easy cycling distance of each other. Spend a day sampling the wines in this area. Notable wineries to check out are listed below.
Thirty Bench Wine Makers is a great place to start. This is known for its award winning Riesling. Wine tasting here is quite the experience. They take their time to explain the type of wines they offer and answer any questions on wines in the region. They offer a seated wine tasting experience for $15 which is complimentary for members. Otherwise you can try 3 wines for $10.
Walking distance, across the road from thirty bench wine makers is Angels Gate. The property at Angels Gate used to be owned by the Congregation of Christian Sisters. The mission-style build was designed to commemorate them. Here, you can choose 3 wines to taste for $5. Tasting is free when you purchase $50 of wine.
Right beside Angels Gate is Rosewood Estate Winery. Stop by this winery and try out its bee experience and tour. For $40 per person you will get a tour of the winery , bee yard, and tasting of 4 wines.
If you still have energy at the end of the day try the London Born Wine Company. This London-born family produce British inspired bold, fruitful wines. Try their restaurant or check their website for their list of events.
Where to Eat in Beamsville:
Smoke and Moonshine: High quality BBQ menu, good budget prices, and great tacos. The SAM Big BBQ platter is a favorite for larger groups willing to share. Beamsville area 5 minutes drive from Thirty Bench Wine Makers.
Vineland Wine Tasting
The community of Vineland is just east of Beamsville. Its dominated by Italian wineries using the Italian Appasimento wine processing technique. The wineries here are more spread out, so be prepared to put aside a day driving or cycling from one to the other.
A good place to start is Foreign Affair Winery. It is known for its white wines made in the Italian Appassimento technique. Even the tasting rooms are inspired by the Tuscan style architecture. Tasting fees are based on the wines you select, they offer a barrel cellar tasting session of 4 wines for $15. Book in advance for this.
GreenLane Estate Winery is a short drive down the road from Foreign Affair Winery. This is a great place to stop, relax on the patio and eat a light snack. Try out some of their whites, rose, and reds paired with some cheese or chocolate. Tasting fees are $5 for 3 classic wines from their wine list. They also offer tours of their winery for $5 per person.
Redstone Winery is one of the latest projects from Tawse Wineries. This location has already been named Winery of the year in 2017. Visit the restaurant for lunch or some fine dining. Keep an eye on the event calendar and stay for the live performance concerts during the summer.
Tasting fees are $8 for a flight of 4 wines. Fees are waived with the purchase of a bottle of wine.
Stoney Ridge Estate Winery is a good place to end the day on their outdoor patio. Check out their celebrity wine brands such as The Tragically Hip wine and Doug Gilmore bin 93. Tasting fees are $1 for a single sample of table wines and $5 for Ice wine.
Campden Wine Tasting
A visit to the wineries of Campden close to Beamsville is a chance to explore the hiking trails of the Niagara escarpment. The escarpment is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. If you have a chance stop by the Devils punch bowl 120 feet deep waterfall in the Stoney Creek area.
A good way to start a day of wine tasting in this area is at the Megalomaniac. Sitting on the highest altitude site on the escarpment in the Niagara region the view from this winery is breathtaking, and not to mention the wines are very rich tasting. They are known for their Chardonnay and Cabernet. Tasting fees are $10 for 4 wines. Tasting is free if you spend $40 worth of wine.
Ridgepoint Wines is next door to Megalomaniac. This Italian family focuses on making wines in the Appasimento and Ripasso styles. They are known for their Nebbiolo Italian red wine grape and Corvina light to medium body wines. Ridgepoint also has a decently priced Italian restaurant (open Wed – Monday 1130 am – 4pm).
Across the road from Megalomaniac is Tawse Winery. This state-of-the-art winery has been voted Canada’s winery of the year 4 times. Enjoy live music each weekend this summer in the wine garden at Tawse. Definitely a great place to unwind at the end of the day with a glass of Burgundy or Cider.
Niagara-on-the-lake Wine Tasting
The town of Niagara-on-the-lake is known not only for its wineries but also for its heritage district and the summer Shaw festival. A day trip here can easily be stretched to 3 days. It is about an hour and a half drive from Toronto on the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) and 30 minutes away from Niagara Fallsview Casino.
There are about 37 wineries in Niagara-on-the-lake. This makes it a great destination for wine tours by bike. With so much to choose from we would focus on a few notable ones you can complete in a one day tour.
Southbrook Vineyards occupies the very impressive modern building on Niagara Stone Road just 5 minutes from the QEW highway as you head into Niagara-on-the-lake. Make this place the starting point for your wine tour in this region. They are a certified organic and biodynamic winery. It’s a good place to taste a selection from Pinot noir, Merlot, Cabernet franc rose, or Chardonnay.
Wayne Gretzky Estates is one of the newest wineries in the region opening in Spring 2017 just down the road from Southbrook. This winery features not only wines but also whiskeys and beers. Saturday nights throughout the summer they have music nights with a DJ on the patio. They also offer a 45-minute guided all-senses engaged tasting experience for $39 per person.
Wine tasting starts from $8 for a flight of 3 wines. Tasting is free is you make a purchase over $25.
Next door to Wayne Gretzky Estates is Trius Winery. Trius is an award-winning winery and one of the wine-making pioneers in the area. They have a wide selection of fine VQA wines made from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Merlot grapes. Trius has a number of events throughout the summer including music every Friday night on the patio by local artists.
Wine tasting starts from $8 for a flight of 3 wines. Complimentary wine tasting for wine club members with up to 5 guests.
The best way to end the day on a wine tour is by drinking Icewine at Stratus Vineyards. This winery is a 5-minute drive down the road from Trius. Enjoy “terrace toasts” in their beautiful tasting rooms overlooking the vineyard as you sample the selection of stratus red, stratus white, or Icewine.
Wine tasting is $15 for a flight of 4 wines. For $25 per person try their “vineyard sip” and stroll tour.
If you are in the area on a 2-day hiking tour try the German wineries along the Lakeshore Trail. Suggested itinerary:
NOMAD – Picturesque property with award-winning Riesling.
Konzelmann Estate – Exclusive lakefront property with a scenic view of the Lake. Tour and tasting from $10.
Jackson-Triggs – One of Canada’s most architecturally stunning wineries. They host summer concert events in the open-air amphitheater.
Peller Estate – Taste Icewine in an Igloo-like lounge or fine dining in the winery restaurant.
St Davids Wine Tasting
The former village of St Davids now forms one of the communities of Niagara-on-the-lake. Wineries in this area are known for the German wines – Riesling and Gewurztraminer.
Wineries to tour on a day trip in this area include:
Ravine Vineyard – This family-owned farm now operates as a winery focusing on Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay. This is a great location for wedding and corporate events. Try local farm-fresh products at the restaurant.
Wine tasting is $8 for a flight of 3 wines. The tasting fee is waived with the purchase of two bottles of wine.
Chateau des Charmes. Well worth going for the view of the chateau itself. This is an impressive large french country house built on 35 acres of vines in the St Davids Bench. Try a variety of wines from Chardonnay, Gamay Noir ‘Droit’, Gewürztraminer, or Merlots.
Signature tasting flights are available for $10 per person, with a $5 credit towards same-day wine purchases. Try their wine-growing discovery tours for $15 per person.
Colaneri Wines. This is a family-owned winery in the St Davids Bench. The building is designed in a Romanesque style that reminds me of a large villa in Tuscany Italy. Sit outside on the walk-out patio and enjoy their wines made in the traditional Italian Appasimento style.
Wine tasting is $10 for a flight of 4 wines per person. The tasting fee is waived with the purchase of a bottle of wine.
PIlliteri Estates Winery – This winery is not in the St Davids bench but is definitely worth a visit as the world’s largest estate producer of ice wine. They are known for good quality wines with over 1000 awards. They offer tours three times daily (noon, 2pm, and 3pm) of their winery for the price of $5 per person.
Wine tasting is $5 for a flight of 4 wines per person. Icewine tasting is $10 for a flight of 3 wines.
Where to eat in Niagara-on-the-lake:
There are lots of restaurants downtown Niagara-on-the-lake close to Shaw Festival Theatre. Outside of that area, I would recommend the following
The Old Winery Restaurant and Bar ($$): Fresh Mediterranean cuisine inspired by the Italian countryside in a restored old winery building. This is located on Niagara Stone Road further down from Jackson-Triggs Winery.
Old Firehall restaurant ($$): Enjoy a decent priced burger or steak on the patio of this restaurant in St Davids. Its a short drive from Ravine Vineyard.
There are multiple agencies that provide Niagara wine tours from Toronto for different size groups. If you are in a small group looking for a completely private and customized experience from a tour guide that knows the history of the area, try Gold Tours. Not only do they cater to small groups they also provide a Niagara Falls tour. Prices are from $105 per person/$75 for children.
5 Day Wine Tour Itinerary
For a 5-day wine tour itinerary in the Niagara Region, check out our other blog post.