Until this past April the only wine I associated with “The Great White North” was that oddity called Icewine. My wife had never been to Niagara Falls, so we made the now-short trek to this amazing natural wonder. If you’ve been there you know… the “wonders” don’t end at the edge of the water. Niagara Falls has become home to some of the most bizarre tourist attractions of any place on earth. From Ripley’s Believe It or Not to at least half a dozen wax museums. Needless to say, we grew weary of the town surrounding the Falls rather quickly. So we decided to explore a bit…
Niagara on the Lake is the next community north of Niagara Falls. It is a different world. “Bucolic” is an apt description. Beautiful, open space, quaint, and VINEYARDS!!! Not only that — WINERIES!!!
It was late afternoon following a visit to the cool butterfly conservatory. We drove past a couple of winery signs. So we stopped in. To be honest, I had very low expectations. Sure, we’d find some sweet and over-priced Icewine. And anything else would be perfumy Koolaid-like juice. Was I in for a surprise! We tasted half a dozen very sophisticated varietals and blends. This wasn’t just fun afternoon wine tasting — this was excellent wine! How do they do this with such harsh winter on the vines??? And how come nobody has told me about these wines before? And why is it already 4:30pm?!? The wineries are closing!!!
So we trekked back the next day and spent the whole day exploring a handful of the dozens of wineries of the Niagara Peninsula (from Niagara on the Lake on the east to Grimsby and Beamsville on the west). It was a successful trip indeed! Lots of simply outstanding wines, tastings with the winemakers, and several cases to bring home with us. It reminded me of the Santa Ynez Valley (California) wineries before they became a destination for tour buses. People with passion growing terra-appropriate grapes and making the best wines possible from the rich fruit. Some of these folks aren’t even producing a cash-cow Icewine! (My favorite description of the process of making Icewine from one of the varietal wine makers: “It’s like pressing ball bearings trying to extract enough juice to make something that shouldn’t be made from ball bearings.”)
Some of my favorite wineries from our April visit: Kacaba, Creekside, Riverview, and Pillitteri. There are several other wineries I can’t wait to visit. And I’ll be going back to these, for sure. I’ll post some tasting notes from these wines in the near future. I reviewed the 2005 Riverview Baco Noir earlier: Read Review
I highly recommend an adventure to the Niagara Peninsula and the wines of Ontario!
Check out the Niagara Peninsula on this website: Wines of Ontario Website