Celebrate National Chardonnay Day in Niagara

image001National Chardonnay Day is an annual send-up of the world’s most popular and most planted grape varietal. Marked every May on the 21st, National Chardonnay Day is the perfect excuse to book a vacation to Niagara, where you can find award-winning chardonnays from many of our area wineries.

While it originated in Burgundy, France, chardonnay is now grown and produced all over the world. A neutral-tasting grape, chardonnay is heavily influenced by the properties of the oak in which it is commonly barreled and the terroir in which it is grown.

Niagara Peninsula chardonnays have a flavor unique to the region that has made for some truly outstanding wines over the years. Here is a list of some of the best chardonnays in the area that you should imbibe during your National Chardonnay Day celebration.

The Empress by Reif Estate Winery, 2012

An unoaked chardonnay marked by bright citrus, this wine will give you a good sense of what a chardonnay grape grown in Niagara tastes like when it hasn’t spent any time trussed up by oak.

Unoaked chardonnays have been steadily growing in popularity, and while this wine won’t have any of the elements associated with stereotypical, big, oaky chardonnays, there’s something revealing about the microclimate and soil of Niagara in this wine.

Be sure to stop by Reif Estate between May 21 and May 24 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. for a complimentary tasting of their sparkling chardonnay — their way of toasting National Chardonnay Day.

Cuvee Catharine by Henry of Pelham, 2009

This sparkling, dry chardonnay is Blanc de Blanc, a bottling distinction reserved for only the finest juices. Hand-picked and entirely estate grown on the Short Hills Bench, it is whole cluster pressed and made according to the traditions of Champagne, which yields a remarkably complex and delicate sparkling wine.

Named after Henry’s wife, Catharine, this chardonnay is one of the least common experiences you can have with the grape. It boasts notes of citrus, sweet spices, baked bread and just a bit of acidity.

The Rusty Shed Chardonnay by Flat Rock Cellars, 2012

image003This Flat Rock Cellars’ chardonnay won a gold medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2014. Oaked and tank fermented, this complex wine comes from old vineyards along the Twenty Mile Bench, and the result is a big, creamy wine with notes of tropical fruit, hearty nuts, and toast, and it’s acidity is wonderfully balanced.

Enjoy it at the winery, and buy a case to take home. The winemaker’s notes indicate the wine will be improved with cellaring, which is remarkable considering how good it already is.

Village Chardonnay Reserve by Le Clos Jordanne, 2006

A winery that exclusively grows cool weather, ultra-premium pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, Le Clos Jordanne is a joint effort undertaken by the visionary leaders at Inniskillin and Jaffelin. Specialty rootstock was imported from France and planted in vineyards chosen for their terroir. The result is exceptional wine that includes this 2006 chardonnay. Notes of tart apple, earthy nuts, and fragrant peach mark this wine. Its finish is exquisite.

Celebrate the world’s favorite grape May 21 in Niagara at any number of the area’s fantastic wineries. Whether you choose the wines listed above or seek out your own, Niagara chardonnay is definitely worth toasting.

The Month of May Means Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Sip & Sizzle Is Here

image001Held every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday throughout the month of May, Sip & Sizzle is a great way for visitors to the Niagara region to familiarize themselves with the many excellent wineries in and around Niagara-on-the-Lake.

25 wineries participate in this unique tour that finds each one hosting what amounts to an afternoon spring tasting party. With chef-inspired, grilled food and a fabulous VQA wine pairing, each winery takes to wooing any and all comers who have purchased the $43 passport, which buys you food and a wine tasting at all 25 wineries throughout the month.

So, whether you come at the beginning of the month, the end, or both, you’ll be able to make your way through the list to enjoy some truly fine wines and food amidst some of the most beautiful countryside in North America. Here is a closer look at some of the wineries that will be participating in this year’s Sip & Sizzle, as well as the food and wine they’ll be serving.

PondView Estate Winery

One of the newer wineries in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region, PondView was started by Giuseppe Puglisi, who emigrated to Canada from Sicily, Italy back in 1974. Steeped in the old world growing and winemaking traditions, PondView Estate is now run by Luciano and Adriana Puglisi who continue to promote excellent wines enjoyed alongside excellent food.

This May, you can use your Sip & Sizzle passport to enjoy their 2012 PondView unoaked chardonnay and a chilled beef brisket endive salad with radishes, cucumbers, and carrots that’s been dressed with a creamy chardonnay dressing.

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery

Since 2001, Jackson-Triggs has produced some of the finest grapes and VQA wines in the region utilizing the latest in winemaking technology. By using gravity-flow assisted technology, Jackson-Triggs removes any pumping or mechanization in the winemaking process that could potentially damage young wine.

At this year’s Sip & Sizzle, they’ll be serving their 2013 reserve meritage with miso-grilled local beef ribs and a scallion-ginger salsa.

Konzelmann Estate Winery

image003Started by a fourth generation winemaker from Stuttgart, Germany back in 1984, who chose Niagara-on-the-Lake due to its unique mesoclimate, Konzelman wines benefit greatly from their vineyard’s terroir.

Made from hand-picked grapes that come off the oldest vineyards that are then sorted three times to ensure their quality is truly exceptional, Konzelman wines have won countless awards on the national and international level. They’ll be serving their 2012 barrel-aged merlot with baby back ribs and Niagara maple baked beans. The ribs will be topped with an icewine and Forty Creek whiskey-infused barbecue sauce.

Niagara College Teaching Winery

One of the primary places where Niagara’s viticultural knowledge is kept and passed on to future generations of winemakers, the Niagara College Teaching Winery also boasts some of the region’s finest wines.

The Canadian Food and Wine Institute is also on-site, as is Benchmark restaurant, one of the finest farm-to-table restaurants in the region, so you know the food will be exceptional. The Teaching Winery will be serving their 2010 Dean’s List pinot noir with a smoked salmon rillette over grilled zucchini.

Take advantage of this year’s Sip & Sizzle. Come to Niagara any weekend in May and experience the best in food and wine at 25 exceptional Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries.

The F’ing Winery Tour

image001For the past eight years, residents of the Niagara Peninsula and visitors from around the world have celebrated the arrival of spring with a tasting tour of three of the area’s favorite wineries: Flat Rock Cellars, Fielding Estate Winery, and Featherstone Estate Winery. This year is no exception as the Ninth Annual F’ing Winery Tour is once again being offered the beginning of May.

Oenophiles wanting to experience this unique event have two weekends to enjoy the tour and tastings, which run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., May 1, 2, and 3 or May 8, 9, and 10.

To attend, all you have to do is purchase a $12 “passport” from any one of the three participating wineries, and then, enjoy two wine tastings per winery, an artisanal cheese pairing with each tasting, and experimental and one-of-a-kind offerings unavailable the rest of the year.

If you’re planning on visiting Niagara during the first two weekends of May, the F’ing Winery Tour is a great way to familiarize yourself with Niagara’s excellent and beautiful wine country. To help you anticipate the fun, here is a closer look at the three wineries behind the tour.

Flat Rock Cellars

Founded in 1999, Flat Rock Cellars is located on the Niagara Escarpment and boasts one of the most impressive tasting rooms and winery buildings in the region: a glass-enclosed hexagon that allows visitors to enjoy a spectacular view of the Niagara Peninsula and Lake Ontario. A winery with both ancient and progressive practices, Flat Rock practices low-yield viticulture where every grape is hand-picked and hand-sorted.

They use gravity flow in their winemaking, too — a process that uses no pumps or mechanisms to move the wine through its many phases, allowing the color, flavors, and tannins to develop in a gentler manner.

Fielding Estate Winery

image003Fielding Estate Winery sits on Niagara’s Beamsville Bench and enjoys the distinction of being regularly chosen as one of Canada’s top 10 wineries.

A low-yield winery, Fielding Estate practices sustainable farming, and Curtis Fielding was awarded the honor of being Grape Grower of the Year, or the “Grape King” as it’s locally known, for the 2012-2013 growing season, an honor bestowed upon an area grower whose winemaking and farming practices exemplify the best among Ontario’s grape growers.

They have produced countless award-winning wines over the years, and tastings in their Wine Lodge or on their lake-view deck are unforgettable.

Featherstone Estate Winery

Located on the Twenty Mile Bench section of the Niagara Escarpment, Featherstone Estate Winery boasts 23 acres of some of the finest land in the region. Their fertile clay soil and higher elevations produce distinct wines that taste very much of their terroir.

Their small batch wine has won numerous awards over the years, and their farming practices are environmentally sound and sustainable. One fascinating farming practice of this vineyard is their use of sheep to control leaf growth on their vines. Instead of removing leaves by hand, Featherstone’s sheep laborers eat the leaves, allowing the grapes more access to sunlight.

Get a true taste of three of Niagara’s best wineries by participating in the F’ing Wine Tour the first two weekends of May.

Get Your Golf On: 3 Courses to Play in the Niagara Region

image001Not everyone who goes on vacation is doing so in hopes of lazing about, sleeping in, hitting the spa, and in general, exhibiting only horizontal behavior. For some people, taking a vacation is actually a grand excuse to play as hard as they do at home — just in a different location. If you’re a vacationer of the latter variety, and you happen to love the game of golf, the Niagara Falls area is a veritable paradise for hitting the links. Here are three of the best places to experience 18 holes, the next time you book your stay in Niagara.

1. John Daly’s Thundering Waters Golf Club

Winner of the “Niagara’s Best Golf Course” award three years in a row, John Daly’s first Canadian signature course sits just 1500 yards from the roaring Falls for an experience that can truly only be had in Niagara. Suited for players of all skill levels, this stunning course boasts far-reaching fairways, luscious greens, well-shaped bunkers, and towering dunes. Green fees at the height of the season will set you back $80 to $100 depending on what day of the week you’re playing, although early and late tee times are cheaper. From April through May, however, you’ll only pay $65 to $70 for the prime spots. No matter when you play, however, the dress code is always in effect, which is one more reason to enjoy this unique and beautiful course.

2. Whirlpool Golf Course

image003Set against a stunning view of the Niagara River’s whirlpool and gorge, this Stanley Thompson-designed, par-72 championship golf course has been granted Golf Digest’s 4-Star rating, and it also enjoys a ranking of 47th best golf course in the country according to Score Magazine. With a few long straightaway holes and massive fairways, golfers of varying skills can work at improving their game. There are only a few water hazards to speak of, but they can be significant — like the second hole, which is one of Whirlpool’s signature holes and is completely surrounded by a pond. The green fees here can be as inexpensive as $25 if you’re willing to walk and don’t mind teeing off after 5:30, but in general, prices range from $50 to $95, depending on whether or not you use a cart.

3. The Links of Niagara at Willodell

This Niagara Falls golf course has won a Best Greens award, a Niagara Top 10 award, and a “Hidden Gem” award from Teeing it Up, and while it isn’t as popular as some of the better known golf courses in the area, it’s one of the most enjoyable courses to play and not just because they have all-you-can-eat fish and chips in the clubhouse — which they do.

Designed by Nicol Thompson, this affordable course was awarded 3.5 out of 4 stars by Golf Digest, and each hole will satisfy both novice and expert players thanks to its lovely fairways, tricky bunkers, and well-placed water hazards. Green fees are low for a course of this quality, too. On weekdays, 18 holes are just $39, and on weekends and holidays, the price only goes up $10.

Come to Niagara with your clubs and your sense of adventure, and see how you measure up at these three excellent golf courses.

Bird Watching in Niagara

image003People from all over head to the Niagara region for a host of excellent reasons: the sight and sound of all that rushing water, the picturesque vineyards and the award-winning wines they produce, as well as the world-class performers and shows available throughout the year — to name a few, and while these reasons account for why most people visit, for the bird lover, bird watching is another reason to plan a trip to Niagara Falls. Here are a handful of bird-heavy places for the birder who finds himself in the Honeymoon Capital of the World.

The Niagara River

The Niagara River is arguably the best place in North America to watch gulls, and the view from the Canadian side is decidedly better than it is from the American side, which is more industrial and built up. Over the years, 19 different species of gull have been spotted on the Niagara River — the largest number of species ever recorded in one area in all of North America — and most years find anywhere from 12 to 14 frequenting the place during migration. Gulls you can expect to see include:

  • Bonaparte’s Gull
  • Ring-Billed Gull
  • Lesser Black-Backed Gull
  • Greater Black-Backed Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • California Gull

Of course, the Niagara River isn’t just a place to see gulls; ducks, geese, and swans also abound and make for an exciting day of birding.

image001Beamer Memorial Conservation Area

While they can be spied any time of year, the spring migration is a great time to see your fair share of raptors — hawks and bald eagles — from the viewing platforms set up at Beamer Memorial Conservation Area, which is located on the Niagara Escarpment. The view itself is stunning here, but it’s the experience of the birds that’s most memorable. Instead of just sightings, however, you’ll get to experience these impressive predators at work, soaring, and diving through the sky as they keep a keen eye out for food below.

Mud Lake Conservation Area

Located next to the Old Welland Canal in Port Colborne, this conservation area includes over 160 acres of woodlands, field, and wetlands, and because it’s situated on a migratory path, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to see a wide range of birds. Rare bird sightings have been recorded here — and not just by expert birders, either. If you make the trek out to Mud Lake, you may see the following:

  • Great Horned Owl
  • Northern Cardinal
  • American Wood Duck
  • American Black Duck
  • Black Crowned Night Heron

The Wainfleet Wetlands Conservation Area

A former limestone and clay quarry, this conservation area is a wealth of natural diversity, and it boasts over 50 species of bird, as well as plenty of fish, turtles, snakes, and plants. Birds that are readily sighted include yellow warblers, terns, sandpipers, egrets, gulls, and great blue herons. You can also see fossils of the flora and fauna that lived in the sea that covered the area 350 million years ago in the rocks walls and tables exposed by the quarry.

If you’re due for a bird-watching retreat, come to Niagara, where gulls, raptors, and warblers can be seen throughout the year.

Why Niagara Is the Perfect Place to Drink Local Wine

image001For most vacationers, one of the best parts about traveling to a new spot is experiencing that place’s food and drink. Kentucky has bourbon. The American South has sweet tea. Maine has lobsters, and Prince Edward Island has oysters and mussels.

In Niagara, the largest pull for the out-of-towner has always been the stunning and eponymous cataracts, but increasingly, the local wine scene is becoming its own reason to visit. And why shouldn’t it be?

The Niagara Peninsula is one of the most celebrated viticultures in the entire world thanks to the many award-winning wines and wineries in the region. With more ice wine in production here than anywhere else on the planet, the area is practically synonymous with the stuff, but grapes of almost every variety are grown here, harvested, and made into stellar wine. If you’re a oenophile looking for a North American vacation that isn’t along the American west coast, here are a handful of reasons to book a stay in Niagara — the perfect place to drink local wine.

It’s Beautiful Here

While it’s common to gaze upon the vines that grew the grapes you’re drinking at almost any winery, the landscape in Niagara is breathtaking. European-style vineyards and family farms make up the bulk of the countryside creating a view that is lovingly and lusciously maintained. When you drink glass of wine at a Niagara winery, the nostalgic beauty of the place is an inherent part of why the experience is so exceptional.

The Tours Are Great

image003Because the winemakers in Niagara know that selling wine is as much an art form as making it, many of them offer great tours that give an insider’s view of their specific winemaking processes and philosophies. Whether you know a lot about how wine is made or not, the following tours are well worth your time:

  • Flat Rock Cellars. Located on the Niagara Escarpment, this tour features stunning views of Lake Ontario, a beautiful, glass-enclosed tasting room, and walks through the vineyards and barrel room.
  • Stratus Winery. This modern winery is fully LEED-certified and practices low-yield viticulture — a unique and sustainable approach to farming and winemaking.
  • Inniskillin Winery. The winery that first showed the world what Ontario wines, and especially ice wines were made of, a tour of Inniskillin is a must for anyone in the area, especially since much of the tour takes place in a barn from the 1920s.

The Wine Is Exceptional

Perhaps the best reason to visit Niagara to experience the wine. Ice wine is the most lauded, but plenty of wineries make an excellent Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Merlot, Cabernet sauvignon, Pinot noir, and more.

Since you can’t try everything — the region has over 13,600 acres planted in grapes that will be made into wine — choose a handful of wineries known to produce a good product, including some of the smaller, lesser-known makers with solid reputations, and chauffeur your palate around. Some of the best local wine can be had at:

  • Pillitteri Estates Winery
  • Hillebrand Estates
  • Five Rows Craft Winery
  • Pondview Estate

From the way it looks to the way it tastes, Niagara is the perfect place to drink some of the best local wine on the planet.

Antiquing in the Niagara Region

image001The Niagara region boasts numerous ways to while away the hours, whether you’re alone or in the company of a loved one or two. From vineyards and tasting rooms to museums and hiking trails, the area is resplendent with a wide variety of enjoyments that are able to satisfy just about anyone.

Antiquing in and around Niagara Falls, while it rarely makes headlines, is one of those enjoyments. If you love looking through old records and eyeballing Art Deco furniture, here are some spots you have to visit the next time you stay in Niagara Falls.

Forum Galleries and Antiques

Located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, this antique store and gallery is a favorite of interior designers and collectors, because the antiques in this store include plenty of pieces that could go directly from the showroom into your home. The owner is a very experienced buyer, seller, and appraiser, so with everything from tapestries and furniture to art, you can be certain your find is authentic and high-quality. Forum Galleries and Antiques is open every day except Tuesday.

Effingham Hills Antiques

This small shop is just a stone’s throw from the falls. Located in Ridgeville — a small village in the town of Pelham — you’ll find late Victorian through 20th century furniture here, and the store also has plenty of excellent glassware, antique lamps, and beautiful linens. The owners of Effingham Hills Antiques pride themselves on offering high-quality items at very low prices, so you may even come away with some true bargains.

Lakeshore Antiques & Treasures

With over 7,000 square feet filled with antiques and collectibles from numerous antique dealers in the area, Lakeshore Antiques & Treasures is a browser’s and a buyer’s paradise. 16 rooms are organized around themes for efficient shopping. Themes include: glass, furniture, military memorabilia, linens, vinyl records, furniture, and more. This storehouse of antiques and other great finds is located in Niagara-on-the-Lake and is open seven days a week.

S & B Antique Gallery

image003Known for an impressive stock of vintage furniture, as well as vintage and estate jewelry, Royal Doulton figurines, and sterling silver, this antique store sits in the heart of Jordan Village. The finds within its walls have all been handpicked from across Europe and North America, and all the furniture is cleaned and waxed before it’s placed into the showroom. They are open seven days a week.

Niagara Coin and Collectibles

A pawn shop with excellent taste, Niagara Coin and Collectibles has everything from vintage watches and military memorabilia to cameras, collectible coins, and guns. Located in downtown Niagara Falls, this shop has an excellent reputation, which is one of the reasons they’ve been in business for almost 30 years. They were recently featured on the History Channel’s “Pawnathon Canada,” and they’re open Tuesday through Saturday.

Antiques on the Ridge

Located in Ridgeway, this antique store boasts a wide selection of excellent furniture from armoires and coat stands to beds and dining tables, but furniture is just the tip of the ice berg. Antique clocks, beautiful estate jewelry, vintage garden furniture and more are just some of what you’ll see in this well-curated shop.

The Niagara region is home to scores of entertaining things to do, but for the lover of unique goods and fine furniture made a long time ago, antiquing is one of the area’s best offerings.

Where to Pick Your Own Fruit Around Niagara

image001The Niagara Falls region is home to quite a few excellent farms, many of which specialize in growing fruit, and while some travelers to the region satisfy themselves with the simple and pleasurable act of drinking local wine and eating local food while ogling the impressive display of the waterfalls, many visitors to the Niagara area hope to experience a bit of the rich countryside for themselves.

Thankfully, due to the ubiquity of farms and the amiable nature of the vast majority of the farmers who tend them, such rich and hands-on experiences can be had. If you’re looking for a unique way to experience the Niagara region, book your stay, and head to one of these area farms to pick your own delicious fruits and berries.

1. Berry Patch

This farm boasts a wonderful array of berries, including gooseberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, as well as red and black currants. For the months of July and August — provided that the weather has cooperated and is continuing to do so — visitors to the farm can wander among the lush farm’s ripe crops and pick the choicest berries they can find. Be sure to call ahead just in case conditions are less than desirable.

2. Ridge Berry Farm

Situated on 27 acres in the middle of the Niagara Peninsula, most of Ridge Berry Farm has been put toward more cash-friendly crop production, but they still boast a few small and fertile patches of excellent fruit where you can pick purple raspberries, blackberries, juneberries (also called saskatoons), arctic kiwis, mulberries and Concord grapes, and they have a small smattering of apple varieties — McIntosh, Empire, and Pippin — too.

3. Cherry Avenue Farms

This family farm has been owned and operated by the Moyer family since 1799. Visitors can pick their own peaches, nectarines, peaches, pears, apricots, cherries, and plums depending upon the month and what’s in season. Cherry Avenue is a great place to enjoy a picnic, and they also offer tractor rides. Should you have someone in your party who is in a wheelchair, this farm is handicap accessible, and the paths are well-maintained.

4. Mathias Farms

image003Another family farm that’s currently owned and operated by a brother and sister team, Mathias Farms grows sweet and sour cherries, mulberries, pears, apples, blackberries, red currants, red raspberries, and black raspberries, and they’re all available to pick yourself provided you’ve arrived when your fruit of choice is in season. They also sell nine different types of fruit jam at their fruit stand, among other things, and they’re able to accept large groups, so long as you’ve made an appointment.

5. Parkway Orchards

Set along the Niagara Parkway, Parkway Orchards specializes in pick your own cherries, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, and plums. Their farm shop, where you can purchase gifts, syrups, baked goods, honey, sandwiches, drinks, ice cream and more, is almost as popular as their fruit, and the whole place is situated just minutes from Niagara Falls.

6. Two Century Farm

This farm has enjoyed five generations of Smith family ownership since 1788. The farm’s first owner and operator was John Smith, who found his way to the land via New Jersey. Today, the farm continues to thrive due to its excellent location, high-quality soil, and exceptional fruit. Call ahead from July through October to schedule a time to pick some of Two Century Farm’s fruit for yourself.

Taste Niagara like you’ve never tasted it: With the delicious fruit of both the rich and fertile land and your own labor.

Take a Trip on the Niagara Beer Trail

image001Beer lovers come in all shapes and sizes, and they routinely come from all over the world to take in the majesty and wonder known as Niagara Falls. While the Niagara region is routinely heralded as an excellent place to get world-class wines, there are a surprising amount of quality breweries and beers to be enjoyed in the area as well.

Whether you’re relishing a romantic getaway in one of the city’s best hotels’ suites or you’re lucky enough to be in Niagara Falls on business, here is a look at the Niagara Beer Trail — a must-do for beer lovers who find themselves in the Honeymoon Capital of the World.

The Gist

A self-guided, multi-media tour, the Niagara Beer Trail takes you to six different stops in the Niagara region. Throughout the tour, you’ll be able to take brewery tours, sample unique beer offerings, and, if you get hungry, enjoy a meal at one of the breweries’ on-site restaurants. Most of the breweries keep their beer recipes simple and straightforward whether they’re making lagers or lambics, and they rely on ingredients produced locally, putting the fecundity of the region to good use and benefitting from the established quality for which Niagara farms are known. While a much smaller industry than Niagara’s wine, this tour concisely shows the excellence and commitment to quality present in Niagara’s nascent craft brew scene.

Some of the Breweries

image003Here are four of the six stops you can make along the tour:

  • The Merchant Ale House Restaurant Brewpub. Started in a basement, this St. Catherines blue-collar-feeling pub brews their beer on-site without preservatives, and you can find everything here from ales and lagers to berry-flavored beers. Two of the more popular offerings are the Blonde Bombshell Blonde and the Old Time Hockey Ale, a chocolate malt amber ale that was the first beer the Merchant Ale House ever made. There is also a restaurant on site should you need a snack to keep your blood-alcohol level in check.
  • Oast House Brewers. This microbrewery uses local ingredients in all their brews and in their on-site restaurant. Located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, this brew house was founded by three locals with experiences in the local wine industry as well as beer production. Oast House provides an excellent brewery tour, and their zealous commitment to small batch craft brewing shines through in every tasting. Notable beers include a Belgian-style Saison and the Barnraiser Country Ale.
  • Silversmith Brewing Company. Started in 2012, this craft brewery makes its beer in a beautiful, old, vine-covered church. Following the patterns established by the local wine industry, Silversmith has quickly gotten its beers into the bars, restaurants, and events throughout Ontario. Their Black Lager is one of their best and most popular.
  • Taps on Queen Brewhouse and Grille. This Niagara Falls brewhouse is owned and operated by two families, who first got their start as ambitious home brewers. Their complementary tour allows visitors a good look at their brewing process. Their tasting at the end of the tour costs a small amount, but it’s worth it to sample a variety of their excellent beer, so you can make an informed decision about what to get a pint of. Syndicate Restaurant and Brewery, the last stop on the beer trail, is the sister brewhouse to Taps.

Whether you’re a beer aficionado or just someone who appreciates a cold brew now and then, spend some time on Niagara’s Beer Trail, where the art and craft of brewing are serious business.

A Tiny Guide to Some of Niagara’s Best New Wineries

image001The Niagara region’s reputation for fertile land, excellent wines, and beautiful vineyards has been established for some time now. The soil, climate, and topography of the Niagara Peninsula is remarkably diverse, with microclimates ideal for producing grapes with more complex and abundant flavor than warmer climes, resulting in a wide variety of stellar wines.

Of all the viticulture areas in Canada, none plant as many grapes as Niagara, with over 32 varietals and more than 13,500 planted acres. Because of the region’s excellent terroir, soil, and reputation, new wineries consistently crop up in a quest to make a mark among the already excellent wineries in the area. The next time you plan a vacation to Niagara Falls, take a look at this handful of the more promising newcomers trying their hand at keeping up with the Joneses in the Niagara Peninsula.

PondView Estate Winery

A winery whose tradition reaches back three generations into the vineyards of Sicily, PondView Estate Winery is a new addition to the Four Mile Creek appellation. Family-owned and operated — like many of the Niagara Peninsula’s wineries — PondView excels in producing wines according to traditional practices. They’re so good at doing it that Lou Luciano — one of two in charge of operations at PondView — was given the title Grape King by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2008, an award that goes to the operator of the best vineyard in all of Ontario.

Five Rows Craft Wine of Lowrey Vineyards

Notably started in 1984 when the co-founder of Inniskillin, Karl Kaiser, asked Howie Lowery to plant five rows of pinot noir for use in Inniskillin’s award-winning wines, what is now known as Five Rows spent the next two and a half decades as a vineyard that grew and sold high-quality grapes to other wineries. These days, 35 acres of Lowrey land are dedicated to their own craft wine endeavor, resulting in top-quality wines every bit as good as the French make. The entire winemaking operation is housed in a one-room barn that houses fermenting tanks, oak barrels, a tasting area, and cases of wine ready for purchase, giving the entire place a nostalgic feel.

Hinterbrook Winery

image003An eco-focused winery, the people at Hinterbrook are committed to producing top-quality wines by utilizing the latest in technology in an environmentally sound and sustainable way. Each grape is handpicked and hand-sorted — just the beginning of a completely artisanal approach to making wine overseen by winemaker, Natalie Spytkowsky. While all the wines produced by Hinterbrook are of premium quality, their Franc Blanc, Cabernet Franc Icewine, Rose, and Riesling are especially impressive.

Two Sisters Vineyards

Started by sisters Angela Marotta and Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli, Two Sisters Vineyards is another new, premium winery committed to exceptional winemaking whose focus is on their vineyard in order to allow their one-of-a-kind terroir and the grapes it produces to remain center stage. Winemaker Adam Pearce is committed to a non-interventionist approach to winemaking so that the true character of each grape is never overshadowed by the winemaking process. One of the highlights of this vineyard and winery is its on-site Italian-inspired restaurant, Kitchen 76, where the cuisine is crafted from locally sourced ingredients.

The wines of the Niagara Peninsula continue to grow in reputation world-wide, and these four newcomers to the scene are hoping to ensure that tradition continues far into the future.

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