An Oenophile’s Guide to the Best Niagara Wineries

image001There are wine lovers, and then, there are wine lovers. For some of us, a glass of wine is the perfect accompaniment to an evening meal or a great way to relax with friends after a long day of work. For others, however, wine is much too serious a business to be relegated to a mere accompaniment to any aspect of life. Instead, wine is one of the highlights of living itself and should, at all times, be treated as such.

If you’re a oenophile for whom wine is an all-consuming passion, then a trip to Niagara’s wine country should be scheduled post-haste. Beautiful vineyards, enlightening tours, and some of the world’s most treasured wines await you. Here are three of the finest wineries in the Niagara Peninsula for the oenophile whose only desire is to experience the very best.

1. Inniskillin

Almost everyone agrees that it was Inniskillin that made the world stop and take notice of Canadian wines — in particular ice wines — but the winery does a number of other varietals remarkably well, too, and the visitor experience they provide is top-notch. The bulk of what you’ll experience at Inniskillin takes place in their Brae Burn Barn, a beautiful, rustic, completely remodeled 1920’s barn. They have a tour center, a wine boutique, a kitchen where they routinely host demonstrations, and a tasting bar. While you’re there, be sure to sample their ice wine, but don’t be shy about the rest of their offerings. Inniskillin really does make some excellent wine.

2. Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery

image003An organic 34-acre vineyard grows all the grapes utilized by this estate winery, and the results are always noteworthy. A family winery situated in the St. David’s Bench, Ravine enjoys being a part of a sub-appellation that’s the warmest in the Niagara Peninsula.

In addition to this small, but significant terroir advantage, Ravine’s soil is light and drains well, and because it’s positioned at the Bench’s highest elevation, its wines enjoy a quality unique — not just to St. David’s Bench — but to Ravine. They also have an amazing organic garden on-site from which they prepare their restaurant’s excellent food. Eat a meal at Ravine, and be sure to order something that pairs well with one of their tremendous wines, in particular, a cabernet franc or unfiltered chardonnay.

3. Stratus Winery

For a more contemporary winemaking and wine tasting experience, Stratus Winery is worth a trip. Practicing low-yield, pumpless viticulture, this sustainable and LEED-certified winery is a model of 21st century winemaking. The tasting room is elegant and modern, and the tour — available by appointment only — is revealing. Just getting a chance to ogle their 1,000-barrel, above-ground, “cellar” is worth the trip. Stratus specializes in assemblage wines, so be sure to order a flight after your tour. You can also schedule a private tasting that pairs Stratus wines with cheeses from local dairy, Fifth Town Dairy.

If you love wine in a way that prioritizes it above most other experiences and offerings in the world, you’ll love Niagara’s wine country. Be sure to hit these three exceptional vineyards to get a first taste of why Niagara Peninsula wine is heralded around the world.