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10 places to stop in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Whether it’s patio season or winter season, Ontarians and tourists alike love gathering around a bottle of great wine. What can be better than a glass (or glasses) of wine at your favourite winery? That’s right, tis the season for wine region!

Niagara-on-the-Lake, located in Southern Ontario, rests on the shores of Lake Ontario. This region features historic buildings, endless rows of beautiful vineyards, and tree-lined roads perfect for romantic car rides and biking tours.  

I recently joined in the fun and flocked to Ontario’s Bordeaux for a weekend of tasting with the fam jam. Here is my personal list of 10 places you must stop at, and even included some distilleries for those of you that prefer sipping on some gin or whiskey.

Reif Estate

1. Reif Estate Winery

This was an important and personal stop for us to make; 25 years ago my lovely parents got married and stopped here on their honeymoon. Naturally, this was an essential part of our weekend, and surprisingly, one of the overall group favourites!

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The tastings there have a very fair price (a flight of 3 essential wines for only $5 a person), however, karma would have it that some wonderful stranger had a coupon for 4 and thought we may like to use it! What are the odds?

Since this was a special offer, it was 4 wines instead of 3. The service was also incredible; they knew multiple key points about each wine, were very friendly, and suggested other nearby wineries! Who does that for their competition? A team that knows they have a winning product. They also host tours and have an overall romantic ambiance. I’d suggest getting your ice-wine here, it’s fantastic.

Konzelmann Estate

2. Konzelmann Estate Winery

Labeled as ‘Niagara’s exclusive lakeshore winery’, this was my husband’s pick of the day to try, likely since they came from Germany (by 4th generation winemaker Herbert Konzelmann in 1984) and we are still missing Europe. He did well!

Essentially, it looks like a castle when you drive up, with an incredible view of the landscape. It was super packed inside with tours, and more tour buses on the horizon, but they still managed to serve us with our top picks at the tasting, in a reasonable time frame.

They feature different types of tours and tastings onsite, including a cellar experience, junk food pairing, and new safari rides through the vineyards! If you are toured out, there is a tower similar to a castle turret which you can climb up and get a better vantage point of the surrounding area.

Colaneri Estate

3. Colaneri Estate Winery

This exotic stop was my pick. Looking at the photo you can probably understand why. My first reaction was ‘Holy crap!’. Driving up we had to stop and take photos on the super long driveway. It is breathtaking.

Resembling a villa from Italy, that has been handpicked and dropped onto a wine field in Ontario. Loved it. The wine was delectable, and each bottle came with a crafted painting representing an intriguing story. There they believe that you are not their customer, but their family guest.

The tastings were on the pricier side of that day (at $10 per person for 4 wines ), however, this is waived with the purchase of a bottle which were also quite expensive.

They are well known for their appassimento style wine, which is the processes of drying out the grapes to create a more concentrated and bold flavor. This process reduces the overall yield of the winery and thereby increases the cost of the wine: the average bottle is over $35.

Leaning Post

4. Leaning Post Wines

Literally the opposite of Colaneri, and at other ends of the meter is Leaning Post. It is newly opened and hoping to one day expand further. Right now they are a very small winery, but with lots of personality and friendly staff. Their name represents their essence. As grapes can’t grow on their own, they need the support of posts and wires.

Our unanimous favourite wine was the Syrah, a full-bodied red with a hint of pepper. Tastings are complimentary with a limit of 4 per person (8 if you are sharing). The property consists of the owners house, an outdoor patio tent, and an old wooden barn where the wine production and tastings are held. If you want a unique experience of a small craft winery, look no further.

30 Bench

5. Thirty Bench

This lovely winery has an amazing view of vineyards overlooking Lake Ontario. On a clear day, you can see the Toronto skyline including the CN Tower, and maybe even our condo.

Though on the pricey side ($15 per guest at a seated tasting, for 4 glasses) you do get to pick your own and can split it between others. They are most known for their award-winning Riesling, such as “Wild Cask”, and only sell a limited selection at the LCBO. They also offer some bites that you can enjoy at a picnic table while tasting and weekend vineyard hikes.

Dillon’s

6. Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers

You may not know this about me, but I love a good G & T. Ever since trying them out at ‘The Gin & Tonic Bar’ at FoodHallen (stop there if you are ever in Amsterdam). So we stopped at Dillon’s Distillery.

At Dillon’s, they pride themselves in obtaining their ingredients as local as possible, use carbon reduction methods and use resources to reduce food wastage. I really like that producers are listening to the push for more sustainable methods to make their content – a green check-mark from me!

The name fooled me with the “Small Batch”, thinking they would have only a few flavours and was pleasantly surprised that they have about a dozen different flavours, such as Black Currant, Elderflower, Cherry and another dozen bitters. I have never purchased bitters before and we got their three pack, looking forward to our homemade recipes!

Relax at Forty Creek

7. Forty Creek Distillery

This was one of my Dad’s favourite stops. If you like Rye/Whiskey/Spirits in general, you’ll enjoy your visit here. The cozy bar at the back is straight out of a man cave and offers four complimentary samples a person, just leave a tip when you are done.

Since I’m not so great at hard liquor, as you can see during my Tequila tasting in Mexico (on Mellie Telly) they created cocktails for me, which were super refreshing! I had vodka mixed with a cucumber and watermelon tonic. Yum!

They also sell the Walter vegan caesar mix that I have been itching to try. We walked away with smiles and a double-barrel bottle of whiskey.

Chateau des Charmes

8. Chateau des Charmes

Founded in 1978 by 5th generation French winegrower Paul Bosc, this winery is straight out of a French oil masterpiece. Paul planted Canada’s first vineyard dedicated to Vitis vinifera, a European grape variety. So sit back and indulge in a sip of this award-winning wine, while taking in the incredible view. It’s tres bien!

Wayne Gretzky Wine

9. Wayne Gretzky Estates Wines

The great one set his sights on making his own great Canadian wine after years of watching his grandfather pick, press and bottle his own wine. This incredible winery seems to be the one that always pops up in conversation. It truly shows the power of word of mouth promotion.

Gretzky’s is more than a winery, you can spend a whole day there with all that they have to offer. You can book a tour, tasting or cocktail class. You can dine among the barrels, drink on the whiskey bar patio; relax in the beer garden and during the winter months you can embrace the cold and skate on their very own ice rink!

The view at Flat Rock

10. Flat Rock Cellars

Tucked away off the beaten path, this stop will be unforgettable. Grab a tasting and sit back to admire the endless rows of vineyards along the Niagara escarpment.

At Flat Rock, their basic principles are not just to make great wine, but to offer their guests a personal wine experience. They boast having a sense of fun and a lack of pretension. Cheers!

Stop for some antiques

Along your travels don’t forget to pick up fresh fruits and veggies from the stands that align the streets. Or park your car and get out to explore one of the many antique stores or flea markets. Plan your route ahead to prevent driving in endless circles, and always assign a designated driver!

Proost (cheers)!

Melissa is an avid travel blogger, YouTuber (Mellie Telly), and Toronto based actress. Her career experience has included performing in over 20 plays, along with commercials and television, coupled with over a decade of working behind the scenes in TV and theatre production.

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