With spring in full bloom and a favorable exchange rate to the dollar, a trip along the Canadian wine trail makes for a perfect weekend getaway. Though Canada is best known for their Ice Wine and festivals around this sweet nectar, the Ontario region also produces a wide mix of vintages including Chardonnays, Rieslings, Pinot Noirs, Cabernet Francs and more. Ontario is home to nearly 100 wineries, a region comprised of three primary grape-growing regions including Lake Erie North Shore, Niagara Peninsula, and Prince Edward County, all of which have something unique to offer.
One of the universal reasons for visiting Ontario wine country is to “Relax.” Here you can enjoy a tasting at a local farmer’s market, cycle to vineyards and wineries as you get lost on off the beaten path trails, partake in one of Niagara’s internationally acclaimed grape and wine industry festivals, or marvel at one of the wonders of the world- Niagara Falls which has a better vantage point from the Canadian side. A central location to call home base is in the quaint 19th century town of Niagara on the Lake- often referred to as the prettiest village in Ontario. Stay at the charming 124 on Queen Hotel & Spa that exudes understated luxury and is conveniently located on Queen Street with all of the main attractions within walking distance.
If you are a foodie, the region is undergoing a culinary movement. Skilled chefs are connecting with farmers, artisan bakers, cheese makers, honey producers, specialty butchers to deliver farm-to-table experiences. Many vineyards now feature on-site restaurants where tasting menus reflect the distinctive flavors particular to each appellation such as the Kitchen 76 located in the breathtaking Tuscan Style Two Sisters Vineyard at Niagara on the Lake. Another noteworthy stop is at the Peller Estates Winery where visitors can experience the chill of ice wine making. Slip into a down parka and step into the 10 Below Peller Ice Wine Lounge where temperatures are a chilly 10 degrees C below all year round. Sip some of their finest ice wines produced in this igloo like lounge constructed of 29,000 pounds of ice complete with an ice lounge bench and ice chandelier.
Planning a wine route is best done utilizing the tools on Wine Country Ontario’s website, as there are many intricacies involved in crafting a wine trail that suits your taste. The website is an excellent resource for selecting wineries to visit, learning how winery tours usually operate, and tips on choosing wine to sample. Although you can visit wine country by train, bike, bus or helicopter, the reality is that most visitors travel around wine country by car. Local vineyards also offer walking tours of their grapevines and facilities, where you can learn the history of the winery and witness their production of this year’s vintages first hand, and of course sample an array of their finest wines!