It’s become tradition to visit a wine region on my birthday. Last year we visited Prince Edward County for the big 3-0, and this year we didn’t have to travel far to visit one of the best wine regions in Canada — Niagara. We stayed in Niagara-on-the-Lake and toured wineries for the weekend.
This is where to eat, sleep and drink wine in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Strolling and shopping in Niagara-on-the-lake
Niagara-on-the-Lake couldn’t be more different than Niagara Falls with its bright lights and tacky souvenir shops. A quick drive from Toronto transports you to a wonderland of wineries, restaurants and antique shops. If you go for the weekend, leave early on Friday morning, or first thing Saturday. The commuters and weekend warriors make traffic hellish on Friday evenings.
There are myriad cute shops along intersecting King and Queen Streets so you don’t have to walk much. The Olde Thyme Candy Shoppe has all kinds of candy to indulge in, from British chocolate to nostalgic treats like Charleston Chews — I ate several. I also loved visiting Cheese Secrets, a cheese shop with tons of local varietals to try!
The town was established in the late 1700s so there is a lot of history here. Wander through the town marveling at the gorgeous old homes and historical sites like Fort George, the site of several War of 1812 battles. (I also have to mention Niagara-on-the-Lake has the nicest public bathrooms I’ve ever seen.)
Sleeping in style at Shaw Club
We stayed at the Shaw Club Hotel, a gorgeous inn right in the centre of Nigara-on-the-Lake. It was the perfect homebase for exploring the region, and this adults-only boutique hotel has a great vibe. The main objective of staff is to make it feel more like a private club than a hotel, and they do it well. You can read the full review here.
Dining in historic pubs
Niagara-on-the-Lake has a good variety of places to dine considering its size. For our first night on the town, we dined at The Olde Angel Inn which is one of the oldest bars in Canada — it’s been open since 1789! The menu features great British pub classics like chicken curry and shepherd’s pie. I demolished a huge portion of fish and chips (with green peas), and Adam dove into his steak and Guinness pie head first. There’s live music there on the regular and paired with a few pints of Angel Inn lagers, you’ve got a great night ahead of you!
For breakfast we opted to eat at the hotel to get a good base before a day of wine-tasting. Zees Grill has a delicious brunch that is frequented by both hotel guests and locals. My Eggs Benedict were Canadianized with thick-cut peameal bacon and Adam’s classic breakfast disappeared rather quickly — the potato galettes were off the chain.
While you’re exploring and need a little snack, I hope you find this Regional Variety & Gas Bar. We happened upon this gas station and saw the tiny sign “fresh samosas.” One of the best things I ate in Niagara. Seriously. They were hot, fresh, and the homemade chutney was out of this world!
Drinking all of the wine — all of it
First things first, make sure you have a designated driver. If none of your wino friends are willing to spit in the bucket all day, there are several services to help. YOUR Desginated Driver will pick you up anywhere in the Niagara region, or you can arrange a wine tour from one of the many tour operators. For devoted drivers, you can use this Niagara-on-the-Lake route planner to help you decide which wineries to visit.
We went to many wineries during our birthday extravaganza (there are 27), but three stood out for experience and tastiness.
All the bubbly at Kew Vineyards
Kew was definitely my favourite winery because it’s all about the bubbles!! The gorgeously decorated tasting room overlooks the vines. We sampled six of their sparkling wines, and I was so happy I wanted to move in upstairs.
Favourite wine from Kew: 2012 Tradition Sparkling
A taste of history at Henry of Pelham
Henry of Pelham wineries has been pumping out vintages since 1988, but the family’s roots are much older. The first member to settle on the vineyards landed in 1778! There are dozens of wines to try and the tasting room makes it feel like you’re in the wine cave of an old-timey aristocrat.
Favourite wine from Henry of Pelham: 2014 Family Tree Red
Blinded by the flight at Cave Springs
Cave Springs has their tasting room right on the main street of Jordan. Take a stroll while you’re visiting this winery; it’s cute and you’re bound to see a wedding. While Cave Springs has a much bigger industrial feeling, it’s one of the most established in the region, the wines are delicious. And who doesn’t appreciate a good sandwich board pun?
Favourite wine from Cave Springs: 2014 Riesling CSV