Explore one of Canada‘s famous wine regions! We have narrowed down the best Niagara wineries for you to experience. Come for a glass of wine and stay for the views (and even more wine).
It started roughly a half-century ago when Niagara grape growers tore up their Concord grape vineyards and began planting European varieties. It took time, as wine-making does, but by the 1980s the region was starting to gain steam. Niagara winemakers started winning awards for their Chardonnay and Riesling wines, as well as ice wine, a Niagara specialty.
The Niagara region now has more than 100 wineries and the accolades keep coming. Abbey Wilson has been wine-tasting in the area at least a dozen times over the years, trying soft, fruity Gamay Noir and rich, succulent reds. Here are some of Wilson’s favourite wineries in the Niagara region.
Ravine Vineyard was one of the first wineries in Niagara where I found red wine I really liked. They are still going strong, making luscious Cabernet Franc as well as a wonderful Meritage with Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the St. David’s area of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The winery is in a historic farmhouse that dates back to 1802 and makes organic and biodynamic wines, so it is eco-friendly as well as tasty. They have a lovely patio and a wood-burning pizza oven, too. A few years back I tasted a magical cavatelli pasta with pancetta, sage and pears that had been poached in maple sap.
Trius is a winery that has made a name for itself with wonderful sparkling wines. Their NV Trius Bruit picked up a gold medal at the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships in Britain in 2015. They also make a French-style Sauvignon Blanc that’s much drier than the grapefruit-passion fruit bombs you get from New Zealand. Their Chardonnay is crisp and not too oaky. They also make wonderful, rich Cabernet Sauvignon.
Their dining room serves up magnificent food; everything from capon with mushrooms and lentils, to elegant fish and chips and charcuterie. The dining room is unabashedly beautiful.
WAYNE GRETZKY ESTATES
The new Gretzky Estates Winery & Distillery opened on Niagara Stone Road in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It’s a large, stunning facility with tons of natural light and cathedral ceilings, with walls painted mostly white and charcoal. There is a regular tasting room and a VIP room with great views.
Outside you’ll find a patio with a whisky bar where you can taste Wayne Gretzky Number 99 Canadian whisky, aged in red wine casks. There is also an outdoor skating rink for winter, of course. I’m not a big Pinot Grigio fan, but the sample I tried was fruity and crisp and perfect for a summer’s day. They say it is Gretzky’s favourite!
The Hare Wine Co. is one of the newest wineries along Stone Road in Niagara-on-the-Lake. They air dry some of their red wine grapes after picking them to give them extra depth, resulting in deep, California-style flavours one does not always associate with Canadian wines.
The Cabernet Franc is delicious and earthy. Their introductory label red wine, Jack Rabbit Red, was picked as the official wine for Ontario’s provincial legislature just weeks after it was released for consumption; a nice feather in the winery’s cap.
Their late harvest wines are rich and flavourful; similar to what you get from France. Their ice wine also is lip-smackingly good and is made in a variety of styles, each using different grapes for varied effect. I thought the Riesling Ice Wine was the best as it was less sweet than the Vidal variety.
Colaneri Wines has practically re-created a Tuscan village in the community of St. David’s. You will find creamy yellow and pale stone buildings, a bell tower, and luscious landscaping that makes you feel as if you dropped into a hilltop town in Italy.
They also make some powerfully good wines; everything from spicy Gewurztraminer and Pinot Grigio to Pinot Noir and Ripasso-style reds in which grape skins and seeds left over after pressing are added to the wine for extra flavour.
Angels Gate makes a wide variety of wines at their winery in Beamsville, a few miles east of Niagara-on-the-Lake but still well inside the Niagara Region. Their sparkling wines are often excellent, as are their Chardonnays and their Pinot Noir. One worker once described their Chardonnay to me as “like sex in a glass.”
There’s a beautiful garden out front and the winery sits high on a hill that provides magnificent views. From the patio, you can see Lake Ontario below your feet and rolling vineyards.
OTHER WINERIES WORTH TRYING
Malivoire in Beamsville makes excellent Gamay Noir and lovely rosés and other wines. Head honcho Martin Malivoire is a character and well worth chatting with if he’s on site.
Southbrook makes great red wines and has a nice, bright tasting room in an eco-friendly building on Niagara Stone Road, just off the Queen Elizabeth Way.
Jackson-Triggs makes a lovely Sauvignon Blanc that tastes more like a New Zealand style than most I have tried from Canada. They also have a nice patio and an amphitheatre that is popular for summer concerts.
Inniskillin offers wonderful Rieslings and has a great patio.
Peller Estates has a cool ice wine cellar and tasting room called 10 Below, as it’s freezing down there. You can then warm up on their fine, quiet patio out back and dine on great local food.
WHERE TO STAY IN NIAGARA
The Prince of Wales is one of the top spots in all of Ontario, let alone Niagara. It has a ton of history and grace and style to spare, including a lovely stained glass display in the lobby.
During my stay, I had a lovely suite with cheerful yellow and blue colour schemes and a super-comfortable bed. It’s right on Queen St., mere steps from the top shops and from the Shaw Theatre.
Queens Landing is another fine hotel that has views of the Niagara River.
In Niagara Falls proper, the Old Stone Inn has nice rooms and a gorgeous dining room with handsome stone work.
The Fallsview Marriott is one of your best bets if you want a great view of the falls.
When planning your trip to taste-test the best wineries of Niagara, you can fly into Toronto or Buffalo. The Toronto airport is only a 1.5-hour drive to your destination. From Buffalo, you will have to cross the border.
Use Skyscanner’s flight search to find the lowest airfare to get you to your next vineyard tour!