Romantic and fabled, Niagara Falls is known for its 13-story-high landmark cascade, a huge draw since 1846. Equally compelling (and more delicious), are the orchards, vineyards, and fields surrounding the falls that produce some of the country's best wines, including world-famous Icewine. On the U.S.-Canada border between New York and Ontario, good wine is just a short drive from Toronto.
To start things off, get your bearings with this list of Niagara wineries and wine route Planner. From boutique to big name, there are 140 wineries in the area, including 60 that specialize in Icewine, on the fertile Niagara Peninsula. Then check out some of the following wineries and vino-focused experiences in and around Niagara Falls, Prince Edward County, and Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Try Icewine at Inniskillin
You can't leave the Niagara region without sampling the area’s signature Icewine. Aromatic, concentrated, and golden-hued, this wine is made of grapes that are harvested while still frozen on the vine. Iconic Inniskillin leads the world when it comes to this varietal, thanks to pioneers Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser who began crafting this beverage in Niagara-on-the-Lake back in the 1980s. Taste and eat, and tour all year, thought winter is especially exciting as that's when all the harvesting action happens.
Do a Niagara wine tour
Want to really get to know the region? Explore on your own by car or bike. Most wineries host tours and tastings, food pairings, and seminars. Vineyards also make for lovely picnic destinations, especially the beautiful property of Kew Vineyards in Beamsville. Or, leave the planning to others and have the pros take you on a guided overview tasting tour. Vintage Wine Tours is run by food and wine industry professionals with daily group and private excursions. Winery Tours of Niagara caters to upscale clientele, and family-owned Grape Escapes Wine Tours is another great option for those wanting to see it all. They lead cycle or van tours, incorporating lunch, picnics, and even restaurant dinners.
Learn about wine pairing in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Combine great wine with a charming town stay in Niagara-on-the-Lake. First, visit organic Southbrook Vineyards. Southbrook hosts a seasonal Farmers’ Table dinner series with food and wine pairings on the third Thursday of the month. Then, check in to a romantic B&B or Victorian inn at Niagara-on-the-Lake, a 19th century village popular for its handsome heritage buildings dating back to the 1700s. Staying at the luxurious Prince of Wales Hotel is an experience in itself, but indulging in the hotel’s lavish afternoon tea will really complete your stay. For dinner, try field-to-table Treadwell, a restaurant with an exceptional wine list, Ravine Vineyard Restaurant, a local favorite in an historic farmhouse with a seasonal farm-driven menu showcasing local producers, or Backhouse, a sustainably focused hot-spot.
Discover food and wine in Prince Edward County
Home to passionate winemakers, the lesser known Prince Edward County area boasts some of the best chardonnay and pinot noir in Ontario. There are 40 wineries here, plus artisan producers, family growers, craft brewers, and inspired locavore restaurants. You can drive the Taste Trail for a sampling of the best. Make an appointment for a tasting at The Old Third, a winery in a barn that makes cider and pinot noir — it's worth the visit and price tag.
Drink and dine at a winery
You’ll get a bit of everything at chateau-like Peller Estates, a sprawling family-run winery where you can easily spend an entire day. Reserve a seat for lunch or dinner at the elegant onsite restaurant that overlooks the vineyard. A Zagat and Trip Advisor standout, the menu, of course, revolves around the harmonious marriage of seasonal, fresh ingredients with luscious, local wines. Tuck into the signature Icewine-poached lobster with black truffle linguini infused with smoked bacon in a chardonnay cream sauce.
Peller arguably has the most original food-plus-wine offerings outside of the traditional restaurant, too. There’s food truck party meet-ups, wine and cheese workshops, vino and chocolate pairings, general winery tours, plus special dinners, and multi-course cellar feasts. The 10Below Icewine Lounge is wildly popular and justifiably so. Part of the winery tour, the lounge is constructed entirely of ice and simulates what it’s like for vintners to harvest Icewine varietals in temperatures 17 degrees F or colder. Step up to the ice bar and sample the estate’s Vidal Icewine, perfectly chilled. Don’t worry, your parka’s provided.
Taste the region’s award winners
You’ll want to sample the best of the best at family-owned, organic and biodynamic Tawse Winery in Vineland. This popular winner of numerous awards, including Canada’s best winery, encompasses five vineyards producing head-turning, terroir-driven reds, whites, and rosés. 13th Street Winery in St. Catharines is also oft-cited as Niagara’s best, spotlighted for its gamay and sparkling vintages. And if you can find it in its tucked away location, stop in at cult fave Five Rows Craft Winery, a tiny operation with two tables in a barn. Five Rows puts out the kind of pinot noir that makes top restaurateurs swoon.
To pack it all in, consider a longer vacation with time to hit all of Niagara’s top attractions. And don’t forget an extra suitcase to bring all the goodies you can fit back home with you.
Plan your food and wine escape at the Niagara Canada website.