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Postcard from Niagara on the Lake

Posted by Ali | Tuesday August 28, 201219 comments
Niagara on the LakeThough the Eat Local movement has been popular for some time, drinking local isn't as often considered when choosing wine.  Yet Canada has so much to offer from our wine regions.  People come from all over the world to visit the Okanagan Valley and the Niagara region to sample our famous cold climate wines.  Ice wine is an obvious winner in Ontario, but you may be surprised to know we also produce fantastic Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Baco Noir (to name a few).  Last week I toured Niagara with the LCBO, picked up a few new favourites and tried some amazing restaurants I highly recommend.
Niagara on the Lake reviews
Our day started with a helicopter ride over Niagara Falls.  Niagara Helicopters offers these tours for $132 per adult or $252 per couple.  It's an exhilarating experience going over the falls and well worth adding to your bucket list.  We landed at Chateau des Charmes for a vineyard tour and tasting.
Niagara on the Lake reviews
My favourites from Chateau des Charmes were the 2009 Riesling, Estate Bottled and the 2009 Gamay Noir, Estate Bottled.  The Riesling has a slightly sweet, citrus and refreshing taste that would pair well with sushi.  The Gamay Noir is similar to a Beaujolais so it's an easy sipping red that would be great on a patio.  Both are $12.55 at the LCBO so you can't beat the price point!
Niagara on the Lake reviews
Next we headed to Trius Winery at Hillebrand for lunch created by Chef Frank Dodd with a wine pairing for each course.  We started with a glass of delicious pink bubbly from their Trius Rose Brut paired with an Amuse that turned beets into candy. It could have been dessert. 

With our starters, we sampled the Trius Sauvignon Blanc 2011 that had notes of cucumber and a hint of black current.  I really liked that one. The Hillebrand Vidal Icewine 2010 served with a Sour Cream Tart was heavenly.  I didn't know I liked icewine until I had this one.  Notes of Creme Brulee, vanilla and toffee - need I say more?  Trius is also known for their Cab Franc, a jammy crowd pleaser for about $15 a bottle and their 2010 Trius Grand Red. This is a good bottle to buy someone who says they don't like Ontario reds. 

Trius currently offers something called Farmer's Feast at the restaurant, which is a 5 course tasting menu you can have paired with wine.  It's a shared meal, carved at your table for $125 per person (with wine pairings).
Niagara on the Lake reviews
After lunch (and at this point I had lost count of the tastings), we hopped on Segways for a tour of Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery.  Thankfully only one person fell, but he wasn't injured and claims it had nothing to do with the previous tastings.  Segways are actually really easy to ride and going through the vineyards on them was a lot of fun. It's about $100 a person if you want to do this tour and includes a flight of tastings at Henry of Pelham.

Owner Daniel Speck conducted the tastings of their 2011 Pinot Grigio, 2007 Pinot Noir Reserve and 2010 Baco Noir Reserve. His ancestors settled on the land in the 1800s and are buried there to this day.  I enjoyed the wines from Henry of Pelham the most.  In particular the Pinot Noir, which Speck described as "White wine in drag" and the Baco Noir Reserve, which he calls "the wine that paid for university", and "Ontario's answer to Malbec."  I can see why. It's smooth and velvety with a hint of spice.  The 2010 Baco Noir Reserve will be available in the Vintages section of the LCBO in September, though it is already available at the winery for $25 a bottle.  I purchased this one on the spot.

Our final stop was at the Restaurant at Peninsula Ridge Estate where Chef Pierre Bourget wowed us with an incredible 4 course meal - naturally with wine pairings.  Located at the border of Grimsby and Beamsville, this restaurant is worth the drive.  It's a beautifully restored Victorian that sits on a hill overlooking vineyards and the lake.  You can see the Toronto skyline in the distance.  The food was so good here I hardly noticed the wine (or the unfortunate music).  
Niagara on the Lake reviews
Our amuse bouche was a tomato water martini drizzled with basil oil.  I didn't realize there was alcohol in it until I was about halfway through.  Chef Pierre had taken fresh garden tomatoes, salted them and let them sit until the juices came out. That was the essence of the martini and it was incredible.  The Grilled Romaine Heart Caesar was the best Caesar salad I have ever tried.  The Romain is lightly grilled, giving it a slight smoky taste. The capers are fried. Even if you don't normally like this type of salad, you would love this one. 

When I was too full to eat another bite, out came the Ratafia poached pear with spicy chocolate ganache in the center. I can't even talk about it.  Chef Pierre Bourget is one to watch for and I highly recommend you schedule your next date night at this restaurant to see for yourself.

When you think about it, many of us are willing to travel all over the world to visit the wine regions of California, France, Italy or Argentina but we have amazing wine country of our own that is much closer (and more affordable) to explore.  I've always been a believer.  Are you?
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on September 05, 2012  roadee  2,181 said:

Wow. What an amazing trip Ali. Thanks for the tip about the Trius Cab Franc. I will definitely try that one when I am out there. (I hope they still have it available). You covered a lot of ground while you were there! And with all the wine tasting, I'm surprised that only one person fell over during the segway tour. ;)

Yes, we are famous for our ice wines. I try not to take them for granted because they cost a pretty penny if you try to purchase them anywhere else in the world. But the same can be said for any wines that get shipped in. Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm going to have to think about that helicopter tour. What a great place to take one!

on August 31, 2012  annmarie  4,261 said:

Breathtakin pics. Thanks for sharing!

on August 30, 2012  shanaz  5,961 said:

You are absolutely right. Often times we forget about the beauty we have so close to home.

on August 29, 2012  TammyK  1,073 said:

Wow. The photos taken from the helicopter are breathtaking!

on August 29, 2012  KatelynRose1984  20,704 said:

This looks like so much fun! Niagara is beautiful. The food you posted looks DELICIOUS!!

on August 29, 2012  Ali de Bold  STAFF said:

@Becky, organized winery tours usually include tastings but you can opt not to do the tasting. I'm not sure it would affect the price because tastings are usually a nominal fee (around $5) and in many cases they don't charge at all if you buy some wine. It would still be a ton of fun without the tastings because it's so scenic and there is a lot of interesting history. And of course the food :)

on August 29, 2012  Becky  13,128 said:

Wow the helicopter ride and tour looks amazing! Are there any tour packages for those of us who don't drink?

on August 29, 2012  farouknabela  3,469 said:

Peninsula Ridge is literally my next door neighbor, awesome!

on August 29, 2012  amyknows  2,352 said:

I absolutely adore Niagara on the Lake. It's such a quaint little place and absolutely beautiful at that. My family and I used to take annual trips there when I was younger, so I have yet to have the pleasure of the wine tours, although it is definitely something I would love to do one day. Hopefully soon! :) Looks like you had a wonderful time! :)

on August 28, 2012  Ali de Bold  STAFF said:

@Fredamans, we didn't go down the main drag of Niagara on the Lake, which is where you would see the horse drawn carriages. This was more of a culinary experience, which is best had at the wineries. I would love to do one of those rides though!

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