Food Ontario Select Guide: Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula Wine Country
Photos provided by: Wine Council of Ontario
The new Food Ontario Select Guide starts off with a trip to Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula Wine Country - with the Wine Diva as our guide. For the most part, wine-drinking Canadians understand that there are two major wine-growing regions in Canada. In Ontario it’s the Niagara Peninsula; in British Columbia it’s the Okanagan Valley.
This certainly doesn’t suggest these are the only important appellations or Designated Viticultural Areas (DVAs) but you can’t argue that they are currently the most vital and the most established regions. But, drawing parallels between these two regions is difficult (if not impossible). Besides sharing the same red and white flag and the same viticultural standards put in place by the Vintner’s Quality Alliance (VQA) their climate, terroir and attitude seem to differ greatly.
Depending on which side of the country you are standing on, each makes the better wine. B.C.’s predilection for drinking new world wines has helped B.C. wine producers become the number one selling category in the province scrambling to keep up with demand. Wineries are popping up almost monthly drawing masses of travelers over the mountains from the coast and Alberta. And in Ontario, the recent addition of Prince Edward County (north of Toronto) as an approved DVA as well the appeal of winemaking to such celebrity wine lovers as golfer Mike Weir, hockey great Wayne Gretsky and now comedian Dan Akroyd Ontario’s wine industry is reaching new heights.
This is why traveling to and supporting your own wine region is so crucial. It builds growth, faith and demand.
Traveling to the Niagara Peninsula
If you are driving south from Toronto, getting to wine country couldn’t be easier - the QEW leads you right to it. Grimsby and Beamsville and the Niagara Bench will greet you first. Here you’ll find such recognizable and award winning wineries such as Angel’s Gate Winery, Malivoire Winery, Thirty Bench Winery and the stunning winery and restaurant at Peninsula Ridge Estates.
From here you’ll continue to travel east to Vineland and Jordan where the two of Ontario’s most established Riesling makers reside. On the quaint Main Street in Jordan you’ll find the destination of Cave Spring Cellars and Inn on the Twenty. And, in nearby Vineland the romantic Vineland Estates and Winery will seduce you. Nearby, the critically acclaimed Tawse Winery, Creekside Winery as well one of the regions oldest-established Family Estate Wineries called Henry of Pelham.
Farther along, in perhaps the quaintest town in Ontario - Niagara-on-the-lake - you’ll find the nearby palatial destination of Peller Estates Winery and fine dining restaurant. While in the region you cannot miss Château des Charmes, Coyote’s Run Estate Winery, Marynissen Estates and Niagara Vintners Inc. (look for their 20 Bees Riesling) and the new winery at Hilebrand Estates.
Of course the importance of Jackson-Triggs Estate Winery and Inniskillin Winery’s role in the evolution of Canada’s wine industry cannot be overlooked. After winning Vinexpo’s highest award - Le Grand Prix d'Honneur in Bordeaux in 1991 for their Icewine, Inniskillin became (arguably) the king of Icewine in the kingdom of Niagara.
How many reasons do you need to be proud to drink Canadian wine, be it from Ontario, or British Columbia?
*Please remember to designate a non-sampling driver during your wine country tours or use the spit-buckets provided and save the drinking for later!
Daenna Van Mulligen (aka Wine Diva)is a Vancouver based writer, sommelier and wine educator. You can read her cheeky wine reviews at www.winediva.ca.
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