Tuesday, April 5, 2011

One Day Tour - Niagara Peninsula

A one day tour of the wineries of the Niagara Peninsula doesn't do the amazing region justice, but that may be all the time you have. Eventually, as our own exposure to the peninsula wines increases, we will split this list into a full day in Niagara-On-The-Lake and the Niagara Escaprment, but for now consider the following concise list the highlights.

Seeing all of the wineries of the Niagara Peninsula is impossible - and honestly, seeing half of the wineries I've listed below will be tough enough. Paruse the list and pickout the wineries that seem to the most interesting to you. Depending on where you're staying, you may want to switch to a reverse order. I would recommend starting further away from where you're staying and working your way "home".

Start in Niagara-On-The-Lake

1. Jackson-Triggs Niagara
Might seem strange to start with the flagship winery of the Vincor wine world, but its very conglomerate-ness is the reason to visit. You can taste and purchase the fantastic Le Clos Jordanne portfolio in the JT tasting room along with their complete proprietary line-up of wines. For fun, ask one of the tasting room staffers to explain the difference between the Black, Black Reserve, Silver and Gold series of wines. Look for the tiny plume of smoke that will inevitably escape from their ears.
Key wines to try:
LCJ Village Reserve Chardonnay 2007
LCJ Talon Ridge Pinot Noir 2007
LCJ Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir
LCJ Le Grand Clos Chardonnay

2. Stratus Vineyards
Just up the road from JT and a favourite of IconWines.ca. A stunning and gorgeous tasting room to visit - especially if you like ultra-modern design. You'll be paying for your tasting flight - a common aspect of winery visits in Ontario - but it will be worth it. Winemaking (and branding) at its finest is on display. Back vintages are often available for the blends - the varietals tend to sell-out each year. Their proprietary red blend was our 2010 Icon Wine of the Year. Winery also produces a second label called Wildass which others less expensive options.
Key wines to try:
Red 2007
White 2006
Cabernet Franc 2007
Red Ice Wine 2007

3. Coyote's Run Estate Winery
Coyote's Run is situated on St. David's Bench and offers an intriguing tasting room experience where you can sample, side-by-side, varietal wines from two unique vineyards that make up the bulk of their portfolio. They also produce some fun white wines that make for excellent cottage patio fare.
Key wines to try:
Pinot Blanc 2009
Red Paw Vineyard Pinot Noir
Black Paw Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2007 2008

4. Château des Charmes
Not far from Coyote's Run, also on the St. David's Bench, is the massive Château des Charmes winery and visitor's center. Their portfolio of wines is equally massive, but their are real gems hidden inside. They conduct tours daily and if you or your group are looking to add that experience to your wine tour then this is the place to do it.
Key wines to try:
Estate Bottled Aligoté 2008
Gamay Droit 2008
Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard Chardonnay 2006
Paul Bosc Estate Riesling Icewine
Equuleus 2007

Optional Add-on (if you have time):
Head east from Château des Charmes to the Niagara College Teaching Winery where many Canadian winemakers learn their trade. The college offers multiple tours and has an on-site wine shop that sells the winery's student participant wines.
Drive East to Vineland
5. Tawse Winery
In recent years, Tawse Winery has elevated its stature to one of the best wineries in Canada. Any trip to the Niagara Peninsula demands a stop at Tawse to taste their exquisite vineyard specific varietal wines and their above average entry level "Sketches" label. Was named the 2010 "Winery of the Year" by Wine Access magazine.
Key wines to try:
Quarry Road Chardonnay
Sketches of Niagara Riesling
Growers Blend Pinot Noir 2007
Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2008

6. Wayne Gretzky Estate Winery
Many of the world's celebrity fronted wineries serve-up boring and predictable plonk. Not so for the Wayne Gretzky Estate Winery product which produce a number of quality single varietal wines and blends. That said, part of the draw is the kitsch association to one of Canada's true icons.
Key wines to try:
Founders Series Riesling
Estate Series Sauvignon Blanc
Estate Series Cabernet Merlot

Drive East to Beamsville

7. Hidden Bench Vineyards and Winery
Hidden Bench produces ultra premium, small lot wines and have been gaining an international presence by entering Decanter's International Wine Awards competition and faring well.
Key wines to try:
Estate Chardonnay 2008
Tete de Cuvee Chardonnay
Felseck Vineyard Riesling
Nuit Blanche-Rosomel Vineyard

8. Thirty Bench Wine Makers
The best tasting experience (of many) at Thirty Bench is the side-by-side-by-side comparison of the three vineyard specific Rieslings grown on the property. Some of the differences are subtle and others are glaring - its a fun way to learn the affect that "terroir" has on the grapes and resulting wine. Thirty Bench also offer library releases of past vintages occasionally, so you never know exactly what will be available when you visit.
Key wines to try:
Red 2007 2008
Triangle Vineyard Riesling
Wood Post Vineyard Riesling
Steel Post Vineyard Riesling
Small Lot Cabernet Franc
Small Lot Chardonnay 2007

9. Fielding Estate Winery
The family-owned Fielding Estate Winery is a great place to end your tour of the Niagara Peninsula. The laid-back tasting room has a great view of the surrounding area and the friendly staff will treat you to a tasting of their multi-tiered portfolio of wines.
Key wines to try:
Viognier 2009
Red Conception 2006
White Conception

 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca


  1. Day 2 - (1) Inniskillin: because Don Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser started it all; (2) Pillitteri; (3)Henry of Pelham for the sparkling; (4) 13th Street Winery for the neat shop; (5) Flatrock Cellars for the chardonnay; (6) Cave Spring for the reisling; (7) Vineland Estates for the incredible restaurant; (8) Malivoire for the rose.

    I'll let someone else do day 3.


  2. Great suggestions! Love the Cave Spring Rieslings and Henry of Pelham sparking wines, although, we get so few of them out on the West Coast.