We are returning to beautiful Niagara on the Lake this summer after many years absence. We’ll have cars, and will be staying at an Air B&B across from the River, (walking distance to Inniskillin and Reif) on the way into town. Grandma & Grandpa, daughter and her Sonoma-bred Cali husband, with two littles. We’ll be there for 2 weeks, and hope for some of the wonderful restaurants (farm to table is great). Our daughter is looking forward to returning to some of the wineries (anything new or different?) now that she can legally drink. We’ll check out what’s doing at the Shaw Festival while we’re there.
So, what’s new, great, fun, interesting? Anything to stay away from? Are the prices at the LCBO the same as at the wineries?
I had some amazing scallops at dinner at the restaurant at the Strewn Winery. The other stuff was also very good. I’ve eaten there a few times over the years. I found the restaurant at the Inniskillin winery expensive but not very good. I’ve not had much luck at the few restaurants I tried in the village.
Ruffino’s Pasta Bar and Grill is good casual Italian in NOTL, in the space previously occupied by Backhouse and Stone Road Grille.
The prices at the wineries don’t differ significantly from LCBO. The main difference is you will find small lot/limited edition wines the LCBO doesn’t stock or can only be found at restaurants, with major markups. If you have the time, I recommend venturing West of St Catherines up on the Escarpment, to the many wineries around Jordan Village and Beamsville.
Prices at the wineries re essentially the same as the LCBO, but the winery gets a much larger portion of direct sales than through the LCBO, so if possible buy direct from the winery. Many wineries offer free shipping for modest quantities of wine, so even if you’re not going to NotL you can support the wineries by ordering direct from them.
As one of the other posters said, you can often find premium or low-volume products that aren’t available at the LCBO by buying direct from the winery (either in person or on-line).
I’m primarily interested in high-end Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, so my recommendations would be:
Bachelder (I think you have to join their mailing list to visit their tasting room)
Le Clos Jordanne (I don’t think they have a tasting room, but you can order on-line)
5 Rows (you have to go early in the season - May/June - since they sell out by the end of August. They make no Chardonnay, but a great Sauvignon Blanc)
On Seven (very good Chardonnays, but no Pinot Noir yet. No tasting room, but you can order on-line)
Leaning Post (actually in Grimsby, the westernmost winery in the Niagara peninsula)
The Farm (they’re only open for tastings one day a year, and you have to be on their mailing list, but it’s a gala event with free tastings, free food, music, dancing, tennis, lawn bowling and even a swimming pool!)
Mason Vineyards (visits by appointment only - the owner/winemaker is also the winemaker at Queylus, Honsberger and until recently at The Farm. She made four of winesinniagara.com’s 2022 list of the 30 “most thrilling wines of the year”. She’s also a personal friend)
Flat Rock Cellars
On your way to NotL, stop in at Southbrook to taste their Framboise and Cassis dessert wines, along with their other selections. It’s on Niagara Stone Road (hwy 55, just off the QEW)
One very good source of information on Niagara wines is winesinniagara.com, which has extensive stories and tasting notes about the wineries and occasionally restaurants in Niagara (and sometimes Prince Edward County). He often has tasting notes of wines that are about to be released at either the winery of the LCBO. That’s my main source of knowledge about which wines to order on-line.