Experience and photos by Jeff and Stephanie Sylva
When we visited Canada’s Niagara Region we enjoyed a couple of days marveling at the enormous force and stunning beauty of the Falls. But we also spent a glorious couple of days experiencing the globally-acclaimed Niagara Peninsula wine region. The amazing power of nature is never more evident than an up-close view of Niagara Falls. And the beauty – and bounty – of nature is also front and center in Canada’s Niagara wine region located just minutes from the Falls.
Niagara’s Wine Country
You may be as surprised as we were to learn that Niagara’s Wine Country shares the same latitude of some of the finest wine regions in the world including Bordeaux, Italy, and Oregon. With a cool climate that is moderated by the Great Lakes and a high concentration of limestone in the soil, the region boasts a terroir that produces a range of premium wines. Niagara’s signature varieties include Riesling, Chardonnay, Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc. But international favorites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot are also well represented.
The area is also world-renowned for its “sweet luxury” – Icewine. Typically harvested between December and February, the grapes have frozen on the vine producing an incredibly concentrated, sweet liquid. Icewine is typically used as a dessert pairing. However, it is finding new pairing combinations with tangy cheese, rich food like foie gras, or even spicy food.
Niagara Wine Festivals
For three weekends in January the Niagara Icewine Festival celebrates one of Canada’s most cherished products. Elegant galas, wine and food pairings, and a variety of outdoor activities highlight this intense, sweet wine.
The Niagara region has a wine festival for every season. The Sparkles Festival in March, the Homegrown Festival in June, and the Grape & Wine Festival in September round out Canada’s largest wine festival series. We explored the two wine regions of the Niagara Peninsula – Niagara Escarpment & Twenty Valley, popularly known as “The Bench,” and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Although we didn’t realize it, we picked a weekend to visit during the Grape &
Wine Festival. As a result we got to experience the Festival’s Discovery Pass, which included 8 wine and food pairings at any of the more than 30 participating wineries. The Discovery Pass is available for all of the Niagara Wine Festivals.
A great way to visit the Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries during the warmer months is by bike. We enjoyed the beautiful agricultural countryside and the bike path along the Niagara River Parkway, with stops at various wineries for food and wine pairings.
A charming village
It may be the heart of Niagara’s wine scene, but it is so much more. As the first capital of Upper Canada, the genteel Victorian village of Niagara-on-the-Lake has a lot of history. A visit to Fort George National Historic Site will take you back to the War of 1812, site of an important battle over 200 years ago. Niagara-on-the-Lake also offers a great variety of cultural experiences. Theater goers flock to the village every year for the world-renowned Shaw Festival Theatre. The 2020 season will see 14 plays presented on 3 stages from April to December.
Festival of the Arts concerts are multi-sensory experiences and a celebration of the arts. The Niagara Jazz Festival, held in July, is a four-day celebration of all types of jazz. Recreational activities include golf on one of North America’s oldest courses. Bike the trail along the Niagara River Parkway, or ride the back roads through picturesque farms and wineries. Enjoy Lake Ontario or the Niagara River on a stand up paddle. Browse the many unique shops, art galleries, and museums of Niagara-on-the-Lake. From five-diamond hotels, to charming country inns, to quaint bed & breakfast guest houses, visitors have many choices of accommodations. Dining choices abound in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Choose from fine dining, to upscale casual, family fare, and pub grub.
Experience the Epic Falls
In contrast to the serenity and charm of Niagara’s wine country and the village of Niagara-on-the-Lake, the enormous power and epic majesty of Niagara Falls is awe-inspiring. And the best way to experience The Falls is with the Niagara Parks Adventure Pass. With two choices of passes, The Classic and The Plus, Niagara Parks offers a number of exciting attractions.
Don the provided plastic poncho and get ready for the ride of a lifetime as you take the Hornblower Niagara Cruise right up to the breathtaking American and Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Another poncho will be necessary when you take the Journey Behind the Falls and explore the tunnels that were built behind the thunderous Horseshoe Falls. Walk the boardwalk in the Niagara Gorge on the White Water Walk. Here you can witness one of the world’s wildest stretch of white water rapids where “class 6” rapids create standing waves over 15 feet high. Learn about the ancient story of The Falls in the 360-degree multi-sensory theater Niagara’s Fury.
Additional attractions included with the Adventure Pass Plus are the Whirlpool Aero Car, the Floral Showcase, and the Butterfly Conservatory. Also all Heritage Sites such as Old Fort Erie and the Laura Secord Homestead, the Falls Incline Railway, and shuttle service to Niagara-on-the-Lake are included. Both passes also include 2-day unlimited WEGO Bus access. It’s the perfect way to travel among the different attractions.
Whether you desire the awesome sight of water from four of the five Great Lakes pouring over a 170-foot-high precipice, or the idyllic scenery and welcoming hospitality of a charming village and its surrounding vineyards, Canada’s Niagara Region is an unforgettable destination.