For New Year’s, Bob and I went to Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario for 5 days. “But Zandy, why on earth would you go somewhere colder on vacation?” Glad you asked.
Because of the surrounding geography, there is a small area that has a very temperate climate. Due to the surrounding lakes and prevailing winds, the town doesn’t get much snow (not as much as Buffalo, certainly). The Niagara Escarpment, a ridge that runs from New York through Ontario and on westward, blocks god knows what, but it helps make the area favorable to grape growing. On the Google Map above, the escarpment runs south of Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL). Sandwiched between this big bench and the water, the area is nicely sheltered. You can find out more about Niagara wines here: http://winesofontario.org/. An interesting thing about NOTL is that within a relatively small area, there are 4 terroirs (find out more here: http://www.wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com/terroir.php).
So we went up to this lush grape-jungle for a bit of mild weather and to visit some of the wineries. We stayed at Maria’s Bed and Breakfast http://www.mariasbb.ca/. It was our Christmas gift to each other, and it was definitely worth it. We relaxed, slept in, wandered the town, and of course visited wineries.
Our first day, we drove up in the afternoon (we only live approximately 2 1/2 hours away), checked into the BnB early, and decided to go to some wineries. The first one we went to was just up the road, Jackson-Triggs.
The table is much lighter than it appears in the first photo. All the wine we tried in the region was lovely.
After visiting this winery, we went to the shore of Lake Ontario.
The white is frozen lake – it’s a bit frothy, and froze over the beach pebbles in a really cool way.
After the lake, we went back to the BnB to get ready for dinner. We went to a bar/grill in town called Corks for dinner (two nights, actually), and really enjoyed it. The first time we went, I had a broccoli, cheese, and egg pie (aka, quiche) that was very good, but tasted a bit salty. Bob had chili, and said it was very good. The second time we went we split a couple tapas plates including fried raviolis, mezza, and shrimp and scallop dip. We also had local beer, which was quite nice.
The Bed and Breakfast had fantastic breakfasts. Every breakfast started with yogurt, fruit, and granola. We had stuffed french toast, quiche, blueberry pancakes, and eggs benedict. I can’t stress enough how amazing these breakfasts were. Bob had let them know that I don’t eat meat, so while the other guests enjoyed ham or sausage with their meals, I had either mushroom patties (which were just ok) or vegetarian nuggets which were shockingly tasty. I highly recommend this place, btw.
Another day, we visited Hillebrand Winery which we quite liked.
These facilities were really shocking in scope. I hadn’t expected so many to be so large. Konzelmann in particular was a castle. Nice whites there. Pillitteri had an interesting interior, with what might have been cork and bamboo walls. One of our absolute favorites was Joseph’s. It had the best merlot of all the wineries we visited. And it was one of the smaller places. Very unpretentious. Another surprise was Sunnybrook. All fruit wines. Normally although I like to taste fruit wine, I don’t really like to sit down and have a glass. This, however, is not like other fruit wine that I’d had. It didn’t have a white wine base, so it was not sweet. It was surprising and delightful.
On our last day, our friends Drew and Joe came to visit us, and we had lunch at The Olde Angel Inn. We had actually also had our new year’s dinner there, as well. It’s a fun, English pub, and the rooms above are supposedly haunted. For the dinner I had Fisherman’s Pie, which is basically shepherd’s pie, but with fish, scallops, and crab. Lovely. For lunch I had appetizers: seafood-stuffed mushrooms and garlic bread. Probably not very healthy, but it was vacation! While we walked around town with Drew and Joe, we went in a few shops, and I got my mom some Canadian tea. Very British-style town.
We can’t wait to go back, although we’ll probably skip the Shaw Festival — too many people. We really enjoyed having the town to ourselves.