Wine tasting in Niagara-on-the-Lake
The rolling hills of Napa Valley, the elegant vineyards of France and Italy, the rows of vines in coastal New Zealand — that’s where great wine comes from, right? Well, yes, but you might be surprised to discover that Canada also belongs on that list.
Better known for grub like poutine and maple syrup and sports like hockey, Canada isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you consider world-class wineries to visit. However, it’s home to some exceptional vineyards that have been flying under the radar for years. The cool microclimate of Ontario and other regions of Canada, like the Okanagan Valley and Nova Scotia, are perfect for creating the clean- and crisp-tasting wines people rave about. If you’re looking for some delicious, underrated pours, don’t be so quick to rule out Canadian wines. Here are five we like from the Niagara region of Ontario:
1. Henry of Pelham 2016 Riesling, Speck Family Reserve
For right around $25 a bottle, you can enjoy this 2016 riesling from the Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery in St. Catharines, Ontario. Grapes from the oldest riesling vine on the property go into making this wine. If you’re in the area, winery tours cost $10 and include four tastings. Henry of Pelham is home to the largest underground barrel cellar in Canada, so you don’t want to miss that tour!
Ice wine tasting in Ontario
2. 2015 Inniskillin Reserve Series Viognier
Inniskillin drew the wine world’s attention to Canada when its 1989 Vidal Icewine won the Vinexpo Grand Prix d’Honneur in 1991. The winery, located in picturesque Niagara-on-the-Lake, is still considered a staple in the country to this day. In addition to its renowned ice wines, Inniskillin also makes a pretty mean table wine. You can pick up this viognier, one of Canada’s best, for about $25. (For more on this area’s delicious ice wines, see our Buffalo & Niagara Falls guide.)
3. Tawse Winery’s 2013 Pinot Noir, Cherry Avenue
This 2013 vintage will cost you nearly $50, but it’s worth it. Now on its 10th harvest, Tawse’s Cherry Avenue Pinot Noir is aged for 16 months. The result is a delicious sip filled with hints of oak, plum, and cranberry. It comes from the Twenty Mile Bench wine region of Canada, which is ideal for growing grapes because of its proximity to Lake Ontario.
4. Peller Estates’ Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc 2015
The Peller Estates’ Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc 2015 delivers flavors of green apple, citrus, and toasty oak. It won White Wine of the Year at the 2015 Ontario Wine Awards — not bad for a $30 bottle. The Niagara-on-the-Lake winery is known to host food trucks, grill-outs, and pairing experiences. But if you’re visiting, you’ll want to make a reservation at the highly rated restaurant, beloved by OpenTable, Zagat, and TripAdvisor. Great food, great wine — everyone’s happy.
5. GreenLane Estate Winery’s 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
This award-winning wine from the GreenLane Estate Winery in Vineland is of limited quantity, so get it before it’s gone. Aged for 19 months, you’ll get delicious hints of cherry, violet, and truffle in every sip. At just under $33 a bottle, it’s hard to go wrong.
If that’s not enough to convince you to plan a trip to Canada’s wine country, make sure you also stop by the Trius Winery. It offers nine different tours, including a movie night hosted in the vineyard. (And if you’re wine-tasting in Niagara-on-the-Lake, you can even bike around to the many vineyards!) Further west in Vineland, the Megalomaniac winery tours are known for having the best views.
Canada may seem an unlikely destination for wine — and an underdog compared to the likes of France and California. But these vintages and many others prove it’s worth stirring up some buzz. So go ahead: Have a taste for yourself.
Tony Tie is a numbers-obsessed marketer, life hacker, and public speaker who has helped various Fortune 500 companies grow their online presence. Located in Toronto, he is currently the senior search marketer at Expedia Canada, the leading travel booking platform for flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and local activities. Connect with Tony on Twitter @tonytie.