I’m Canadian and am damn proud of it too, so why not write about Canada? I’ve gained a lot of international friends so why not share an important piece of my home. Yes, i am totally gonna be bias and tell you it’s the most amazing place on Earth; that’s why I’ve asked my boyfriend, Santiago, an Argentinian visiting Canada for the first time to help me out.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is my favourite place in Southern Ontario. It’s a very small town right on Lake Ontario in wine country. I’ve been going for years as well but this was the first time we actually did any winery tours.
Of course every time we go down there, we always have the option of going Whirlpool Jet Boating in the Niagara Gorge.
I’ve been doing this since I was 12 years old. I haven’t done this in almost 10 years or more, so I had basically forgotten everything about it. You’re in a huge boat like the one above and they take you through a huge set of rapids, class 5 i believe. You get completely soaked! But luckily for us, doing this in the late summer, the water was really warm. You’re on the water for about an hour or a little more and go through the rapids about 4 times, with increasing wave intensity than the last go-through.
Whirlpool Jet Boating was so much fun, what seems like a normal trip in a boat ends up being an hour of doing all sort of incredible stuff I didn’t know a boat could do and getting completely soaked. And all of that in a gorgeous place like Niagara Gorge, with those huge power plants and surrounded by trees. The river with those rapids is amazing, it’s so massive, strong and fast and the devil’s hole area with those whirlpools is just amazing. It was a really fun experience and it didn’t felt like an hour at all, once we got into the rapids time flew by. We had a great time there.
My favourite area in Niagara-on-the-Lake is Queen’s Royal Park
The park is right on Lake Ontario and has a little walking path right on the water. It’s very green with lots of flowers too. Many people picnicking on the grass as well. Also on a clear day you can see Toronto across the lake.
My girlfriend brought me to this park telling me this was her favourite park, it was really close to our hotel so we walked over. As soon as i saw it I knew why. The park is absolutely gorgeous, a really green grass at the shore of the lake with some trees which give a prefect picnic shadow and as if that wasn´t pretty enough it has a perfectly white gazebo surrounded by flowers. I really loved that park, walking around there with the view of Toronto in the horizon and the families doing picnics on the grass was lovely. The only thing i regret about that is not taking advantage of the sunny day we had and done a picnic there too.
After a nice relaxing time at the park, we decided to try out some wineries! Every winery we went to was booked for the day, a total buzz kill, so we booked one for the next day but we ended up going to Trius Winery at Hillebrand and doing a sparkling wine tour.
Our sparkling wine tour was about 45 mins and was completely spectacular. They took us around the grounds, showing us their vineyards and then into the basement where they keep all the wine. But being early September, it was harvesting season so you couldn’t venture into their vineyards because they were setting up to harvest. They told us about the process creating wine and then we got to taste about 3 sparkling wines, they even told us how to accurately taste test wine. Sparkling wine is just like champagne but they cannot call it that because it’s not from Champagne, France.
Our tour guide was so knowledgable, i was highly impressed, he even had a trick up his sleeve. He was able to open a bottle of sparkling wine by cutting the top clean off by dragging a blade up the bottle. You’re able to do this because sparkling wine bottles are actually two halfs on bottles fused together. This mean, in the light, you can find the seam of the bottle and this is the key. You drag the blade along this fault and it create a pressure point that accumulates when you hit the top lip and voila, a clean cut off the top.
During our last wine tasting, our guide brought up the movie, The 7 Year Itch featuring Marilyn Monroe. In the movie, Marilyn says, “Did you ever dunk a potato chip in champagne?” and so with our sparkling wine, we paired it with plain potato chips. And boy let me tell you, it was delicious, it really changed the taste of the sparkling wine. Amazing.
The first Winery, Trius Winery at Hillebrand, really caught my interest, specially cause in Argentina the main wines are red wines, Malbec, and on Niagara-on-the-Lake there´s a majority of white and sparkling wine, which have a different process than the red wine. So the whole guided tour was really interesting for me. While i´m not a big fan of white wine I do like the sparkling one. But doing the tasting i have to say that i liked them all, the wines of this winery were really good, a great taste and doing it surrounded by the huge green fields while the guide explained the process and the wine couldn’t have been a better harmony.
That night we walked into the main street of Niagara-on-the-Lake to have dinner and explore the small street. The whole area is beautiful, so much green and flowers around the buildings. After dinner, we went to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and tried a caramel apple dipped in chocolate with skor bits.
The next day we ventured over to Peller Estates Winery & Restaurant and took a basic wine tour which also featured with 10 below room.
During this tour we were able to try 2 white wines, a red wine and then an ice wine (hence the 10 below room). I really cannot remember the name of any of the wines, but of course they were delicious. We started out on the patio with a white wine and then went over to the vineyards and they even allowed time for us to take some photos. After that was another wine tasting and then we went into the cellar for our red wine which they paired with a dark chocolate. The chocolate paired amazing with the wine, taking away the dryness of the wine. After that, they brought us into their 10 below room.
In the 10 below room, you guessed it, we tried the ice wine. They have this 10 below room which is set at -10 degrees celsius to mimic the temperature of the grapes when they pick them. They also give you big parkas to wear when you enter the room and gloves as well. It was really funny wearing shorts and a parka together. I’ve never tried ice wine and i really didn’t know what to expect. I LOVED it. it was a good kind of sweet and so so smooth. After our wine tour, we ended up buying a bottle in their shop. They also have two resturants here, one that looks super fancy and other thats more relaxed, we went to the relaxed one where they had pizzas, burgers and salads, the menu was small, but thats good. We all ordered the same burger and we all really enjoyed it and could hardly finish our meal. Excellent.
At the next day we went to our second winery, Peller Estates Winery & Restaurant, there we did a general tasting tour so we tried white wine, sparkling wine, red wine and ice wine, this last one was completely new for me till then. The wines were delicious, the guide started a little rusted but by the tick of time she got more loose and we ended up really enjoying the tour. This guide, as well as the one of Trius were really explicative and they really added value to the tour and tasting. The most stunning thing of Peller Estates was the 10 bellow room to try the ice wine, so you could taste this wine at the exact temperature that the harvest is done. It was a really different way to make you try the wine and it was really nice. The ice wine was a different wine to anything i tried before, it´s sweet like the late harvest wine but more complex in flavours. After the tasting we ended up having lunch in the winery restaurant enjoying the gorgeous view that the winery offers.
I loved having the opportunity of doing the tastings, both of them. It was a great way to know the wines of the area and trying them all with the hand of the local experts to tell me the story behind each of them. I really enjoyed the winery visits and i wouldn´t mind to do some more next time.
This is my favourite area and it never disappoints. This was my first time visiting the wineries in this area and was extremely impressed and pleased with our experience. We only went to 2 wineries and there are many many more, i cannot wait to see and taste them all.
Santiago’s Outlook on Niagara-on-the-Lake:
I loved our stay on Niagara-on-the-Lake. It´s a lovely town with a really unique identity. I loved the small city centre full of flowers and the beautiful houses surrounding it. Having a great quality options of restaurants and stores there. Walking by those street is so relaxing that makes you always wanna stay more around there. I can understand why is my girlfriend’s favourite area and after visiting it became one of mine too.