You may not know this but there’s a wonderful wine region in Canada – on both sides of the country. We love Toronto, a city we return to time and time again. An hour out the QEW from Toronto and you are into wine land, the Twenty Valley, the Beamsville Bench and onto Niagara on the Lake… here’s a few (well there’s quite a few!) of our favourite vineyards and wineries to visit, taste wines and enjoy great food!
Hidden Bench Vineyards and Winery is located in the Beamsville Bench VQA sub-appellation with a focus on producing premium wines. And their wines are truly great, made from their three sustainably farmed vineyards on the Beamsville Bench (Locust Lane, Rosomel, Felseck). With some fantastic Chardonnays & Rielsings in particular… and the lighter reds like Pinot Noir, Hidden Bench is a super winery to visit so be sure to put it on your list!
Mike Weir Winery
Yes this is Mike Weir – the PGA tour golfer. With the founding of his Estate Winery in 2005, the new winery opened just recently, in time for us to visit on our last trip. With stunning views of vines to the lake and indeed right across to Toronto on the other side, it’s certainly worth stopping off here for a glass of wine and cheese. We loved their 2011 Crash Rose which at just $11.95 is super value for a really enjoyable wine. All profits from the sale of Mike Weir wine go to the Mike Weir Charitable Foundation too so you can feel virtuous in your wine drinking here.
Fielding Estates Winery
Another one in this same area on the Beamsville Bench is Fielding Estates. The winery – or Wine Lodge, is a beautiful building, cedar wood, stone and glass with views of Toronto across Lake Ontario. The Fielding family have built something special here, and produce some great wines. On a previous visit we picked up a bottle of their ‘Chosen Few’ red which which is a wine chosen from their best barrels, made in small quantities only from select vintages – a stunning and elegant red wine. Unfortunately no ‘Chosen Few’ available on this visit but we did sample some really nice white wines.
One of the newer wineries on the block and located in St. Davids, in the Niagara region, Ravine was one of our highlights. A 34 acre organic winery and a 100+ year old farm, a restaurant, event space and winery shop, we loved everything about Ravine and we are looking forward to a return visit in just a couple of weeks. Farm to table, the chefs at Ravine, Paul Harber and Ross Midgley are producing something pretty special here… we dined on a terrace, on mismatched chairs and a wobbly table, looking out across vines and the sun setting – perfect!
Megalomaniac, John Howard Cellars of Distinction to give it it’s full name is another one in the Bench area… and since our first visit 4 years ago has changed enormously to now have a large tasting room and winery building with great views over vines and rolling hills. With great branding, Megalomaniac really stands out – their Bubblehead sparkling is really excellent complete with its sparkly label! The wines have names like Bravado, Bigmouth, My Way Chardonnay, Frank… we enjoyed a bottle of red from their ‘Grounded’ Series, a 2010 Cabernet Franc to celebrate our anniversary!
One of the older wineries in the bench area is Vineland – there’s a great restaurant with this fantastic patio terrace for some al fresco dining. Delicious food, its a perfect lunch stop, while working your way around the bench wineries.
Certainly close to if not the top of the list for us is Southbrook. With it’s distinctive blue wall welcoming you in, Southbrook is focused on sustainable, organic and biodynamic wines. Their passion is clear and they produce really notable wines – we really enjoy their reds, it can be hard to find meatier, heavier red wines in this region, but Southbrook offer some nice Cabernet Sauvignon options.
With another lovely terrace, offering casual food and drinks through lunch and the afternoon, a great tasting room and good tours, Southbrook is more than worth stopping at. The day we visited Southbrook on this trip was cloudy so not the best of photos but you get the idea – vines, tables, wine, nice food!
One of the stalwarts of the wine industry in this region, Peller Estates is very much a staple of the history and growth of Niagara wine, having been there for over 50 years. Its a winery we generally always stop into and I love the drive in from the gate up to this huge grand chateau style building. There’s a tours, tastings, a shop, a gorgeous fine dining restaurant where we’ve celebrated and loved many times and now a new terrace restaurant offering a more casual dining experience – Barrell House Grill which opens daily 11-6pm. It was here we enjoyed a flight of wines and a light lunch and absolutely recommend a visit to Peller. Peller make great icewine, especially their Cabernet Franc – best enjoyed with strawberries and chocolate!
Two Sisters Vineyard
Right next door to Peller and only just opened, Two Sisters is a winery and restaurant – Kitchen76. We went along to try some of their wines, loved their sparkling wine in particular – ‘Lush’. We didn’t get to try the restaurant but the menu and space itself with the large patio area looked excellent.
Trius (formerly Hillebrand) holds a special place in our heart… we celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary with lunch on the patio there, and on our forthcoming trip will be there to enjoy lunch and blues music with the ‘Blues at the Winery’ festival. Chef Frank Dodd and his team produce fantastic food. Simple menus and ingredients yet stunning dishes. Sitting on the terrace there, looking out over vines with a glass of wine, it’s my ‘happy place’… and for all the new wineries opening in Ontario, Trius will always be a place we will go back to. It was the very 1st vineyard in Canada I ever visited and each time we make sure we go back.
So there you have some of our favourite spots in a country we love…I’m only glad that writing this I’ve less than 2 weeks to go until I’m back there – visits to Trius and Ravine are on the agenda this time too. No doubt I’ll have more blogs and photos to come after that…