A complete guide to the perfect couple's trip to Niagara Falls and the Niagara-On-The-Lake/St. Catharines area wineries! Includes some of the best hidden gem restaurants in the area!
Niagara Falls is our happy place 🙂 I hadn't been since I was a kid but a few years ago life threw me a curve ball and started to fall apart and I HAD to get away. Andrew suggested Niagara Falls because it was only a 4 hour drive but still got me out of the country for a change of scenery. He likes to gamble, we both like to drink wine, and we both love delicious food so Niagara was a perfect spot.
We had such a great time that we have now made Niagara an annual trip for us, and in 2017 he surprised me by getting down on one knee and popping the big question! <3 So now Niagara is an extra special place for us. 🙂 Life has now fallen back into place, I have an amazing man to share it with, and now I want to share the hidden gems of our favorite place with you!I feel Niagara Falls is underrated, as most people think of it as a tourist trap. But there's something just so beautiful and calming about those giant falls and there are some incredible restaurants hiding in the surrounding areas. (Please also note when I say Niagara Falls, I mean the Canadian side. The American side is....well....just please go to the Canadian side!)I'm going to share a little bit about Niagara Falls, but really our favorite area is just about 20 minutes north, in a quaint and friendly town called Niagara-On-The-Lake, and about a half hour West of that in St. Catharines (and the surrounding area such as Beamsville, Vineland, Lincoln, Jordan etc), both of which have wineries for dayyys and incredible restaurants!
So enjoy this couple's get away guide to Niagara!! Most of these pictures are from our engagement trip so I hope you enjoy sharing our memories with us! 🙂 I've also added in a few extra pointers and hot spots from our 2018 trip to be even more inclusive!
So let's talk for a moment about the logistics of our Niagara tour. We always stay 4 days and we have discovered in our travels that the best way to do it is to spend the first night in the falls, then travel over to St. Catharines the next morning to hit their wineries and spend the night there. There are maps of the wineries you can grab or download and use it to plan out your trip. Luckily they are all about 30 seconds away from each other and they follow a perfect tour path! Below is a map that we have used for NOTL which is not all-inclusive but definitely directs you along the path to the best wineries and you will find a few additional gems along your way!
The next day we wake up, hit a few more St. Catharines wineries then work our way over to NOTL. We hit a few wineries then grab dinner and spend the night there. The next morning we hit a few more wineries, following the map along the outer edge of NOTL and hitting Chateau des Charmes, Ravine, and Colaneri, which are on the road out of town, and travel back to the falls for one more night before we head home.
I like this path because it makes sense geographically if you're traveling from America, and it also gives us two nights at the falls to hit our favorite restaurants, then enjoy some of our wine purchases while overlooking the falls from our hotel room on the final night. 🙂
I have included some of our favorite hotels for the Niagara-On-The-Lake and St. Catharines areas, and as far as the Niagara Falls hotels you really can't go wrong with any of them! Just make sure you choose a falls view room and you won't be disappointed!The first stop on our Niagara Falls tour came just about an hour or two after our engagement (I had to make calls to all my closest people!) We've been to Niagara together 4 years in a row now and this is our favorite restaurant at the falls! It's called Canyon Creek and it's a hidden gem in the Fallsview Casino.
There are a few main perks of this restaurant that makes it our favorite:
- The food is some of the BEST we've ever had. Coming from a BBQ Brother himself, (and subsequently a man who eats a lot of beef), Andrew gushes over their 40 day aged prime rib and states it is the best he's ever had. I'm not a huge prime rib person so for our engagement meal I chose to order the filet and lobster 🙂 I've had multiple dishes at this restaurant and they've all been amazing! (I actually just finished up some Canyon dip leftovers a few hours ago!)
- During winter you can watch the falls from the wrap around windows (or the ferris wheel depending on which side you're on). We always travel to Niagara around February to avoid the crowds so I'm not sure how the view is during other months when the trees are full, but during winter it is SO romantic!
- The prices are reasonable. Most restaurants on the falls will charge you the "water fall tax" as I like to call it. This is when they serve you a 2 oz filet with one green bean and charge you $96 because they can. Because they have a view of the water. We discovered this during our first stay when we received coupons for the hotel restaurants, and we were sorely disappointed in the bang we did not get for our buck! Canyon Creek will fill you up without emptying your wallet!
- They serve wine from our favorite Niagara-On-The-Lake wineries! So I get a taste of the wine even before we drive north.
It's in the same building as the casino. Which means a date night of delicious food and wine followed by couple's gambling! All while not having to go out into the winter air 🙂So if you're looking for an amazing restaurant while visiting the falls, be sure to check out Canyon Creek! (Ask for a waterfall window seat for the best view!) The picture above is our view from my seat this year of the falls, the restaurant, and along the casino and Niagara Falls hotels. Such an awesome view in every direction! Another perk of Canyon Creek is that it is surrounded by stores within the Fallsview Casino. We always stop in the ornament shop to buy Christmas tree ornaments for each other to commemorate our year, but Andrew was love-struck by the hot sauce store! He was so excited to buy some Niagara based hot sauces, only to find out most of the sauces are from Tennessee. Womp womp. But hey it's still a fun store with a lot of unique finds! On our most recent trip we discovered that they had started making their own hot sauces which has resulted in emptier shelves but more authentic options! The next morning we were off to St. Catharines to explore their wineries. Our 2017 trip was actually our first year in St. Catharines. The first two years we only explored Niagara-On-The-Lake and still didn't hit all of the wineries. There are a ridiculously crazy amount of wineries up there, guys. And as it turns out, the St. Catharines area has just as many, if not more!
I wanted to hit a local breakfast spot on our way and The Diner House 29 was recommended by a fellow food blogger (Tiffany from @eatingniagara on Instagram and www.timeforgrub.com blog. Thanks Tiffany!). I love how social media allows us to connect with people from other countries so that when we're in a small town we can still get killer restaurant recommendations. I loved this place! It was so eclectic, everyone was friendly and the food was BOMB.
I mean just look at that adorable wall of vintage bowls!! It's a food blogger's dream! Plus all the chairs are vintage and unique. From the outside The Diner House 29 wouldn't have normally drawn me in (we had to drive through a gas station parking lot to get to it) but I am soooo grateful that I found someone who recommended this place because it was everything I wanted and more! The Diner House 29 is definitely a hidden gem.
I ordered the breakfast poutine (when in Canada 😛 ) which was house spuds with black bomber cheddar, BBQ sauce, garlic mayo, scallions and fried poached eggs. FRIED. POACHED. EGGS. PEOPLE. Think about that for a second. It's even better than I dreamed!
Andrew got one of the specials which was cajun meatloaf with green tomatoes, blue cheese, BBQ sauce, fried eggs, and spuds. It was equally amazing!
My only wish for our visit here is that we weren't hoorrrrrribly hung over from popping bubbly celebrating our engagement in the night before! (Again, a necessary part of any good Niagara trip, especially an engagement trip!)
Henry of Pelham was our first winery stop the morning after our engagement and that morning we were greeted by Karen. The winery tasting room is so rustic and adorable I couldn't stop taking pictures of every corner! Karen spent probably an hour talking with us and letting us taste almost every wine they had. (The baco-noir is a must try!) She even gave us a complimentary glass of Rosé Brut to celebrate our engagement! It was such a perfect way to start our day in St. Catharines. We bought a bottle of their Rosé Brut to pop open for our engagement party a few months later (plus the baco-noir because...yumm). I couldn't have asked for a better way to start our day!Our next stop at Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery was even more precious as we met Brix (a winery dog who is living his best life) and walked into a tasting room that is my dream kitchen! We hung out with Kara (who is way cooler than I will ever be) who had the BEST wine descriptions. For example, "You'll want to lick your way out of the barrel." I mean...she was so right. These wines were amazing. I bought wayyy too many ice wine/chocolate packages here this day. It was also in their parking lot where we officially made our engagement announcement on social media! (Kara was wondering why were sitting in the parking lot so long! 😛 ) We stopped back again this year and Kara even remembered us! Probably due to our awkwardly long amount of time spent in their parking lot! 😛 I think Brix remembered Andrew because he seemed enamored to see him. However, when I tried to get my picture with him this year he ran away from me 🙁 It's okay though. I just love him too hard. He can't handle it. He's also the January model dog of the 2018 Winery Dogs of Ontario Calendar so I think maybe it went to his head and he's forgetting about the fans he had before he was famous 😛For lunch we stopped at The Good Earth after a few locals had recommended it to us, and we had the whole place to ourselves. The food was delightful with super fresh ingredients, the service was friendly and the decor was adorable! How awesome is that giant fork in the vineyard?! I ordered a pasta dish and Andrew got some type of open faced sandwich...I forget exactly what it was due to all the wine I had tasted 😛 but he said it was really good, too!Our hotel that evening is definitely worth sharing! We stayed at the Jordan House which was absolute perfection. Once we figured out how to check in (you check in at the Inn on the Twenty, a different hotel down the street) we got settled into our room then went to check out the attached tavern. Such a cool place! The food was simple and filling (which was just what we needed) and we both wished we weren't so tired so we could have hung out longer. Luckily our **insanely comfortable** bed was only a few steps away! If you're in the area definitely stay at the Jordan House. It was so affordable, the rooms were cute and that mattress was a dream!We stayed at the Jordan house again on our 2018 trip because our experience was so great. Luckily this time we were able to stay awake long enough to stay for their live music and got to enjoy Ear Candy for a little while before we finally gave in to our sleepiness for the night! This year I ordered the beef dip sandwich which was outstanding and highly recommended! Here are some more pictures of the Jordan House hotel. So quaint and adorable! I can't wait to come back to this place! The location is perfect, too because Jordan is kind of right in the center of all the wineries in that area so your commute will be minimal! Here are some pictures of the interior of the Jordan House Hotel. It's nothing too fancy but it works perfectly for what we need! Make sure if you stay here you return the keys the next morning because they're $30 a pop if you lose them! Which is understandable because look how darn fancy those things are! Luckily our chance of losing them between the hotel hallway and the tavern we stumbled in and out of was very low 😛 The next morning we got up in search of food to fill our stomachs before we went sampling more wines. We passed this cute little diner called Boo's Bar and Eatery and decided to stop in. We were the youngest patrons there by about 60 years and I loved every second of it. I ordered eggs benedict and Andrew got a BLT. From the old school candy machines lining the entrance to the homemade rice krispie treats with faces, I felt like I was in my own hometown diner! (And everyone there made us feel that way, too!)This past year we stopped into Boo's again and this time I tried the breakfast poutine which was a perfect hangover cure and carb load up for our day of wineries! Andrew stuck with his tried and true of a BLT 😛As you can tell our weather was perfect for our day of wine tasting 😛 The fog made our next winery look even more elegant, impressive and romantic. I mean just look at the chandeliers inside of this place! Although it took awhile for someone to realize we were there (but hey, the lack of other guests is our favorite part of traveling in February), once we met Dieter he was insanely friendly and knowledgeable! I had a hard time getting Andrew out of this one 🙂 This was our first visit to Megalomaniac and the wines were phenomenal. Groundbreaking red and bravado cabernet sauvignon were our favorites! (The names and pictures of the wines are so clever!) Our next stop was so gorgeous it wouldn't even fit into one collage! Vineland Estates has such a deep, rich history and is jam packed with unique gifts, beautiful decor, and of course, amazing wine. We stayed and talked to Jane for so long that we worked up an appetite! There is a restaurant on site but we were already heading to one of our favorite wineries for lunch. We heard from some other locals, though, that it is one of the best restaurants in the area. Upstairs at Vineland estates was food blogger heaven! Their adorable market was full of unique foodie finds and local homemade wooden utensils. PLUS ALL THE CHEESE!!! <3 Oh and one handsome future husband...but he's only included on my trips 🙂 Our next stop in St. Catharines was Creekside Winery. This winery had been recommended multiple times by multiple people during our visit so we knew we had to hit it before we headed towards Niagara-On-The-Lake. The wine was pretty good, but unfortunately there was a super chatty couple there doing a tasting and Andrew was getting HANGRY so we didn't get to stay too long to learn too much about the wines or their history. Luckily we had a chance to stay longer and chat in 2018, and we truly enjoyed our experience here! So these next few wineries were brand new to us on our 2018 trip. We hadn't had a chance to experience these in 2017 so this year we made sure to make time to hit them! Our first winery we need to talk about is Rosewood Estates Winery. This winery is unique in the fact that they have acres of bee hives and specialize in wines, honey and meads. We had never tried a mead before and we were pleasantly surprised how much we enjoyed it! We even got to try their honeys (including a smoked honey, talk about unique!) and received a small complimentary jar with our purchase. Add all this to the fact that there are 2 dogs on the property and you've got yourself a must-stop winery! Another winery with a dog on the premises is Westcott Vineyard. I really can't tell you if I love the dogs or the wines more in this area 😛 But I can tell you these wines were goood. Our tasting experience was short yet memorable (we had a lot of wineries to hit!) and I would definitely stop back here again on future trips. Angel's Gate Winery had been recommended to us a lot in 2017 due to their picturesque view of the Toronto skyline on a clear day. The first year we tried to go they were closed when we got there but we knew we'd have to stop back in the future because it looked like an amazing place.
In 2018 we were able to stop by for a tasting (unfortunately the weather wasn't nice enough to see Toronto but that's the downside of traveling in February!) The inside was just as gorgeous as we had imagined and the wines were even better! We bought one that you put into a crock pot and it comes with its own bag of mulling seasonings! This was so unique and I can't wait to try it on one of our last cold winter days! (Which are hopefully fleeting at this point...)Flat Rock Cellars was another new winery to us in 2018 and I'm not sure how we missed this intriguing building the first year but I'm glad it was recommended to us by the other wineries to stop in! This was probably the most popular (read: busy) tasting room we hit all weekend but the staff was still super friendly, attentive and helpful. The weather had started to clear a bit by the time we got to FRC so if you look very closely in the top right picture you can see the Toronto skyline! MALIVORE!!! I love Malivore Winery! Their building is as unique and innovative as their wine making techniques. Their barrel cellar is designed to help reduce energy consumption and is built into the ground above the tasting room, resulting in a cave-like feel for your tasting experience. PLUS, when we walked in we were immediately offered a cheese and wine sampling. And you guys know how quickly I can be won over with cheese.Back 10 Cellars had been recommended to us in 2017 but they were closed when we stopped by so we were SO thrilled that they were open the following year. Our tasting experience with Andrew was hands down the best experience we have had at any of the wineries in our 4 years of visiting. He was incredibly friendly and attentive and so passionate about their wines that it was a joy just listening to him talk about them. He also started our tasting by saying "The best way to taste our wines is to try all of them" so talk about having me at hello!
The wines were fabulous (my favorite was the Chardonnay and I'm not even a Chardonnay fan!) and we were also served a little mug of french onion soup with bread which was outstanding! I was so excited when they set that bowl down in front of me because the aroma of cooked onions enveloped the entire house so I was happy to be able to partake in what they were cooking! Foreign Affair Winery is a little off the beaten path compared to the other wineries but definitely worth the trot up there. The building sits way back on the grounds of an agricultural research center which is interesting in itself to witness, and you can find the building by looking for the giant moose outside the door! The wines and labels are an affair (get it? 😛 ) between Italy and Niagara influences. Each label has an Italian escarpment with a white animal silhouette overlay and the size of the animal symbolizes the boldness of the wine. Thus, the bigger the animal the bolder the wine!Kew Vineyards is another winery that was recommended by multiple people on our 2018 trip and as soon as I walked into their adorable tasting room it spoke right to my soul. It was like standing in my dream blog room (complete with a wine bookshelf!) Known for their sparkling wines, our tasting experience at Kew did not disappoint! Plus I was able to browse at all their adorable kitchen and wine gifts while sipping. My MIL has bought me a few serving platters from Mud Pie so it was exciting to come across some additional pieces! If you're looking to take a break from the wine for a moment or just looking for something unique and a little stronger, be sure to check out Dillon's Small Batch Distillers! We stopped by because their limoncello had been recommended (they also had orangecello which was new to us!) They also make their own whiskey, vodka, gin, absinthe and bitters. I ended up bringing home a bottle of their Crabapple Liqueur, which I am going to save for an especially party-esque day!
So this pit stop had nothing to do with wine but Beechwood doughnuts came highly recommended from a lot of locals in the St Catharines area. The bakery is in town and was a pain-in-the-you-know-what to get to (it was pouring down rain and we couldn't figure out how to pay for the parking lot spot we used) but it was well worth the effort! Andrew ordered the cookie dough doughnut and I got the cookies 'n cream doughnut and was pleasantly surprised to find it was actually STUFFED with cream! I always appreciate a unique doughnut spot and I also appreciated that their doughnuts were HUGE! I am so glad this spot was recommended because we definitely would have never stumbled across this sweet hidden gem on our own. After we left St. Catharines we headed off to Niagara-On-The-Lake to hit our favorite wineries, starting with Trius for lunch. Trius is the first winery we ever went to in Canada so every time I walk in it gives me all the feels from our memories here. The tasting room is gorgeous and huge and the wines are incredible. We actually popped a Trius bubbly for NYE this year!We stopped in to their restaurant for their "Fabulicious Lunch." This is a weekend in February when participating wineries and restaurants in the NOTL area offer limited 3 course menus for an amazing price point! I didn't learn this until 2018, so at our lunch in 2017 I thought Trius just liked the word Fabulicious 😛 Their restaurant has the most unique lighting, don't they? The food was even more unique! I got the trius surf and turf, which is a pastrami ribeye burger, Canadian bacon, aged cheddar and icewine onion jam. It also came with an Atlantic salmon and shrimp BLT with hand cut truffle fries and house made ketchup. We also got the cheese platter with pickled beets, candied walnuts and walnut toast, as well as a triple chocolate tart with red pear and toasted marshmallow. The food was even tastier than it was pretty, so you can only imagine how good it was!
Within walking distance to Trius is the newly built, gorgeous Wayne Gretzky Winery and Distillery. In case you're not sports savvy, Gretzky is a former Canadian professional hockey player, hence the giant ice rink outside of the winery! When you walk into the front of the grounds, you can turn right into the winery tasting room and shop or left into the distillery side if you're interested in tasting the whiskey.
Straight ahead is an awesome outdoor bar with the ice rink and if you keep walking past the bar you will end up on the grounds of Trius. The building is absolutely gorgeous and I definitely would recommend stopping in to try their wines (and whiskeys if you like that kind of thing! 😛 )Our next stop was at Small Talk Vineyards which is loaded with bright colors and super sassy wine labels. Each bottle has a front label of "politically correct comments" and on the back is all the comments you wish you could say. For instance, on the front it might say "Long time no see" and "You look great" and on the back it says "I've been avoiding you for so long" and "I can't believe I said that with a straight face." I always like to buy a bottle here for my sassiest of friends 🙂
The must have of this winery is their apple cider. It's only good for a short time so you have to make sure you drink it quickly! (Which really shouldn't be a problem. Our bottles we bought this year never even made it out of Canada!) Stop by and visit Anna-Banana, she's a blast!Along the northern stretch of NOTL is Strewn Winery. We've only been here for lunch but I would definitely go back! I remember something weird was happening in their tasting room the first year and we weren't able to taste any wines so we stopped into their restaurant Oliv and it was amazing! We ordered an antipasto plate and carpaccio and they were amazing! (This was my first time trying carpaccio and I think they spoiled me 🙂 )
In 2018 we stopped back again for lunch and I ordered the antipasto plate (naturally) and Andrew got the Smokehouse sandwich (a smoke-cured beef and pork sandwich on home-made garlic and asiago bread with pickled red onions and peppers, crispy fried onions, horseradish greek yogurt and smoked balsamic.) As you can see hangry Andrew looves waiting for me to photograph his food before he can eat 😛 They also have cooking classes here which I think would be so cool to attend if I didn't live 4 hours away in another country!Okay, go to Konzelmann Winery and buy ALL the peach wines. All of them. You're going to want to have them around for summer sipping! We also purchased their Bacon Noir (2) this year which is excellent but nothing compares to the peach wine!! While you're there, walk up to their little deck that overlooks the vineyard for a breathtaking view of the vineyard and Lake Ontario. Our next stop was Pondview Winery and I can't tell you exactly which wines we had because all I remember is the ice wine shot in a CHOCOLATE SHOT GLASS. Are you kidding me?! You've gotta stop by and try one! We actually started our trip with a Pondview wine at our dinner at Canyon Creek, so it was nice to able to stop by and visit with them! Our last stop of the day was Pillitteri Estates where we spent a good hour with our new friend, Zach! He was such a fun, laid back, down to earth wine expert. The history of this winery and the family is so interesting! We bought a bottle of wine that Zach told us is going to be perfect in 15 years so on the 15th anniversary of our engagement we will be popping that baby open! That night we stayed at the 124 on Queen Hotel in downtown Niagara-On-The-Lake and it was stunning! The room was gorgeous, the staff was more than accommodating (they called around to the best restaurants and made us dinner reservations!) and the location was perfect as it was right beside an incredible restaurant. So the restaurant beside our hotel is called Treadwell and we had a MAGICAL night here! The staff at 124 on Queen had made our reservation and told them we had just gotten engaged so when we arrived the staff at Treadwell congratulated us and treated us to complimentary champagne from Megalomaniac. They then proceeded to BLOW our MINDS with the best meal we have ever had!!
Treadwell is a farm to table restaurant and the quality is unbelievable. The charcuterie board was absolutely unreal and the meats are indescribable. They melt in your mouth! We then got chicken and short rib entrées that we could only describe as "stupid good." Plus our seats were amazing as we were right at the end of the bar where we got to watch the chef work his magic!
We were able to meet a lot of interesting people sitting at the bar top and had such a wonderful time. It was nice to be able to stumble back to our stunning hotel room once our bellies were satisfied. It felt as if we were walking back to our own apartment! I love the small town feel of Niagara-On-The-Lake that always makes me feel at home. We loved Treadwell so much that we specifically planned our 2018 trip around having our 1 year engagement-versary dinner there! They were just as accommodating as our first visit and once again helped us celebrate with a complimentary glass of bubbly! Because Treadwell uses fresh and seasonal ingredients, their meals had changed drastically since last year and even their charcuterie board was an entirely new experience. And this time I saved room for a dessert CHEESE BOARD!! If you have the chance to stop by Treadwell one day, definitely don't miss out! It's a new yet delicious experience every time! Another honorable mention hotel in the NOTL area is the Shaw Club Hotel. We have stayed here twice and both times we were thoroughly impressed. It has a B&B feel as there are only about 20 rooms and that staff has never been anything but incredibly friendly and helpful. This past year there was a loud rattling sound coming from the heater and when we got back from dinner (using their FREE provided shuttle to downtown NOTL) they informed us it was going to take awhile to fix our room so they re-homed us to the room right across the hall which had a fireplace upgrade. This gesture meant the world to us as we had an air conditioning issue at the Marriott a few days prior and their solution was to just give us a fan. I think the Marriott could learn a lot from the customer service of the Shaw Club!
The shower has double heads including a rainfall shower head, and the bathroom mirror has a mini TV in it! This was Andrew's favorite feature of the hotel 😛 There is also a complimentary DVD library in the common area of the hotel and we always grab a movie to watch while we relax after a day of wine drinking. Although this year we also spent some time watching the winter Olympics and sipping on Pillitteri wine (a winery that was proudly pouring in the Canada House during the Olympics!)
Ah. Peller Estates. One of the largest, most beautiful, and well known wineries in NOTL. I enjoy the gorgeous views of Peller and they have a restaurant I hear is amazing but we haven't had a chance to try it yet. We had our tasting with Christa which was lovely! The only downside to Peller is that they're probably one of the only places we go to that doesn't comp the tasting fees with a bottle purchase! And hey, we are people who love free tastings! 😛 We also prefer the cozier, homier feel of some of the smaller wineries in the area, but it is quite impressive to visit their estate! Right beside Peller Estates is Two Sisters Vineyards which is another gorgeous and immaculate winery with yet another amazing restaurant we haven't had the chance to try yet! (The staff at 124 on Queen had recommended this as an option as well!) We love the beauty of this winery but the prices are quite a bit higher than the other NOTL wineries so we usually don't end up stocking up here. 🙂
When we were here this year we met Joe who was doing the work of 10 people and was still friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating! This winery is definitely worth a stop! Reif Estate Winery has always been one of my favorite wineries in NOTL. The people are the friendliest and we always have the most fun here! One year we even made two visits because the first time we stopped in they invited us to their Mardi Gras party with small bites and wine. It was such a blast! Reif always seems to be planning fun parties and events so if you're lucky enough to be in town when they're throwing one I definitely suggest you stop in!
I also would suggest trying and buying their ice wine. This is one of our favorites and we always buy a bottle here to commemorate our trip. Ice wine can be pretty pricey so we always like to buy from our favorite people! 🙂 Another one of my favorites here is The Fool, which is an excellent option if you're looking for a unique red wine instead of something as sweet as ice wine! Riverview Cellars Estate Winery is right down the road from Reif and has completely transformed since our first visit. The first year we came the tasting room was cramped and outdated but they've remodeled it into a beautiful, spacious, modern area! We did our tasting this past year with Bin who was so nice and knowledgeable!
My favorite wine here is the Sweeties 3 pack of Fontana Dolce, Vidal and Rose Vidal, which are all perfect summer sippers! Our next stop was a brand new winery called The Hare Wine Co. This winery seems to be popular already as we chose to come back for a tasting since they were so busy the first time we stopped in! We knew that was a good sign so we stopped back in and we were not disappointed! We talked with Jennie whose descriptions included which wines paired best with cool ranch doritos (cough cough....it's the Jack Rabbit White). And there is no faster way to my heart than telling me which wine pairs well with cool ranch doritos!
This year we were informed it also pairs nicely with oreos so naturally I bought another bottle. If you're looking for a down to earth, friendly and unique winery then definitely stop in at the Hare Wine Co! (And pick yourself up some Jack Rabbit White while you're there!) Stratus Vineyards. Meh. Let me be perfectly honest here by saying I don't like this winery. I'm sorry. But it just feels cold and snobby to me and I've only ever talked to one friendly person here. BUT...Andrew loves it and loves their wines so we go. I will say it is a gorgeous tasting room so I can give them that!The one thing I DO love about this winery is that they sell pickled veggies from Manning Canning. Those things are absolutely amazing and we stock up every year we go! I definitely would recommend the carrots if you can find them because they are life changing!Chateau des Charmes is one of the most gorgeous and elegant wineries in NOTL. It is extremely popular for weddings and the back outside area was recently remodeled to better serve this purpose. I wouldn't say this is one of my favorite wineries because I always feel like I'm not fancy enough to be here, but it is definitely worth the visit to check out their beautiful building!
We chatted with Christopher and Mike about their fabulous wines (and Trump....lol...) and had the best time we've ever had here with them! I can't wait to go back and check out their completed remodel!Okay. Let's all take a second to bask in the glory that is Colaneri Estate Winery. The amazing thing is that this picture doesn't even do justice to how stunning this winery is when you pull down the drive. It's like a village! Colaneri is another new winery to NOTL and we actually discovered it on accident. Since it was new it wasn't on our winery map but we saw the building from the road and stopped by to see what it was. (We were fairly certain (and definitely hoping) it was another winery and thankfully it was open!)
The tasting room overlooks their cellar which is impressive in itself and the wines have such a rich family history with the story of a family member being shared with each label design. You can check out their labels and stories on their website, but I would recommend you stop in and talk to them instead as you'll receive a much better experience and backstory! We even were able to see some of the family members described on our wine labels in the flesh working at the winery, which was definitely a first for any of the wineries we have been to! Our experiences talking with Mike in 2017 and Wally in 2018 were both very memorable and enjoyable! I would definitely recommend the Profondo Mistera (a specialty Gewürztraminer) as it is one of the best whites we have tried on our trips!
Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery is a rustic, enchanting winery that has an absolutely phenomenal restaurant! The tasting room is in a separate house than the restaurant and they are also very popular for hosting weddings. I recommend making reservations here for lunch because in 2017 when we stopped in the wait was over 2 hours long! I was pretty disappointed we didn't get to eat there but based on our first experience there I was not surprised it was so popular!
On our 2018 trip we were able to walk right in for lunch! I think in 2017 we might have hit the lunch rush during Fabulicious week (a week in February where NOTL wineries and restaurants offer a 3 course meal for amazing prices) which resulted in the long wait time. Andrew ordered a beet salad (as he always does at Ravine) and I went with the bacon and eggs which was the most unique version of this breakfast classic that I have ever had the pleasure to indulge in. It looked like a small portion but was incredibly flavorful and filling! The bacon and eggs dish consists of cider braised and seared pork belly, chardonnay poached egg, and apple and mustard. Highly recommended!On our way back to our final hotel we stopped for lunch at My Cousin Vinny's, which we have passed a ton of times but had never eaten it. It. Was. Amazing. Maybe it was the wine talking but it was some of the best lasagna and pizza I've ever had! We ordered way too much food on purpose so that we could have leftovers that night with our wine in the hotel room!So after lunch we went to check in at our hotel where Andrew surprised me by having some of our closest friends waiting to meet us in the hotel bar and celebrate our engagement! I have never been more surprised and was so impressed he pulled it off without me catching on to anything!
We hung out for a while at the hotel then headed out to dinner to a Brazilian steakhouse (one of our nights in Niagara Falls is always a Brazilian steakhouse!) We have always gone to Copacabana, but this year we decided to try Brasa. Both are incredible and will feed you all the meats for hours, but I think we are still partial to Copa Cabana (cheaper, less busy, more cozy! And at our past visit they had white cheddar cheese stuffed prime rib. UNBELIEVABLE.) The buffets at both are LOADED with all kinds of sides and the freshly sliced meat at your table side is to die for! PLUS--don't forget to save space for the grilled pineapple at the end!
After dinner we headed over to the casino for a night of gambling with our friends, before calling it a night at our hotel. So our first year in Niagara we hit Anchor Bar on the way in and it was recommended to us to try Duff's, which we hit on the way out. We ended up loving Duff's so much we now only stop there and we hit it on our way out of town every year for lunch! (Instead of hitting Anchor Bar and spending the night in Buffalo we now just get to the falls one night early and have dinner there!) In the morning we left our hotel and hit up the American casino for about an hour or so (in my opinion the only thing worth stopping for on the American side other than to take pictures of the Canadian side), then headed off to Duff's to be there basically at opening! 🙂I had to share my 2018 collage from Duff's because just look at Andrew's face. He's in a state of buffalo wing ecstasy. 😛
After we enjoyed our lunch we headed back home to Ohio. Tired, a little hungover, with a trunk full of wine, a lifetime of memories and a man to share them with 🙂
This is what our trunk looked like after 4 days in Niagara. A little light, right? We drank probably 6 bottles worth with our friends before leaving Canada! Remember that if you're traveling to America there is a tax you have to pay on bringing back bottles of wine. At the border make sure you tell them you went to the wineries and are bringing wine back with you, and have your receipts ready to show them! We have never had anyone question how much we have or fill out the corresponding paperwork to tax us (about $0.30 per bottle, or so I've heard!), but you still need to be prepared and honest!
I hope you enjoyed this couple's guide to Niagara and consider planning a trip to see (and taste) all they have to offer! If you find any additional hidden gems please let me know, and tag me in your pictures so I can be envious of your trip! 🙂 I'll be sipping on all of our delicious purchases until we head back ourselves!