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Niagara Ontario Wineries Tour Canada - Southern Ontario Gourmet Travel
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Canadian Wine - Niagara Ontario Wine Tour - Niagara Wineries

Tasting Niagara

by Wade Rowland - Part 1

The thing I like most about vineyards and wineries is that older is better and smaller is sometimes better. In other words, wine making and all that goes along with it is the antithesis of modern hurry-up, number-crunching culture in which, as somebody said, people eat the menu and ignore the meal.

Ontario wine
Oak wine barrels
Photo © Christine Collie
Another thing I like a lot is that, as with any art, there is no end to the learning to be done, and no end to the surprises and discoveries. Who knew, fifty years ago, that it was possible to make world-class wines anywhere in Canada? Who knew, a decade ago, that the deep frosts of an Ontario winter would produce some of the world's best dessert wines, in the form of now-famous Ontario Icewines?

Who knew, five years ago, that oak from Ontario's Carolinian forests produces fermenting and aging barrels that are comparable to French oak and match up beautifully with Ontario grapes to produce yet another level of refinement in the province's wines? Who knows what revelations lie in store just around the corner, as vintners and growers continue to explore, experiment, and discover?

The place to experience Ontario wine in the full range of its maturity and quality is the Niagara Peninsula viticulture region, about an hour's drive south-west of Toronto. It hugs the south shore of Lake Ontario from the town of Winona west through the designated regions of Beamsville, Vineland, Jordan and Niagara-on-the-Lake, to the Niagara River, which divides Ontario from New York state, and it contains the lion's share of the 20,000 acres of grape-growing land in Ontario. The Niagara Escarpment, a U.N.-designated World Biosphere Reserve, forms its southern boundary.

With nearly fifty wineries offering tours and tastings, and perhaps half as many fine restaurants and twice as many inns and B&B's to choose from, weekend excursions can be organized in many different ways. We wanted to plot out a good introductory tour, so we chose wineries that exemplify different aspects of the Ontario industry, and we stayed at the Prince Edward Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake, an Ontario legend recently and lavishly refurbished.

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