Saturday, September 8, 2012

Niagara-on-the-lake and the Falls

This past week, the boyfriend and I went on a tiny vacation in the nearby Niagara region.

Actually, the purchase of the Niagara groupon deal was partly influenced by Ellen B's post about her tour and wine tasting at Niagara-on-the-Lake. Her trip there looked and sounded super relaxing and since wine tasting in Ontario was something neither of us had ever tried (a travesty! how can I call myself a Ontarionian) we thought this would be a perfect way to help us unwind from the stress of the city.

We stayed at the Crowne Plaza by the falls and went for some dinner at Massimo Capra's Rainbow Room on the top floor.

We ordered the Wild mushroom and Buffalo mozzarella Bruschetta with caramelized onions, baby arugula, and tomato jam as an appetizer.

This was UBER yummy. The mushrooms were fragrant and paired well with the cheese and sweet, soft onions. And it was all balanced with the bitterness of the baby arugula.

You make sure you get a mouthful of each part of the bruschetta and it works so well, like a really well planned formal dinner party where everyone is dolled-up and there's a live jazz band playing, all happening in your mouth.

I ordered the Sweet potato and Mushroom Cannelloni and unfortunately, the party in my mouth kind of died. The taste was too sour and the mushrooms inside the cannelloni was lost because everything was so sour. Perhaps the cheese was too strong or too many tomatoes, but it was a shame to have lost that mushroom taste.

Oh but the veggies were done really well, those were yummy.

The boyfriend ordered the Maple mustard crusted Ontario Lamb rack and it was nice and tender, even though it was cooked to medium well (the waiter accidentally heard "medium well" instead of "medium rare" but it had a good taste and we didn't want to waste food).

We headed north to Niagara-on-the-Lake in the morning and arrived on the beautiful grounds of Peller Estates Winery.

Our guide was a friendly wine connoisseur who showed us some of the vines and grapes for various wines. She gave us a good Intro-to-wine-101 crash course and as first time wine-ys, we had a lot of fun.

Grape bunches are only kept at the bottom of the vines; any growing up above have to be cut away so that all the plant nutrients are concentrated to the bottom grapes. 

Rose bushes are planted at the end of each vine row as an indicator plant for disease and whatnot.

Vines grow for several years before producing grapes good enough to make wine, so the baby plants need to be protected and nurtured for a bit before they can generate wine-worth grapes.

Some vines are 35 years old and produce some really unique tasting wines.

The wine cellar is temperature and humidity controlled and filled with rows of oak barrels. The use of different types of barrels, Oaks from different regions, stainless steel all influence the tastes: American oaks tend to give more robust flavours, French oaks more subtle, smooth texture, and steel a rounder, even smoother finish.

Of course, I'm an amateur's amateur on wines so I have no idea what this means or might taste like if someone told me a wine has a smooth and round finish.

But I do know that their Cabernet Franc ice wine from 2010 was SO. GOOD. 

(excuse me while I wipe off all this drool from my shirt - how classy now that I'm a first year winey)

It's one of those wines that are super duper sweet, sweeter than you think any wine should be, but you really don't mind, in fact, you enjoy the feel as it makes its way down your throat and sits in your belly. See how it coats the glass like that, like syrup?

Yup. It tastes exactly like it looks. It's soooo sweet. *sigh* So good.



Anybody else like those super sweet ice wines? Am I the only one?

There are more extensive wine tours that involve being seated, but we thought that this was enough drinking.

After all the wine tasting, we hopped onto our bikes and journeyed around the Niagara bike/wine trails.

There are a few farmer's markets, all selling beautiful fragrant Ontario peaches.

I had to buy some. No reason required. :)

A great trip, so relaxing.....

We must return ok?


  1. Yes Jen you are the only one who likes those super uber sweet ice wines so you don't have to worry the alcoholic fighting with you over ice wine at dinner. =P

    Where do you get bikes to go around? NOL? That's something I wanna do... but my to-go wineries are so far apart! grrrr....

  2. What a stunning vacation my friend - bucket list = visit niagra falls :D
    I adore the Crowne Plaza as well, choice my friend! The food looks so classy and delicious!
    Glad you had fun :)

    Choc Chip Uru

  3. Those are lovely photos! We love Niagara Falls. Your photos make me want to go back. Glad you had a wonderful time!

  4. What a lovely way to spend a holiday! Thanks for taking us there-I've never been to Niagara Falls before! :D

  5. frvanilla: many places to rent bikes! NOL has a few, and if you are a good rollerblader, you can just bring a pair since the paths are quite smooth and flat :)

    CCU: Good to hear from you! Definitely a must visit if you come to Ontario - the Falls and also, Niagara on the Lake region (recommend you to spend more time by the NOL region than the Falls, all the lovely vineyards/wineries/fruit markets are by the Lake :)

    Abby: Oh please do come back! The NOL region is much more interesting than the Falls - and if you're like me and love ice wine, YOU WILL LOVE ALL THE WINE TASTING!!!

    NQN: Do come visit! We Canadians are nice people, we wont bite! I really recommend the NOL over the Falls because the wineries are a must-try (and so many to choose from :)

  6. Great blog! I think I go to Niagara pretty much every year now since I moved to Michigan from California. Why? Everytime we have visitors they want to go see it.
    Never get's old! Stunning!
    The food looks delicious.
    They have the best Ice Wines there.
    I'm so glad you had a great time and I love all your photos.