When you hear “Niagara Falls,” you probably immediately think of a waterfall. If you’re unfamiliar with Niagara, you might consider heading into the mist on the Hornblower or walking through quirky Clifton Hill. But for those of you who wish to venture away from the busiest tourist area for something a little more taste driven, a trip to the small Ontario town Niagara-on-the-Lake may be in order. This town offers not only a quaint historic area and beautiful views of Lake Ontario but is also quickly becoming a destination for wine tourists.
With more than 20 wineries in the immediate area (and more than 80 just a short drive away), Niagara-on-the-Lake is a haven for local wine lovers and tourists alike. One way to see them is to jump in a car and head from winery to winery, but with a nature trail and easy routes connecting many of the vineyards, the best ways to take it all in is on a bike. And not just any bicycle — an electric bike.
The electric cycle, or eSkooter as it’s known in Niagara-on-the-Lake, was new to me, but the quiet-riding, self-propelled bicycles — although admittedly a bit scary at first — ride just like manual cycles without the effort. Renting one might cause manual bikers to look on with envy. One cyclist called out, “Hey, that’s cheating,” as I quickly sped past.
Rent the bikes at eSkoot Niagara, just a few minutes from downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake. There, you’ll be fitted for a helmet (yes, those are required) and receive a quick lesson on riding, starting, stopping, and parking. Once eSkoot is convinced you have a feel for riding, you can be on your way. Backpacks are also available, which prove convenient for housing your belongings and newly purchased wine.
With the paperwork done, all that’s left to do is get to riding and tasting. Of course, it’s good to pace yourself as you head through the wineries, eating a bit, savoring a few sips, and keeping your wits about you so that you don’t forget how to ride a bike. (It’s also important to remember that wine tasting while riding is a tasting and not full-on drinking.) Hitting a few historic spots or soaking in the views of the Niagara River are worthy highlights along the way. You could join an already established bike tour, but riding through Niagara-on-the-Lake’s wine country with your own itinerary is an exceptional way to experience the foliage and sights of Ontario this fall.
These are the wineries you don’t want to miss.
Reif Estate Winery
Head down Niagara Parkway to visit Reif Estate Winery, which has a large tasting room, light bites for snacking, and an outdoor sensory garden so that guests can stroll while taking their time enjoying a glass of wine. Reif is known for its sweet icewine, which won eight medals in 2017. Following the parkway trail along the river will lead you to several more wineries such as the family-owned Riverview Cellars and Lailey Winery, which has been a staple since 1973. There are also many other wineries tucked down the roads that branch off Niagara Parkway.
Two Sisters Vineyards
Right off the parkway is Two Sisters Vineyards, which is a stately, gorgeous property with sprawling vineyards that rival those found in the top vineyard regions in the Americas. Two Sisters offers educational wine tastings and tours, which help you learn about the winemaking process while tasting straight from the barrel. The winery also offers a tour at twilight, which ends in a pond-side picnic. The on-site restaurant, Kitchen 76, serves lunch, dinner, and dessert.
Further inland is Trius Winery, which is an Instagram lover’s haven. Filled with spots — such as a pink flower wall with a neon sign that reads “rosé all day” — to capture the perfect selfie or groupie, Trius has an excellent example of the region’s popular icewine. Its restaurant specializes in farm-to-table ingredients, and the winemaker and chef often work in tandem to create complementary dishes with wine pairings.
A trip into the historic old-town section of Niagara-on-the-Lake offers a number of locally owned restaurants. One of those to put on your list is Treadwell, which serves lunch and dinner. Treadwell has an extensive wine list that focuses on local wines and a few Italian and French selections. The restaurant has an upscale dining space and uses locally sourced ingredients, such as the East Coast Lobster “Club” for lunch ($36) and Pan Roasted Halibut for dinner ($44).