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I posted an admittedly inadequate note on our recent family trip to Niagara (thanks for the tips, Board-O), but I am now seeking further advice, as we are thinking of making a return visit, which would be more wine-oriented.

What are the MUST-visit wineries in terms of wine tasting? We ate at the Hillebrand dining room, and it was great, but what other dining rooms are highly recommended? And what about places to stay? There are so many B & Bs in Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is beautiful, but there are also great deals at hotels in Niagara Falls. Finally, we would be interested in a bicycle tour of wineries which I once saw featured on a travel show. We probably wouldn't do it, but we might, so I'd like to check out their website if anyone knows what it's called.

Board-O, can you add to the advice you provided earlier? And Mainer, Donn, or others, can you also provide advice?
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My favorite Niagara winery restaurants are Hillebrand Estates, Vineland Estates, and On the Twenty at Cave Springs Cellars.

By far, the nicest place to stay is the Inn at Cave Springs Cellars, but it's very expensive. The beautifully-furnished rooms are large and have fireplaces. In Thorold, there's a modestly priced Sheraton Suites Hotel which is particularly good if you're travelling with children. Inniskillin (or was it Konzelmann?) was opening an inn last time we were there, but we didn't stay there.

As far as tasing goes, all the winereies are worth visiting, but I'd recommend a few for special reasons.

1. Vineland Estates makes a wonderful Cabernet Franc Ice Wine.

2. Stoney Ridge produces some reasonably priced ice wines and some other fruit wines that can't actually be called ice wines, because that term is reserved for grape wines. Their blueberry wine was pretty good.

3. Kittling Ridge has an interesting tasting room with a lot of other things to buy. I didn't like their wines too much.

4. Thirty Bench makes the best Riesling ice wine in the area, imo.

5. Don't miss a small winery up a narrow road. It's called Crown Bench. Take your camera for a picture in the stone archway in front. The owner runs a small tasting room. He has produced the most unusual ice combinations. Don't laugh. He has one called Ambrosia which is a combination of ice wine and chocolate and it's quite good. My favorite of his is called Hot Ice. It's a jalapeño flavored ice wine and somehow the combination works well.

In my experience, skip the dry wines except at meal times. Don't neglect the non-vintage reds at the restaurants, because they may be the most accessible and they're relatively inexpensive. Vineland Estates non-vintage red, in my opinion, was better than their vintage wines.
Board-O has a good cross section of the area. I would make it to Niagara-on-the-lake if you can. They have many small restaurants, gift shops etc. Stayed at the Pillar and Post [Smile] . If you're going during the summer, lots of site seeing, biking, water sports etc.

I'm not sure where they are located but I enjoy the Reif winery in Niagara. They have a great valued Gamay Noir $8CDN, found it much like Zin, spicy, fruity but little backbone or structure. I also have a bottle of there Meritage ($18CDN), have heard from the local product consultant at the LCBO it is well worth the money.

Good Luck
A couple of notes on Niagara-on-the-Lake: In Summer, it's crowded with tourists. The wine tasting rooms have higher prices than those at the wineries. Other than visiting the few wineries close to town, I'd avoid it. Most of the restaurants and hotels in town are out for the quick tourist buck without regard to repeat business. There are a couple of very nice hotels in town, but they're quite expensive. If uou're going with your family, the Sheraton Suites Hotel in Thorold is a good value and centrally located. 877-SUITEST
Any specific plans for summertime travel are on hold until we see if I will be out of the country for an extended time. And even if I'm not, I am hoping for a more exotic holiday than Niagara (London, BC, road trip to WashingtonDC - maybe via NYC), though if that doesn't happen then we'd probably return to Niagara for a couple of days at least. When I started this thread I was in a pessimistic mood (not that there's anything inherently wrong with a trip to Niagara), but since then I am getting the feeling that we might be able to go further afield.
I really enjoy Niagara-on-the-Lake. I've been there a few times, the first being during the summer touristy time. Maybe I was wearing rose-colored glasses, but I still had a blast.

The second time was much, much better since we went early in the year (April?) and it was decidedly less crowded. There are some really good restaurants in town and then there is the Shaw Festival and all.

I'll have to consider Board-o's info about the outlying areas being better when we visit there next...

www.vinocellar.com -- Mm-Mm-good
For anyone going to the Niagara region, we followed Board-o's advice almost to the letter and had a fantastic experience. Thanks B-O!

We stayed in a suite at the Inn on the Twenty in Jordan. Very nice room, with a fireplace, jacuzzi, four-poster bed. Costs around US$200, but it also includes breakfast and a free private cellar tour of Cave Springs. Highly recommended.

Dined at Hillebrand for lunch one day, and enjoyed a very tasty meal of duck prosciutto salad and Barrelmaker's stew, with spaetzle and cinammon-glazed onions.

Dined at "On the Twenty" for dinner. Very nice setting. The food sometimes pushed the envelope a bit. When it worked, it was great. My appetizer of Chilled yellowfin tuna with julienne vegetables, olives and a maple ginger dressing was a bit "challenging". There was alot of extreme contrasts in textures and saltiness/sweetness. However, the dry rub rack of lamb with a berry compote was a home run. My wife's appetizer of venison ravioli was outstanding, but her grilled salmon entree was a bit soggy.

Had lunch at Vineland Estates. What a fantastic setting! And the food was great, too. I started out with a spelt kernel/pancetta soup with fresh thyme and parsley seasoning that was outstanding. My entree was homemade pork sausage, with roasted winter vegetables on a soft polenta. Quite tasty. Probably our favorite restaurant of the three.

Service was excellent at all three places.

We virtually had the entire wine route to ourselves, which was much to our liking. It would have been nice to have a fresh blanket of snow, but the mild temps made for a couple nice walks through the small village of Jordan. A wintertime trip to Niagara was a relaxing and calming getaway for us in the middle of the holiday madness.

I'll write up the wineries we visited in the TN section eventually. We went to Inniskillin, Jackson-Triggs, Pillatteri, Hillebrand, Cave Springs, Stoney Ridge, Crown Bench, and Vineland.

Cheers,

Otis
Otis! You were more than halfway to Ottawa and didn't come!? Frown I'm crushed!! Frown Frown Is it because I backed out of the Jan. 3 event? Forgive me!!!

But seriously, if you can make it to Niagara, I hope you will make it up here some time. En route to Montreal if you like. We're only 4 hours past Toronto, and there's at least 2 dyas worth of sight-seeing here. And our restaurants are just as good as in Niagara, and the wine served in them is better. I hope. Wink

snow sucks.......
Slan/bman: I hope to make it up to your fine cities some day. I'm sure we'd have a blast! Big Grin

Board-O: Unfortunately, the guy in the Vineland tasting room said that they do not make a cab franc IW. I told him that he was wrong, and he said that he'd only been there two years, but they haven't made on during his time there. He recommended a winery called Royal DeMaria, whose cab franc IW was served at the queen's jubilee.

I did buy one CFIW, from Jackson-Triggs.

Cheers,

Otis
Ottawa is very nice this time of year
hell, I can't even pretend to say it with a straight face

And the scary thing is that they have a winter festival here, "Winterlude", in which they actually encourage people to be outdoors in February, like it's a good thing! They even used to have horse racing on the canal (the much bally-hooed longest icerink in the world, which it actually is, I guess).

snow sucks.......

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