In 2014, I visited Niagara-On-The-Lake twice for wine tours. It’s actually really fabulous.
Biking to do a wine tour
First of all, when I did the tours, I rode a bike both times. However, my mother did one with a tour company the year before where they drove her around in a van of some sort. My mom said that she preferred biking because you can move along at your own pace. From my own personal perspective, bearing in mind I can’t compare, I really liked biking. Since you only get around 3 samples of wine per-estate, and there is maybe 3 sips worth of wine per-cup, it’s not like you end up getting drunk, and theoretically the exercise of biking should metabolize the alcohol faster. *Disclaimer* I have no idea if it is true that exercise helps metabolize alcohol faster! That’s probably a load of bull!
Niagara-On-The-Lake has a ton of beautiful biking trails and you can easily leave from the centre of town and get to the majority of the wine estates within a short amount of time. The trails are fairly flat, maybe 1 small hill. It’s very casual and not at all strenuous. You can opt to bring your own bike, rent one from a wine tour company or borrow one from the B&B you stay at (the B&B I stayed at had complimentary bikes – although my Specialized road bike was far higher quality but if lugging your own bike is a problem then I say take the complimentary ones!)
Bed and Breakfast
My friend and I stayed in the MacGregor suite. Although it’s more expensive, at $145 a night, it’s a wonderful place to stay. It has a beautiful yard, the rooms are cozy and well kept and there is a nice common area for guests. The lady who owns the place made us breakfast and it was so, so good.
The Dining In Town
When I went with my mother, we ate at the Irish restaurant. It was really good. When I went with my friend, I wanted to go back to this Irish restaurant, but it was so packed and we were to hungry to wait so we ended up going next door. The restaurant next door was nothing short of amazing. The waiter was so friendly. They had this weird octopus appetizer that we tried, which is something I wouldn’t ordinarily touch with a 10 foot stick, but the waiter promised it was delicious and I was feeling adventurous. The result? It was awesome!
The Wine Estates
Frogpond Farm is probably my favourite wine estate. They don’t sell anything at LCBO so in order to get their wine I have to go there or order a box in the mail. The great benefit of this winery is that they are fully organic. Obviously, whether or not wine is organic is not a massive deterrent for me, but I do like to buy organic where and when I can. I had their ice wine and could stand to drink it like juice!
At a lot of the wine tour companies, B&B’s and (theoretically) the hotels, you will be given little cards to take to certain estates so that you can get 3 complimentary tastings. I suppose people buy enough of the wine and that enough people pay for the tastings that this isn’t a destructive practice.
I believe it was at Pondview that my friend and I stopped and had a pitcher of sangria, and chocolates with ice wine in them. We sat on the deck and admired the scenery. This isn’t the only place with such things to pick from, some of the estates have cheese plates, others have full flown restaurants. I think some of these things require pre-planning, but the Sangria and chocolate is no big deal.
Planning Your Trip
I would recommend a weekend if you live in southern Ontario. Ideally, you would come up on the Friday, have dinner, do the wine tour earlier on Saturday, have dinner again, and then leave sometime on Sunday. You could easily shop for part of a day or something, there seems to be a lot to do that I am not aware of.