The weather wasn’t the best but at least that meant we didn’t have to queue for our tastings at the Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries. Because anyone who knows me will know that I don’t like to wait too long for my wine.
We were on an afternoon biking tour to ride around tasting the finest drops Niagara-on-the-Lake had to offer. It was led by Dale, our guide at Grape Escapes Wine Tours, a 60 year old man who looked more like 40. We were told sometimes he rode his bike all the way to New York in back. That is a three day bike ride!
Thankfully for us, he kept the pace slow enough for us to keep up. Nonetheless, whatever chill we were feeling from the cold soon blew away as we got a few wines in us.
You can hire a bike a do a tour yourself on Niagara-on-the-Lake but although you’d get free tastings from the wineries, you won’t get behind-the-scenes tours. We visited four wineries and at each one, aside from the last, we were given a tour around the vineyard and shown the process of turning grapes into wine.
At one winery we were also given a cheese platter with their local homemade chutney to enjoy with our wines.
I didn’t even know Canada made wine before I went to Niagara-on-the-Lake. When I told my parents (self-confessed wine snobs) that we were going on a wine tour of the region they laughed and asked what wine was to be found there.
But we were pleasantly surprised.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is well known for its ice wines, which is a sweet and sticky dessert wine made in a cold climate, which is why it’s perfect for Canada.
The region is the biggest producer of ice wine in the world, by a long way, and much of it is exported across the globe to China. The Chinese are the biggest consumers of this sweet drop.
I’m not a massive fan of ice wine, I soon found out, because it’s a little too sweet for my liking.
However, I did enjoy the other wines the region has to offer, especially the reds. Check out our video up top for a better insight into the different vineyards and wineries Niagara-on-the-Lake has to offer.
So if you ever visit Niagara Falls, make sure you stop by at its neighbour, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and enjoy some of its wines.
What you need to know:
Cost: The afternoon biking tour, which lasts about four and a half hours, costs C$59 + tax. Or if you want to rent a bike a go on a self-guided tour, this costs C$15 + tax for three hours.
When to go: The biking tours only run in the summertime because it gets far too cold in winter. However, you can still go on a tour in the wintertime but you’ll ride on a bus instead. (This option is also available in the summer if you don’t want to ride a bike.)
How to get there: We were picked up from our accommodation in Niagara Falls.
Grape Escape Wine Tours provided us with three complimentary tickets, but as always our views and work are our own.
Transcript of the video: A biking tour of Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries
Carmen VO (Voiceover): When we were given the opportunity to combine bike riding with a wine tour with Grape Escapes on Niagara-on-the-Lake, we couldn’t resist.
We joined our guide Dale and he took us to our first tasting pit-stop – Caroline Cellars.
Dave PTC (Piece-to-camera): So this is Caroline Wine Cellars, it was begun by a lady called Caroline who was the grandmother of the people who own this land. She was instrumental in setting up this winery and it’s grown over 11 years to this.
They produce quite a large range of wines. This is their 2011 riesling. It’s supposed to be tasting of green lime. So I’ll give it a try. It’s pretty good.
Dave VO: Next stop was Marynissen Winery where we learnt all about the vineyards founder, John Marynissen, who came to Canada from Holland.
Interview with Steve Knapp, wine tour guide at Marynissed Winery: He wanted to make European style wines so he brought in French vintners. The first varieties he brought in were the cabernet sauvignon and the chardonnay. So we have the oldest cabernet sauvignon vines in the whole of Canada and they’re planted right behind this building.
The chardonnay vineyards are planted between this building and the road, that’s why they’re called road block chardonnay. We always thought because he made great reds that they were his favourite. But we found out that his favourite was chardonnay and his wife’s favourite was the cabernet sauvignon. So I guess his winning awards for reds was a tribute to their life and their relationship.
He’s always been a good wine maker. John passed away in 2009 but the winemaker that’s here now started in 2007 so he was influenced – he wanted to make wines the same way John Marynissen did. So Geoff is continuing on making wines in a European style – reds are all unfiltered so they’re meant to age in summer.
Carmen VO: We were given a behind-the-scenes tour of where the wine is produced – these vats can hold thousands of litres and do so for different periods of time depending on how long the wine needs to be aged.
Marynissen packages all their wines themselves for quality control and sells exclusively to restaurants – or to its guests who visit the vineyard.
Dave VO: A few years ago the Rolling Stones bought cases of its plonk. So, if it’s good enough for them, it sure hell is good enough for me and Dave.
Carmen PTC: So this windmill behind me is not actually used to produce energy, it’s used in the wintertime to get rid of the frost. So wind produced from the windmill disperses the frost. And in the summer it also has another benefit – it gets rid of the humidity.
So back in the day they used to have helicopters that would fly overhead and get rid of the humidity and the frost – but that was too expensive – so they’ve installed these windmills instead.
Dave VO: By this stage we were a little tipsy but we were still thirsty! So we pedalled hard and went on in search of the next vineyard. We ended the tour at Pillitteri Winery, which is world renowned for its ice wine.
Carmen VO: Ice wine is the sweet stuff – what I mentioned earlier – that Niagara-on-the-Lake is famous for. I find it a little too sweet for my tastes but at Pillitteri we enjoyed it in a cocktail mixed with sparkling wine and that was much more to my liking.
Carmen and Dave VO: Cheers!