Monday, November 14, 2011

Visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake and an Inniskillin Wine Tour

About an hour-and-a-half from our house is the picturesque little village of Niagara-on-the-Lake.  We had a friend visiting us from France recently so we took him to see some of historic Ontario.   If you are ever in Southern Ontario this is one of the must-see places.  

The town was first established by Europeans in 1781, but most of it was destroyed in the War of 1812 and many of the present buildings date from the rebuilding after the war.  Niagara-on-the-Lake has one of the best collections of regency and classical revival buildings in Canada.

The downtown shopping area has a lovely historic feel.

I love the old drinking fountains that are all along the main street.

Even Santa and his helper were there to greet us.

We had lunch in the lounge at the lovely Prince of Wales Hotel.

The decor was lovely, the company was great, and the food was divine.   This cream of celery soup was out of this world.  

Have you been for a wine tour?  I don't quite know how I got to my age and had never been on one, but that is the case.  Since we were in the heart of the Ontario wine district, we took our friend on a wine tour.  One of our favourite Ontario wines is Inniskillin so that is the winery we selected.  It was very interesting and I learned a lot about wine making, especially ice wine making.

Did you know, that it has to be -8C for 3 days in a row before they can harvest the grapes and technically call it ice wine.  Inniskillin winery is even stricter and will only harvest the grapes when it has been -10C for 3 days in a row.   Even at that temperature, the grapes are only 80% frozen - the 20% that is still juice is squeezed out of the grape and made into ice wine.  The amazing thing is that since these grapes have to be harvested and kept cold so they remain frozen they are harvested by volunteers in the middle of the night every year.  

Since winning the Grand Prix d'Honneur award in 1991 for their ice wine (you can see the prize in the photo below), Inniskillin has consistently won awards for their ice wine.

 Inniskillin's awards

We viewed the wine store, bought some wine, and then joined our wine tour, which you can see gathering under the arbour in the photo below.

Our guide told us a funny story about the fans that you can see in the fields (the tall white pole in the photo below).  These  fans have been installed in wineries all over the Niagara peninsula and start up automatically when the temperatures dip below a certain point to protect the grapes.   Apparently they sound like a helicopter taking off so my when my guide, who lives in the area, heard the noise in the middle of the night for the first time she jumped up and ran to the window thinking Armageddon had started.  What a scare that would have been!

Is it just me, or do these bottles seem to have an other-worldly glow to them.

They were setting up for a wine tasting when we were on the tour.  I loved the sparkle of the glasses against the dark tablecloth with the hits of bright colours in the fall centrepieces.  Wouldn't this be a lovely place for a wedding.

This table in the conference room was made from the wooden floor boards from the glass factory in Europe that makes the wine bottles that Inniskillin uses.  The lines all over the table are where the molten glass dropped onto the floor and singed the wood as it rolled across.  Isn't it great - just look how thick that wood is.

Thanks for a lovely tour Inniskillin.  We learned that there is an Ice Wine Celebration every year in January in Niagara-on-the-Lake with ice sculptures and wine bars made of ice etc.  I had never heard of it, but think I'll put it on my to do list - sounds like fun.

Oh, and I can't forget to show you what our friend brought for me from France.  They were fresh and needed to be eaten in a timely manner.  I did my best!


  1. This post is so great! I have always wanted to visit Niagara on the Lake, and we looked into renting a cottage there a few summers ago, but never made it! And I had never heard of ice wine until my friends, both police officers in Ontario, told me about it. They said that it is very sweet, like a dessert wine? And that table is too cool!

    Thanks for showing me around, now I want to go more than ever!

    Kat :)

  2. I live in the U.S. My husband and I have stayed for weekends at NOTL many times. We really like it. The plays there are wonderful. We were just there about 6 weeks ago and had such a nice time. It's only a 4 1/2 hr drive for us. We feel very luck to be able to enjoy this gem. I highly recommend people visit. It's too hot and humid in the summer but the spring and fall is wonderful. The flowers grow like weeds there.


  3. What a beautiful place! Those quaint buildings are wonderful. I have to say my favorite picture is of that water fountain. I've never seen one like that before.

  4. Grace, this place is beautiful. I would love to visit there some day.

  5. We visited Toronto a few years ago and our friend took us to Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake. What a lovely town! Everyone was so warm and welcoming, and even though it is a tourist destination, it is not touristy at all, just beautiful and charming! We really enjoyed our day there and I hope to visit again someday!

  6. I just love, love, love NOTL! I have not been for a few years, but I am thinking maybe a visit in the near future. Love the Christmas store, me and the kids all got our name ornaments there. Great pics! Diane

  7. I am fascinated with this post. I had never heard of ice wine before now! Too cool. I hope the volunteers with frozen fingers receive a case of the ice wine!

    You do the most amazing things, Grace. I love your blog posts about all the neat things you do!

    Have a blessed Tuesday!

    Ricki Jill

  8. Hope you are having fun. I live here in Niagara. I am about 30 min from NOTL and I work in the wine industry.
    My husband and I just did a ghost tour at Fort George on the 30th of Oct. It was a lot of fun!

  9. Thank you for sharing this lovely place. I have been to Canada only once and that was just to Toronto. What a wonderful way to spend the day. You look great by the way...and your pics are flawless. I so enjoyed this post.

  10. Oh, this is fantastic. Glad to find a great blog!

  11. Pictures look wonderful! What a lovelt place too.