A weekend in Niagara's wine country.
Niagara Falls may draw the honeymooners and tour buses, but the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, with its mix of Britannic country comforts, dramatic arts, and the barrel-aged bounty of a booming wine scene, is also worth checking out.
Dining at winery restaurants is a great way to appreciate the earth's bounty. The Restaurant at Peninsula Ridge (905-563-0900, www.peninsularidge.com) offers special dinners featuring the philosophies of both the winemaker and the executive chef. Strewn Winery's Terroir La Cachette (905- 468-1222, www.lacachette.com) features Provençal cuisine like crispy duck confit. The dining room of the Niagara Culinary Institute (905-641-2252, ext. 4619; www.niagaracollege.ca/dining) serves gourmet meals that are cooked by students, made with ingredients grown by students, and paired with wines created by students. Picnics are a must in warm months, so stock up on a hefty wedge of Upper Canada Cheese Company's semifirm Niagara Gold from deLuca's Cheesemarket and Deli (905-468-2555, www.delucascheesemarket.com), crusty baguettes from Willow Cakes & Pastries (905-468-2745, www.willowcakes.ca), a fruit basket from the Harvest Barn Country Markets (905-468-3224, www.harvestbarn.ca), and sugary butter tarts and Nanaimo bars from the Niagara Home Bakery (905-468-3431).
Winery tours and tastings are the reason to visit Niagara these days. Inniskillin (905-468- 2187, www.inniskillin.com) is one of the specialists in Niagara's sweet ice wine. Tawse Winery (905-562-9500, www.tawsewinery.ca) boasts gravity-fed tanks and classic Pinot Noirs. Daniel Lenko Estate Winery (905-563-7756, www.daniellenko.com) has some of the region's oldest Chardonnay vines. Golf fans should check out Mike Weir Estate Winery (905-562- 0035, ext. 235; www.weirwines.com), which is owned by the 2003 Master's winner.
The Niagara River and Lake Ontario meet right in front of the Queen's Landing (888-669-5566, www.vintage-hotels.com), a 142-room historic Georgian mansion with an indoor pool. A 2006 renovation transformed the 1824 Oban Inn and Spa (866-359-6226, www.obaninn.ca) into a Zen-centered spa retreat that boasts an outdoor hot spring as well as holistic treatments. The Post House Inn (877-349-7678, www.posthouseinn.com) is a B&B with classic rooms like Mrs. Connell's Boudoir; it features fireplaces, four-poster beds, and two-person tubs. In the nearby town of Jordan, you'll find Inn on the Twenty (800-701-8074, www.innonthetwenty.com), which puts guests in the midst of wine country and whose On the Twenty restaurant serves some of the region's best cuisine.
Pack the picnic basket, saddle up the bike, and head south along the Niagara River Recreation Trail (www.niagaraparks.com), an immaculately manicured path set atop the cliffs of the Niagara River. The trail starts at Lake Ontario, extends south to Lake Erie, and passes right by the surging waters and snapping flashes at Niagara Falls.