0704 Niagara-on-the-Lake

I’ll be honest – I basically forgot that today was the 4th of July until it was far too late to try to see fireworks or do anything patriotic.  We were too busy doing a lot of super fun things, like having outstanding home fries in a Flying Saucer:

Or hiking down into the Niagara River gorge not once but twice, with a crazy trip upriver on a JET BOAT OMG in between.

Hiking Beerses

Or stopping for excellent sandwiches and adequate pie at The Pie Plate, which came highly recommended by Bon Appetit. My grilled ham and cheddar with apple butter was fantastic, and while the ‘steak’ and ‘melt’ parts of Shane’s steak melt were good, the real stars of the sandwich were the mushrooms in a bit of flavorful gravy. It was precisely the sort of place I could imagine Olivia running – except that Olivia’s sweets are MUCH better.

The Pie Plate

Or trying raw milk cheese from Avonlea – a place that previously existed only in novels for me – but leaving Cheese Secrets, also recommended by Bon Appetit, because the prices were Zingerman’s-high, but the quality, service, and selection were not. Or going to the pub next door for a pint, and being told “Well, there’s the menu” when Shane asked for recommendations for Canadian beer.

"Well, there's the menu, sir."

Or watching the sun set over Lake Ontario while we held hands and talked about our families.

Lake Ontario

It was a good day.

0703 Wines of Ontario

A couple of months ago, I got it into my head that we should take a weekend trip to Niagara Falls.  I’m not sure how I came up with NF – I’m guessing I was looking at Google Maps to figure out how long of a drive it would be if we wanted to visit friends in Boston or Vermont, and then noticed that a certain ginormous tourist destination was right in the middle of both routes.  In fact, Niagara Falls – at least the Canadian side – is only about 5.5 hours from Ann Arbor!

We hit the road early this morning and were in Canada by a little after 9.  Fortified with Timbits, we pushed on down the 401, enjoying a surprisingly peaceful drive on a beautiful summer day.  Neither of us enjoy driving, but we were determined to embrace the ‘road trip’ aspects of the weekend, which is how we came to find ourselves tasting wines of the Niagara Escarpment region.  Until we started planning this trip, I really had no idea how agriculturally rich the area was, so it was exciting to taste the fruits of the Greenbelt, 1.8 million acres of permanently protected green space.

First stop, Kittling Ridge, where we tasted a couple of really mediocre wines and also a surprisingly delicious alcopop-beverage whose name has completely escaped me.

Tasting at Kittling Ridge

Rather than getting back on the highway and continuing on to Niagara Falls, we decided to take the back roads and see where we ended up, stopping at several wineries along the way. Peninsula Ridge Estates provided a lovely rosé and remarkably beautiful views of Ontario wine country. We also tasted both the 2001 and 2002 Arcanum (Arcana?) – the former had turned and so was on sale, but the latter was a real knock-out of fruit and spice, though we couldn’t justify the $40 to bring a bottle home.


At Rosewood Estates, we tried four different meads, and left with a bottle of their Mon Cherie, a mead blended with tart Niagara cherry juice. Shane remarked that he couldn’t believe he hasn’t made a mead yet, so I’m hopeful this will serve as inspiration for an upcoming day of brewing.

4 Meads

I also really liked these guardian bunnies:


Our first few tastings ran us $1 or less per 1 ounce sample, so when we stopped at wineries charging $2 or more, we decided to end our tour and just take in the beautiful countryside on our way to Niagara. There’s something so perfect about driving through rolling hills with the windows down and the radio turned up in the middle of summer.

Peninsula Ridge

Ontario Wine Country resources:

  • Wines of Ontario has a 30+ page booklet in PDF format with information on the wineries of the region.  It does not, however, include pricing information for tastings or tours.
  • Niagara Wine Trail focuses on Niagara Falls and the Niagara Escarpment area
  • Crush on Niagara Wine Tours – if you don’t feel like doing the driving yourself
  • Ontario’s Greenbelt provides lots of information on the agricultural riches of the area.