By: Lauren Charley
Niagara Falls is renowned as an exhilarating tourist destination, offering many exciting day and night time activities for visitors of all ages. Beyond the bright lights, wide-ranging attractions, exquisite dining options, expansive nightlife, and of course, the natural wonder of the Horseshoe Falls, the Niagara Region is famous for producing some of the world’s finest wines.
Magnificent Tours, “Niagara’s Preferred Tour Company,” offers visitors the chance to visit the top four most highly rated, award-winning wineries in the Niagara Region: Inniskillin Wines, Peller Estates Wineries, Jackson-Triggs Winery, and Trius Winery at Hillebrand. For a prudently priced $79, guests enjoy an afternoon of cruising along the picturesque Niagara Parkway, through the famous vineyards, on a 37-seat bus with their own personal tour guide.
On the tour, the Magnificent Tours guide not only described the beautiful scenery and riveting history along the route to the wineries, but also provided an informative background on the icewine-making process. Icewine is derived from frosted grapes, which can only be harvested when the temperature has remained between -8 and -12 degrees Celsius for twelve consecutive days. The vines can only be harvested during the night time, and each grape yields only one drop of wine, which explains why the commodity is so pricey. Farmers in the icewine business invest considerable sums in each harvest, which occurs sometime between January and February.
After a scenic ride down the Niagara River Parkway, the first stop on the Magnificent Tour was at Inniskilin Wines, who are famous not only for their range of red and whites, but especially their sweet and delicious, decadent icewines.
• 1 oz Icewine
• 1 ½ oz Premium Vodka
• Splash of Club Soda
• 3 frozen grapes
Mix the icewine and vodka together in a shaker with ice. Pour into a chilled cocktail glass, add a splash of Club Soda. Use frozen grapes to garnish.
Set back a few hundred feet from the edge of the river, Inniskillin is a respected, pioneering winery committed to providing premium wines from premium grapes. LeeAnn, one of the establishment’s wine experts, guided the guests through a didactic tasting experience. She explained the significance of the “sugar scale”, where wines range in sweetness from 0-30, and why we drink different types of wines from glasses of particular shapes and sizes.
The 2012 “Sparkling Vidal Icewine” combined the sweetness of a dessert wine, with the celebratory sensations of a bubbly beverage; however, sparkling wine is generally less sweet than icewine, as the bubbles reduce the sweetness. The tasting experience also included others from their signature icewine collection, including the 2012 Riesling Icewine with a refreshing citrus character with hints of lemon and green apple, and the 2012 Oak Aged Vidal Icewine, presenting flavours of dried fruit, butterscotch and honey. Inniskillin’s high quality icewines have been credited for first putting Canadian icewine on the international map.
Peller Estates Wineries
As the Magnificent Tour proceeded, the bus continued along the Niagara Parkway, passing by interesting architecture and vegetation, even stopping for a photo opportunity at “The Living Water Wayside Chapel”, a miniature church. The next stop on the tour was Peller Estates Wineries, which is centered on a massive property in the midst of vineyards, down a long driveway near the river off East & West Line. The enormous building has an elegant chateau-like beauty, with luxurious, palatial interior décor.
The group was escorted downstairs to the barrel cellar for a private tasting, where they were treated not only to a variety of their finest wine samples, but also to hors d’ouves, fresh from Peller’s own on-site kitchen. Each appetizer had been carefully paired with its associated wine by the chef. Jennifer, our guide, offered a tip to those learning about the art of wine culture: “If you still don’t like a wine after three sips, be sure to try it with an appropriate food pairing.”
After beginning the sampling with the “Ice Cuvee Classic”, a sparkling ice wine, the next wine offered was the “2012 Vintage Riesling”. Jennifer advised to swirl the glass to atomize the wine, and pair the Riesling with the restaurant’s Cornish Hen Tart- an exquisite, miniature pastry shell filled with a savoury chicken mousse. Following the Riesling was the “2012 Baco Noir”, featuring hints of cherry and the taste of salty tannins which pair excellently with barbequed cuisine. Peller’s exclusive tour offered for Magnificent presented each guest with a slice of beef sausage with blue cheese and chestnut puree. The tasting at Peller Estates was a treat not only to savour some of Niagara’s finest wines, but also sample its wondrous cuisine.
Jackson Triggs Winery
Continuing the drive through the picturesque vistas of budding vines and fruit trees, Jackson-Triggs Winery was the next destination on the Magnificent Tours itinerary. The building was one of the first in the region to set the trend for a very modern, simplistic design, juxtaposing the traditional look of an old French winery. Again, the group was invited to the barrel cellar for a private tasting accompanied with carefully chosen cheese and chocolate pairings. The Jackson-Triggs wine expert and tour guide, Grayson, recommend pairing red wines and red ice wines with a rich, dark chocolate, and whites, white icewine, or reds with an aged white cheddar cheese, to maximize the flavours received when indulging these signature Niagara delicacies.
First, Grayson gave participants a generous sample of the Jackson-Triggs signature white wine, the 2012 White Meritage, which is a Bordeaux-style blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon grapes. This combination of varietals provided a flavour which was citrusy and zesty, yet displayed nutty components. The red selection which followed was the Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve 2011, fully fermented with the grape skins, to give it its full bodied flavor with hints of cherry and coffee. Next, the group was treated to yet another of Niagara’s finest icewines: Jackson-Triggs Cabernet Franc Icewine 2008, produced from red grapes.
The Jackson-Triggs experience in particular provided a detailed explanation of icewine production and some interesting facts comparing the process in different countries.
Trius Winery at Hillebrand
Magnificent Tours continued on its journey up Niagara Stone Road, passing by a number of boutique wineries, and family owned farms selling fresh produce by the road side. The bus arrived at Trius Winery at Hillebrand, a beautiful facility with a cobblestone courtyard surrounded by multiple buildings.
Unlike the previous tastings, the Trius offering was presented at an outside bar on the patio. Josh, the Trius representative, then served the “Trius White Blend 2012”, an aromatic and flavourful wine with notes of local fruits such as pears, peaches, and apples, combined with the exotic zest of melons, lemons, mandarins, and lime. Next was the “Trius Red Blend 2011”, an extra dry red wine with hints of oak, vanilla, cocoa and wood flavours. Saved for last was everyone’s favourite delight, the “Trius Vidal Icewine 2012”, with essence of delicious maple syrup and honey.
In addition to the sampling, the group participated in a guided tour of the facilities. Guests were exposed to the panoramic views of the surrounding vineyards from a high lookout point, overlooking Chardonnay and Riesling grapevines. Trius Winery owns over 260 acres of vineyards scattered throughout Niagara-on-the-Lake, 38 of which are at the winery’s main location. The tour also included a visit to the red wine cellar, full of wines being aged in oak barrels. Next was the sparkling cellar, with over 500,000 bottles extending back 17 feet. Finally the tour was presented the white wine cellar, where the wine was stored in either stainless steel barrels, or oak for the premium wines.
Trius Winery at Hillebrand did a wonderful job of providing the group with both a delightful tasting and an educational background on the wine making process.
Experience Wine Country by choosing the right tour
Only Magnificent Tours offers visitors to the area this particular, unique tour customized especially to their guests. The four wineries chosen are all state-of-the-art, award-winning facilities, sampling the finest wines and providing the best hospitality to make guests feel welcome and educated during their visitation. Magnificent provides a professional excursion with excellent customer service for the perfect outing in wine country’s famous Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Pick-up locations in Niagara Falls include the Marriott Fallsview, Marriott Gateway, Hilton Fallsview, and Sheraton on the Falls.
Tours leave Niagara Falls daily throughout October 2014, departing at 1:30pm, and returning by 5:30pm.