My husband and I recently returned from one of my all-time favourite road-trip destinations: Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL). We were in need of some real R n R and NOTL is one of the best places in Canada to do this! It is a beautiful, quaint historic region that is in the Niagara area – also known as ‘wine country’ 🙂 – of Ontario, Canada. Its history as having once been a haven for British loyalists in the late 18th and early 19th centuries during those turbulent days and years surrounding the War of 1812 seems almost surreal given its present state of serenity and beauty. For this trip, our plan was to eat some great food, check out the shopping district, and, above all, visit some of the amazing wineries in the region. (Please Note: This is not a sponsored post. Just my perspective on a beautiful region in Canada:)).
Getting to our Destination
From Ottawa, it is about a 6-hour drive to get to the Niagara region. As you can imagine, most of the trip was uneventful, broken up with breaks at service stations to gas-up, grab a bite to eat, get a coffee (or, in my case, an extra large French vanilla cappuccino ;)) and, to amuse myself by singing out of tune along with an iPod song mix – much to my husband’s chagrin;)
Upon our arrival to wine-country, it was like being transported to another, much-greener world :). There is so much green space, so many grapes being grown on the vines and so many lovely bends and rolling hills on the roads that it is an endless source of visual eye-candy and sheer serenity.
Day 1: Visiting the Wineries
After arriving that night, we decided to begin our wine tour first thing the next morning – what better time to sample some wine ;). All kidding aside, one of the best ways to experience NOTL is by visiting some of its gorgeous wineries. This region of Ontario produces some of the best wines in the country, recognized both nationally and internationally with several award-winning wines. For us, part of the pleasure of going is to go to the exact location of where wine is produced. If you enjoy a good glass of wine (and even if you only have a glass or two on occasion, as we do), the entire experience is worth the visit. Wineries have much to offer tourists, including gorgeous surroundings, free guided tours of the wine-making facilities, a wine-tasting room to sample wines before purchase (many of which are not even available at the local LCBO ), a gift shop, and, in some cases, a restaurant where incredibly talented chefs are on site to prepare locally-sourced meals to complement the wine estate’s wines! These winery excursions alone are worth the trip to NOTL!
For this road-trip, we visited some old favourites as well as a couple of new destinations that we had either read or heard about. When it comes to white wines, our favourite little spot is Cave Spring Cellars. The combined store and gift shop, located separately from the vineyard, is worth visiting. The quality of the wine is well known, especially its white wine varietals. And the location of the store, in the tiny town of Jordan (more on that below), is just 20 minutes from NOTL.
After enjoying some samples of wine and purchasing a couple of favourites, we used this opportunity to step into a few of these quaint little shops, located on the main drag in Jordan – one sweet little street 🙂
While there, we made sure to make our return visits to The Kenneth Lane Gallery (photography – urban and natural landscapes as well as beautiful animal photography) and The Jordan Art Gallery (variety of subjects and styles by local artists). It was in the photography gallery that we purchased this cute little piece a few years ago that still hangs in our foyer today. (It reminded me so much of our then two cats that it almost beckoned ‘buy me!’)
After leaving the cute little town of Jordan, we made our way towards NOTL. We headed to three wineries we had never previously visited: Pondview Estates Winery, Tawse Winery, and Two Sisters Vineyards.
First, to Pondview: Knowing how good Pondview’s wines were after attending a wine-tasting dinner in Ottawa, we thought it would be fun to visit the vineyard and tasting room while in NOTL.
We loved their red varietals especially and made some purchases, but were surprised to find ourselves drawn to one of their ice wines as well. We thoroughly enjoyed sipping on this ice wine in these little chocolate-shaped shot glasses on the patio.
My husband and I both agreed that it was a great alternative to (a calorically-heavy) dessert after a meal served to friends and family at home. Thinking of trying this at home!
Our next destination, Tawse Vineyards, was brand new territory for us, but WHAT a spectacular site to behold! As we drove up to the vineyard, it was all I could do to jump out of the car and start exploring the grounds immediately.
And, of course, the wine tasting could not be missed. The ‘tasting room’ door was just beckoning us to come in!
Tawse’s red varietals were amazing and a couple of bottles made their way home with us 😉
The last winery on our wine-tasting tour was the estate of Two Sisters. Founded by, well, – you guessed it – 2 sisters, of Italian descent and built with an Old-World architectural design and aesthetic in mind; it was another amazing site to take in!
But, of course, it was the grounds of 2 Sisters that we loved the most – just spectacular!
And the wines – both red and white – appealed to both my husband’s and my taste buds.
That evening, we decided to have supper in the Two Sisters’ restaurant, Kitchen 76. It was our first time there and will not be our last! We were blown away not only by the food, which was the best meal on our trip – flavourful, tender lamb that you could cut through with a butter knife (no, really, that’s what we did – we couldn’t wait for the steak knife to arrive:)), but the hostess as well as our waitress – who was, coincidentally, from Ottawa herself – and the patio setting and view were wonderful. The patio was a lovely setting – so well designed, too! – for our meal and a great way to end the evening.
Day 2: Shopping in Downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake (with a word or two about shopping in Jordan)
After our winery tours, we could have gone home satisfied then and there! But no trip is quite complete without dragging – ahem – escorting my husband to the downtown NOTL shops. It was a gorgeous day with the sun shining brightly and I could not help but stop several times to take in the beauty of the buildings, well-maintained gardens, and lovely sites all around us.
The downtown offered a number of great little art galleries, home goods store, clothing and other shops that we explored fully. The highlight for me, however, was Natasha Bradley, a home accessories/furniture/fine art store that was a feast for these, lover-of-home-décor, eyes:) So much to inspire my imagination.
Love, love, loved this place! I could have stayed longer than we did…But, alas, there were only so many hours in the day and only so much my husband could take in at a home accessories store 😉
Along with our shopping excursion to NOTL, the little town of Jordan, which we had visited the previous day, also had its fair share of lovely shops. One of my favourites was Chic by Jansen (fine furniture) . I first discovered it a few years ago and was so excited to walk through – I had never been in a fine furniture store of its kind and was so impressed by its collection of modern and traditional pieces. I felt like I was walking onto a movie set! In fact it was in that very store that I found the mirror that now rests above our buffet in the dining space of our Great Room. Part of the attraction this year was the animal motif running in and outside the store! It was like walking through a zoo! I loved it 🙂 These pics are only the tip of the iceberg:
There was something awe-inspiring about this place. If you can appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship that goes into creating these pieces of fine furniture, it is well worth walking through. As Anne of Green Gables might have said, it has plenty of ‘scope for the imagination.’
We also found a real gem of a local antique store, S & B Antique Gallery. Here’s just a foretaste of this great little find!
After Day #2 of our trip, it was time to pack it in and get ready for our trip home the next day. Our little slice of heaven in Niagara-on-the-Lake was short-lived; but the memories are sweet 🙂 It was a lovely little break from our everyday life and routine back in Ottawa. We all need to get away sometimes and this was our time to do it.
Can’t wait till next year 😉