If looking at a map of Niagara Wine Country makes you dizzy trying to decide which wineries to visit, it’s time to order a Kwäf Wine Passport. Crafted by Kwäf’s tasting panel of top sommeliers, this easy self-guided tour features three of Niagara’s best winery tasting experiences, insider touring tips, and even a few freebie treats.
Your wine country experience begins at the Upper Canada Cheese Company. Surrounded by pastoral rolling hills, you’re just 60 minutes from Toronto, but a world away in atmosphere. Breathe deeply of the crisp country air and feel the frenzy of urban living slip away. One bite of Niagara Gold, a silky washed-rind cheese, will hook you with its buttery and slightly nutty flavour. Take a nibble of the equally addicting Camembert-style Comfort Cream, and you may be tempted to spend the whole day exploring the goodies on offer. But if you need motivation to step away from the cheese tasting board, remember that Kwäf Wine Passport holders receive a free gift with purchase. So stock up on artisanal cheese and hop back on the trail.
A short jaunt down a country road flanked with corn stalks swaying in the breeze is Creekside Estate Winery. Fringed with velvety sumac shrubs, these vineyards feel more like a nature preserve than a winery. The Niagara Escarpment, a misty blue ridge carved by ancient glaciers, towers on the western horizon. This geological natural wonder that formed the jaw-dropping Niagara Falls creates distinct microclimates for the tender grapes ripening on Creekside’s vines. Sink your feet into the loamy soil and lift your face to the sun, immersing yourself in terroir: the precise alchemy that creates each wine’s distinctive characteristics.
Within the soaring oak-beamed tasting room, join a master class tasting of Creekside’s signature sauvignon blanc. Sample wines with zippy New Zealand profiles ideal for sipping, as well as Laura’s White, a subtle blend weighty enough for food. Let yourself go with the party in a bottle that is the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc Backyard Bubbly, a sparkling wine heady with grapefruit and guava. At this winery, irreverence is part of the philosophy—Creekside Estate’s team aren’t a stuffy bunch. Feel free to ask a question, whether you’re a novice or a serious oenophile.
Follow the alluring aroma of smoked peach wood to The Deck outside the tasting room. You’ve not been imagining the tantalizing scent of authentic smoked BBQ—this winery is home to the Smoke Cookery, headed up by the talented Chef Nathan Young. Be sure to try the Peachy Porky—heavenly pulled pork piled high on a crispy bun.
Next up is Back 10 Cellars, set within a viticulture region crisscrossed by meandering creeks and greenery known as the Lincoln Lakeshore. Stepping inside the Tasting Bungalow feels like visiting friends—very knowledgeable friends. Winemakers Andrew and Christina offer tastings in their farmhouse filled with contemporary artwork (think barnyard animals) that’s both quaint and hip. Here, you can sample wines crafted in small batches from low-yielding vines. Highlights include the mouthwatering Big Reach Riesling and the 2013 Rose Coloured Glasses, a limited production blend of Gamay and Merlot that will have you dreaming of sweet cotton candy.
Soak up more of the country vibe at Rosewood Estates Winery, a boutique winery fragrant with wildflowers. With its peek-a-boo glimpses of Lake Ontario, this is Niagara as picturesque as it gets. Enjoy the friendly buzz of honeybees, which the family’s been keeping for three generations. Grab a jar of wildflower honey to take home, or call in advance to book a behind-the scenes look at the sweet world of mead. Your wine country experience isn’t over yet. Your Kwäf Wine Passport includes a tutored tasting of Cabernet Franc wines paired with Monk’s Chocolates from Grimsby. Close your eyes, place a sliver of chocolate on your tongue, and let the flavours go to work on your senses. The melt-in-your-mouth intensity of the rich, bittersweet dark chocolate paired with raspberry red fruitiness will fuel you for your trip home.