Harlem is only a few hours away from the thundering Niagara Falls, a scenic stretch of countryside between Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment has just the right climate and soil for vinifera grapes to thrive.
These grapes produce an array of wines ranging from classic pinot noir, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling to more uncommon styles.
Known as the Niagara Wine Trail, USA, visitors can get to know the region through the lens of its 22 distinctive, charming wineries. Opt for a guided tour or chart your own course. Need a little guidance? Here’s our recommended route for one memorable day tasting your way through Niagara Falls wineries.
Picnic Break. Start at A Gust of Sun in Ransomville for a taste of five wines paired with local chocolates specially made for the vineyard. In warm weather, stay for a stroll around the 17-acre grounds and find a spot for a picnic lunch before setting out for your next winery.
The Pioneer. Opened in 1998, the family-run Niagara Landing Wine Cellars was the Niagara Wine Trail’s very first winery. For $3, sample six of Niagara Landing’s 31 varietals, ranging from dry to sweet, including the award-winning Vidal Blanc Ice Wine or the unique and spicy Hot Pepper Infused Wine.
Tasty Tours. A little farther down the road, the warm staff at Arrowhead Spring Vineyards will welcome you into the tasting room, where you can sip a dry red or try a riesling or chardonnay. In season (from May to October), call ahead and book a $25 tour, which includes an educational vineyard walk, a facility tour, barrel samples and a wine tasting with bread, cheese and fruit accompaniments.
Perfect Pairings. Housed in the former city hall building, Flight of Five Winery offers tastings paired with locally produced cheeses or chocolates. For something a little heartier, order a cheese plate or butcher’s board of dried sausage, fruit, nuts and other artisanal snacks.
Sweet Treats. Across the street from Flight of Five, make a palate-cleansing pit stop at Lake Effect Artisan Ice Cream. The small shop specializes in oddball-yet-delicious flavors like Couch Potato (vanilla ice cream, swirls of caramel and peanut butter, and chocolate-covered potato chips from local chocolatier Platter’s) and Sponge Candy (chock-full of the region’s signature sweet), all made in small batches using locally sourced ingredients. Or, for a quick shot of espresso made with beans roasted in small batches, stop by Steamworks Coffee, also near the winery.
Bold Flavors. Intrepid tasters (and those who make use of the spill bucket) should head north toward Lake Ontario to Chateau Niagara Winery, owned by a friendly and knowledgeable husband and wife team. Try the Bulls Blood, a dry red made in the Hungarian tradition.
Black Magic. Continue north to Black Willow Winery, situated near the banks of Lake Ontario, for a wine and chocolate pairing, or sample from their award-winning lineup of mead.
Grand Finale. Just a short drive west, also on Lake Ontario, finish your self-guided tour at Victorianbourg Wine Estate. Find a seat on the serene patio overlooking the vineyard and savor a classic dry white or rosé, or go for one of their chocolate-infused wines. From June to September you can also arrange for a private wine tasting in the property’s lush rose garden, with 30 varieties of roses in bloom. The picturesque setting makes for a lovely end to a memorable day of wine tasting on the Niagara Wine Trail, USA.
Don’t forget to pick up a few bottles along the way to open back home Harlem and relive the day all over again!