It’s the last long weekend of the summer, and if you’re anything like me, you’re dreaming of getting out from under the sonic booms intruding into your solitude (such is living next to the CNE and it’s traditional Labour Day Weekend air show).
I lived in the Niagara Region for a few years, and though it lacks the hustle and bustle (and sonic booms) of the big city, there was never a lack of things to do on long weekends such as this one, simply because of it’s proximity to a few (very) choice tourist destinations. Namely, dozens of wineries scattered across the picturesque countryside and all just an hour’s drive away, right down the QEW.
It’s a bit early for any harvesting of grapes, but the vines will be nice and heavy right around now, laden with violet, burgundy, chartreuse and yellow fruit.
Thankfully, even the most frugal young couple can afford a day-trip to wine country – for under 30 dollars.
Sound too good to be true? Nope, it’s just this Friday’s instalment of Cheap Date.
Most wineries offer free tours of their vineyards, but some charge (usually under 15 dollars a person) although those tours are very thorough and often include a few tastings.
Otherwise samples of the wine are often charged individually (depending on the value of each wine you’re trying – for example Ice Wine will be a bit more expensive) but usually range between one and five dollars – very affordable, in other words.
Some of my personal favourites include:
Pilliteri Estates Winery (Niagara-On-The-Lake), which is locally owned and specializes in modern wines at reasonable prices… and (like most Niagara wines) has won many, many awards. I especially like their reds. They also have a small fruit market, so you can pick up some of the regions other famous (but non-boozy) produce.
Also very modern is Flat Rock Cellars (Jordan) a relatively new winery with a focus on innovation and trendier wines like Pinots (made famous of course, by the movie Sideways).
I’ve often heard Cave Springs Cellars recommended, and for good reason. It is located in the heart of quaint Jordan Village (filled with small shops and antique stores to peruse). This winery is especially handy with sophisticated white wines, often made with German and French grapes like Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay.
Now, after all that wine, if you feel like working off the carbs, there are many historical trails to hike along in this region – including the Bruce trail running along the Niagara Escarpment.
On your way home stop at Port Dalhousie a small historical port filled with yet more quaint shops. Check out the beach and lighthouse; ride the Carousel (only five cents a ride!) and get a sundae at the Avondale Dairy Bar. Or for a more sophisticated end to your outing, check out Anna Olsen’s (she of the Food Network’s Sugar) trendy Bakery and bring home some artisanal breads, or a couple of tartlets for the road.