I first visited Niagara-on-the-Lake, a town on the southern shore of Lake Ontario close to the US border, for a romantic weekend with my (then) husband. It’s a place worthy of a splurge. We stayed at one of the town’s exquisite hotels, enjoyed a performance at the world-class Shaw Festival and indulged in a few great meals. Perfect and memorable.
My most recent visit was all about wine, this time with a friend who actually has a preference for craft beer, but hey, this is wine country. We were looking for atmosphere, interesting company and a decadent dinner so “Wine Down Friday” at the Peller Estates seemed the perfect choice. We were seated with others at a long table that was placed close to the vineyard. Everyone at the table seemed to have something to celebrate and we were all very happy by the time we finished the last glass of wine (and dinner, of course): Ice Cuvée Rosé, ‘Private Reserve’ Riesling, ‘Private Reserve’ Cabernet Franc, and ‘Signature Series’ CAB Franc Icewine. Thankfully the B&B where we were staying was just down the road and when the celebrating was over we got there on foot.
Ontario has three primary appellations where grape vines are planted and tended. All produce classic cool-climate wines, described as being aromatic, lighter-bodied and higher in acidity. Niagara-on-the-Lake is one of the two regional appellations within the Niagara Peninsula and has four sub-appellations: Niagara River, Niagara Lakeshore, Four Mile Creek, and St. David’s Bench. So there are many wineries that you can visit, each with its own story. Some give tours and have wine tastings.
The climate here is moderated by the Niagara Escarpment and Lake Ontario so other tender fruit crops such as peaches, pears, plums, prunes and cherries grow well here too.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is well loved by the people who live there. Just walk along Queen Street, the main commercial area, and you will be stunned by the over-the-top floral arrangements. Wow. You’ll see merchants out on the street polishing their shop windows. Everything is spiffy. Everything shines.
The town is blessed with “good bones”. In fact, the historic downtown is one of Canada’s National Historic Sites, a Loyalist colonial town laid out in a grid of 25 city blocks with buildings and homes constructed in the British classical tradition along with a large park and two cemeteries. The streets are wide with lots of trees and It’s obvious that many of those settlers were well-to-do. A creek even runs through the town; now how perfect is that?.
When the Americans invaded Canada during the War of 1812, they burned the town down and the good folks of Niagara-on-the-Lake built it up again, just as before. Way back in 1896, they established the Niagara Historical Society and have since been collecting artifacts and historical documents so that the town’s heritage can be preserved through ongoing restoration and renovation. There is no mishmash of styles here.
So yes, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a pretty town, perhaps the prettiest in the country. But it’s much more than that.
By Sylvia Fanjoy
Photo credits Sylvia Fanjoy
© Riding the buses™ 2015