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Wine & spa weekend--suggestions welcome!

Waterloo, Canada
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Wine & spa weekend--suggestions welcome!

I'm planning a last minute getaway for June. My husband & I need a bit of a break, and the Niagara region will be perfect.

Ideally, we'd like to spend part of the weekend touring & tasting at some wineries, and also some time at a spa for massages. And of course, some fine dining in between.

I started looking at properties in NOTL itself, so I think I have a pretty good idea of the best options there. Still debating between staying at a B&B and just doing the spa thing separately or staying at one of the inns that has a spa on site--leaning towards the first option to save a bit of $, especially with the glowing reviews of many of the B&Bs.

Once I narrowed those options down I realized that there were some good options right in the middle of wine country, too. Keefer Mansion is now under consideration. What else should I be looking at? We're willing to splurge a bit for a special weekend, although some of the prices in NOTL stopped me in my tracks!

Anyone have a favourite spa in the area? Best wine tasting experience? (we did some wine tasting in the area a few years ago, but I don't recall everywhere we stopped on that trip!) Any other tips we should know about?

Thanks all!

Niagara, Ontario
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1. Re: Wine & spa weekend--suggestions welcome!

Hi lligett

My favourite wineries to visit are Peller Estates, Hillebrand, Southbrook, and Reif. Not just for their wines but for building design and scenery.

Peller and Reif are close together along the Niagara River with Peller and Southbrook and Hillebrand are close together along Niagara Stone Road. Peller and Hillebrand also offer a variety of tours if you're interested in learning more about wine and not just tasting it. Reif has what they call a sensory garden and Southbrook has a patio overlooking the vineyard where they serve specialty pizzas if you want a snack inbetween visiting wineries.

You can also visit www.wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com for a list of more wineries including a map of the town showing where they all are.

I hope you enjoy things wherever you decide to go.

Edited: 17 May 2010, 16:09
Waterloo, Canada
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2. Re: Wine & spa weekend--suggestions welcome!

Thanks! We would consider a tour if it's something beyond the usual. We've done a few winery tours before, and after you've done a few they start to become "the same" unless the winery offers something unique as part of theirs (or has a good tour guide), I find.

We had a fabulous tasting tour in Michigan last year where at each stop along the tour there was a tasting paired with a small bite. The tour guide was good & informative, and even if you had heard a lot of the information before you didn't mind because you got delicious food & wine at the same time! :-)

London, Canada
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3. Re: Wine & spa weekend--suggestions welcome!

If you wanted to stay somewhere a little less expensive but still be in wine country, then Jordan might be a perfect spot. Inn on the Twenty operates the Jordan House, and the Inn just down the lane has a fabulous spa (so I've heard from friends). We've stayed at Inn on the Twenty several times and always enjoyed it so have a look at the room prices/packages there too.

www.innonthetwenty.com/jordanHouse.html

The village of Jordan is charming and still only a 20-25 minute drive from Niagara on the Lake.

http://www.jordanvillage.com/

There are some fabulous wineries in the Twenty Valley area and we love dining at Vineland Estates. Tastings at Peninsula Ridge with cheese pairings are always excellent and the tapas lunches on the patio looking across the lake to Toronto at Angel's Gate are a treat. As well, Flat Rock is an interesting winery to visit, both for the vintages and the architecture.

http://www.20valley.ca/

You will have a wonderful time wherever you decide to stay. :)

Niagara Falls, ON
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4. Re: Wine & spa weekend--suggestions welcome!

Just to clarify one point, Keefer Mansion is right in the middle of Thorold, close to the small downtown area, not really what one would consider wine country.

You might want to have a look at Inn on the Twenty in Jordan. Very nice place with attached spa, and winery and restaurant across the street. Jordan itself is like a miniature NOTL, and close to the many wineries from Vineland to Grimsby.

www.innonthetwenty.com

Waterloo, Canada
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5. Re: Wine & spa weekend--suggestions welcome!

Thanks. Inn on the 20 was high on my list, but they're all booked so that's out. :-) I have asked to be on their waiting list just in case, but I probably need to go ahead and make other plans. That's the problem with making last minute decisions! :-)

Toronto, Ontario
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6. Re: Wine & spa weekend--suggestions welcome!

We stayed at the Black Walnut Manor in Jordan and quite liked it, we went back again the next year for our honeymoon. Well situated for the various wineries and sites in Jordan. I like NOTL but we found the Jordan area a bit less hectic.

We visited the spa at The Pillar and Post in NOTL a few years back and quite liked it, but we had won it in a contest. I have no idea what the cost is like. I suspect it was expensive.

Waterloo, Canada
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7. Re: Wine & spa weekend--suggestions welcome!

Thanks, the Black Walnut Manor is now on the list. I see they have glowing reviews, but also no reviews in the last year, which seemed odd. While in the Vineland section I also noticed the Touch of Spice Guesthouse, so that's under consideration now, too!

Waiting to hear from both of them if they have a room available. :-)

Another question while I'm here--does anyone have a tour company/driver they recommend for wine tours? I'm happy to do a preset tour or to plan our own (thanks to those who have recommended their favourite wineries!), but definitely want someone else to drive so we don't have to worry about tasting what we want to taste. I've noticed a lot of the inns use Crush on Niagara, but would like to do know if anything else is recommended.

Thanks again everyone!

Niagara, Ontario
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8. Re: Wine & spa weekend--suggestions welcome!

I've heard good things about Niagara Wine Tours International - http://niagaraworldwinetours.com. And if you stay in Niagara on the Lake you could look at using Niagara Classic Cabs (www.niagaraclassiccabs.com) to take you to wineries, that way you get to choose which wineries you go to.

Waterloo, Canada
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9. Re: Wine & spa weekend--suggestions welcome!

We're leaning towards arranging our own tour, assuming the price doesn't work out to be too bad. I've been piecing together lots of winery info from the various threads, and am starting to become overwhelmed, LOL! :-)

It occurred to me that I might get better recommendations if I tell you guys a bit more about what we like.

Beautiful setting is definitely a plus--nice views, or a great garden or patio for tastings (fingers crossed for nice weather!). Mostly we'll probably avoid the larger wineries, although we may do one--generally we don't like a huge crush of people.

As for what we like to drink and would be most interested in tasting...we drink a lot of big reds. Come summer, we're most likely to drink Chardonnay.

As I said before, we may do a tour if it's highly recommended or includes some extras. And we'll probably do some type of lunch while out--but a tapas pairing, pizza, or a picnic will probably suffice, as I imagine we'll do a big dinner in the evening.

Thanks again everyone, you've all been very helpful! :-)

Ottawa, Canada
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10. Re: Wine & spa weekend--suggestions welcome!

Hi lligett,

Welcome to the NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE TRAVEL FORUM.

First let me apologize for being a bit late to this post… I’ve been tied up as of late with the OTTAWA TRAVEL FORUM (the other one I am a DE for) as we celebrate the annual Canadian Tulip Festival… a HUGE event in Ottawa, only seconded by our annual Winterlude celebration in February… both events well worth a visit if you are ever in the National Capital.

Even though I am late to the game… I see though, that you’ve received some great replies in this topic so far… so let me add some more great info to help with your Trip Planning.

A post you’ll want to read on how wine Touring Works for Niagara (Motorcoaches – Semi Private – Private) can be found in the NF FORUM with a topic entitled *Wine Tour Recommendations* = tripadvisor.ca/ShowTopic-g154998-i97-k349723…

And another great one for that same Traveller who finally weighed out touring The Bench vs NOTL with Crush Wine Tours here on the NOTL FORUM entitled *The Bench or NOTL Another Winery Question* = tripadvisor.ca/ShowTopic-g154999-i270-k35230…

I’d say that the BIG 3 Winery Touring Companies would be… Crush on Niagara Wine ToursNiagara Wine Tours International – and Niagara Classic Cabs… the first two catering more to the Novice or Intermediate Wine Lover (as they have a certain element of instruction with them) and the latter for someone more advanced, in that they just provide transportation for small parties wanting to explore Wine Country on their own.

As for your “dream” of tasting in a garden… that probably isn’t going to happen… Ontario has very strict rules regarding alcohol service and consumption… and I am pretty sure that the Wineries cannot serve tastings outside… as I have never seen that. Licensing though for outside consumption can be covered if the Winery also has a Restaurant Patio License (yes that is a separate element from a regular Restaurant License)… so chances are excellent that you’ll be able to enjoy lunch with a glass of wine while overlooking a vineyard... if you need suggestions... I know of several great spots (depending on where you finally decide to concentrate your wine touring activities).

Wine like every other taste experience in life is subjective… so what you like (palette finds appealing will be different from someone else’s and how developed it is). What I can tell you is that Niagara has a unique micro-climate both lakeside, and immediately below the Escarpment. With your like for BIG Reds and Chardonnay, you’ll be most happy exploring NOTL Wineries and those found adjacent to Lake Ontario… where the temps are warmest and can produce wines common to California, France & Italy.

Wines higher up on the Escarpment... commonly referred to as "The Bench" produce arguably Niagara’s best wine... and will include Medium Reds… Merlot – Pinot Noir – Cabernet Franc – and some great blended wines that include Meritage – Gamay Noir – Foch – and Baco Noir. For Whites you’ll find those common to the hilly areas of France (Alsace) & Germany wines like Gewurtztraminer – Riesling - and Sparkling. Chardonnay (Oaked & Unoaked) along with Ice Wine is found right across the Peninsula.

Vidal is the usual grape for Ice Wine… but Ice Wines made from more delicate harder to sustain grapes is not only more expensive, but also far more exciting (rewarding to the taste buds)… so if given the chance to taste a variety do so. My personal favourites are Ice Wines made from red varietals… but other than Cabernet Franc they can be harder to come by the exception would be at Royal deMaria Winery.. (who is without a doubt Canada’s Best when it comes to Ice Wine.)… but as a small family run winery now with global success… it can be difficult to find a time when the Winery is open to the public.

Also wineries in Niagara come in all shapes and sizes… BIG Corporations – Medium – Small – and Family Run Ops. I usually advise one to mix it up… and also to look at some of the Wineries that are experimenting with R&D (Organic – Gravity Fed – Green Wineries etc).

Also, if you taste something you like… BUY IT… chances are you will not find it again. Most of Ontario’s best wine never goes any farther to market than the winery floor… small batch wines (aka Winemaker Blends) are only sold to customers… and never sent to the LCBO (who sadly have a habit of ripping of Canadian Wineries… paying on the average $ 3 for a $ 12 to $ 15 bottle of wine). Consequently there are many wineries who now are refusing to deal with the LCBO… and also why there is a myth that Canadian wine isn’t all that great… GREAT CANADIAN WINE won’t be found at the LCBO!

I suggest that you begin your Ontario Winery Research, by taking a look at the Ontario Wineries Website = www.winesofontario.ca where you can learn lots about the Niagara Wine Region… although the website is excellent, you’ll want to get a hard-copy of the Official Guide to the Wineries of Ontario… it has a ton of info about Niagara Wineries, and a handy pull-out map. The Guide is available at all Ontario Wineries, some local Wine Country LCBOs and Tourism Offices… or by mail.

Hope this is helpful… if you have more Questions just ask.

Cheers!

Wine-4-2