Niagara: A Weekend in Wine Country

It’s home base for the famous Shaw Festival, but Niagara-on-the-Lake is also a wine and foodie haven any time of year.

This tiny gem of a town has a helluva history: it was here, just over 200 years ago, where British, French and native Canadians stood side by side – and their ground – against an invading American force after a brave young woman named Laura Secord made the trek to sound the alarm. We call it the War of 1812. The town will be the site of many re-enactments and historical remembrances through 2014, but anytime is a good time to visit, as its proximity to Niagara Wine Country makes it a wine and foodie haven.
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PLAY

N-O-T-L serves as the home base for the Shaw Festival, which celebrated 50 years of productions of George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries last year; wine festivals and tastings happen year round, from Ice Wine in January to the harvest in September. If you can’t make the fest, follow Shaw corresponding scholar L.W. Conolly’s The Shaw Festival: The First 50 Years, a wonderfully illustrated look back at the festival’s roots and evolution to its golden anniversary. www.shawfest.com

niagara-horseSTAY

Choose from one of four Vintage Inns: Prince of Wales, Queens Landing, Pillar and Post or Moffat Inn. Our pick: the classically Victorian Prince of Wales for its stone’s throw location from all the action of the main street, Queen Street. 905-468-3246; 888-669-5566; www.vintage-hotels.com.

For something off the beaten track, try Harbour House, one of three Niagara’s Finest Inns, for its more contemporary design and proximity to Lake Ontario. 800-474-0632; www.niagarasfinest.com. There are more than 200 hotels, inns and bed and breakfasts to choose from, so there’s something for every budget.

niagara-wineEAT

The surrounding Niagara region is a locavore’s foodie haven. At Strewn winery’s Terroir la Cachette, chef Alain Levesque pairs his Provençal roots with province of Ontario ingredients; Peller Estates restaurant chef Jason Parsons makes Croque Monsieur a main event, using rich truffle-roasted chicken accompanied by fig and red pepper relish and paired with Peller’s Private Reserve Chardonnay 2009; Hillebrand chef Frank Dodd uses one of the winery’s award-winning vintages to create his Hillebrand Trius Rib-eye Burger, with a smattering of Icewine Onion Jam and a side of hand-cut sea salt fries; and Inniskillin Niagara executive chef David Penny’s Icewine seared scallop is cooked to perfection, part of the perfect bites he creates for the tasting menus and culinary experiences at the winery. His secret? No seasoning on the scallop before pan-searing it – in extra virgin olive oil. Then finish with Maldon salt or fleur de sel and a sprinkle of pancetta. Bon appétit! wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com

niagara-lakeNIGHT CAP

The Churchill Lounge (in the Prince of Wales) for its old-world, all-wood library feel and classic hot toddy menu. Sweet dreams.