Niagara-on-the-Lake is one of those charming towns to visit again and again. There’s so much to see and do and there’s always some place new to explore! It’s starting to become a tradition to spend a weekend in February here with our friends, Carl and Jess. Last year’s trip was such a hit that we couldn’t wait to get back. Jeff and I loved it so much that we even snuck in a quick little overnight trip before Christmas! You can read about it here! Now we’re officially Niagara-on-the-Lake weekend getaway veterans. We’ll show you all of our favorite spots to keep everyone in the group happy, even the guys! Come explore Niagara-on-the-Lake with us!
We tried to cater to the boys on day one. The key is to get their bellies full and pump them full of booze and they’ll do whatever you want! Kidding!! Well….kind of! Jeff and Carl are country boys at heart so what better place to start than at Caroline Cellars. You can’t get more down home and country than this! The winery was established in 2000, but owners Rick and Frieda have been farming the land since 1978. The winery gets it’s name from the family’s matriarch, Rick’s late mother Caroline, and also their biggest supporter over the years.
You can feel that sense of family as soon as you walk in the door. Caroline Cellars is family owned and operated and you can already tell they’ll be around for generations to come. All of their wines are made on site from the grapes produced by their 26 acre farm. Their wines are available exclusively at the winery meaning Caroline Cellars is the only place you can get your hands on this stuff. Hungry? Don’t miss out on their full service Farmhouse Cafe! Locally sourced, most of their menu is homemade in house. We didn’t get the pleasure of eating here, but I was drooling over the Buffalo Chicken Poutine up on the Specials board! We did take home a bottle of their 2014 Sweet Riesling as well as The Farmer’s Blueberry Wine.
Next we headed to Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery, just 5 minutes away. Gretzky Estates really knows how to keep everyone happy! They are a MUST stop when in Niagara-on-the-Lake! The complex is absolutely massive. Head to the right and you’ll be greeted by this stunning sitting room and magnificent fireplace. Continue past to the wine tasting area which overlooks the ice rink in the winter and doubles as a water feature in the summer. We sampled a few glasses before heading over to the other side for a whiskey tasting.
Absolutely, positivity, 100 percent do NOT skip the whiskey tasting!! Our guys loved it! I have to admit this was one of my favorite parts too. A tasting consists of 3 of the 4 whiskeys available for purchase at Gretzky Estates. The fourth glass is water. They present their tastings in a science experiment format. Its recommended that you taste the whiskey once, add a couple drops of water to it (with the pipette provided), and then taste the sample again. So much fun!! Know any whiskey loving mad scientists???
My favorites were the Ice Cask which gets its sweetness from soaking in ice wine barrels (right up my alley!) and of course the Canadian Cream, a mouth watering Irish Cream liquor. If you love Irish cream liquors, or in this case, Canadian Cream, you’ve gotta try our Irish Cream Fudge recipe, inspired by this drink! My hubby loved the Red Cask, a super smooth and satisfying whiskey. We settled on the Red Cask and the Canadian Cream to bring back across the border.
Silversmith Brewing Co. was next on our list, just two minutes down the road from Gretzky Estates. This place was a favorite with the guys as you can tell from Carl’s look of contentment above.
Silversmith finds it’s home in an old 1890s church and is just bursting at the seams with charm and character! It’s definitely one of the most unique places in Niagara-on-the-Lake (or anywhere for that matter) to grab a round of pints with your friends. You can’t help but marvel at the exposed beams, brick walls, handmade barn wood bar, and stained glass windows. And the beer is pretty spectacular as well! Thank goodness for co-founder and visionary Chris Pontsioen, who decided to plop down a brewery smack dab in the middle of wine country!!
Be sure to order some food from the kitchen! Chef Charlie Clowes and 40 Under Forty winner, set up shop as Mason Made Well inside the beer hall. With an eclectic menu, worldly flavors, and locally sourced ingredients, you’re sure to find something for everyone! We split a Steak Sandwich which consisted of medium rare steak on a warmed baguette, with gorgonzola cream, arugula and caramelized onion jam. YUM!!!!
We got some shareables as well. The Goat Cheese and Ricotta Dip with fresh herbs and cherry tomatoes was a crowd favorite! Even the ones that weren’t crazy about goat cheese loved it. And the Lemon & Herb and Jerk Spice Wings were a hit as well.
What comes after beer??? MORE BEER!!!…..OBVIOUSLY!!! After Silversmith we headed 3 minutes down the road to the big red barn. Oast House Brewers prove that you can never have enough beer! Oast House’s menu combines a couple of standard brews, a few farmhouse ales, as well as semi-rotational selections, and limited edition series. Basically you could go here a whole bunch of times and never sample the same beer twice! Or you can stick with the classics. Whatever floats your boat!
The concept at Oast is to build your own flight and pick as many samples as you’d like! It’s like DIY but for beer flights. Love it!!! I’m dying to try some of their Rural Route series, a curation of locally grown fruit flavored beers. The Strawberry Rhubarb Ale and Eisbock with Ice Wine Grapes are calling my name.
I think it’s safe to say that these guys were pretty happy with our day!
After Oast House it was time to check into our hotel, Queens Landing. Queens Landing is a Georgian inspired manor and one of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s premier waterfront hotels. Part of the Vintage Hotels group, Queens Landing offers luxurious accomadtions, coupled with the finest amenities. If you’ve ever slept at a Vintage Hotel you’ll know the beds are the absolute best!! Our room was gorgeous. It overlooked the water and had a beautiful view of sailboats in the harbor.
We booked our stay with Travelzoo.com and got an amazing deal! I highly recommend scoping them out for great deals to get the most bang for your buck. Our package was $145 and included an overnight stay, 2 drinks in the Bacchus Lounge, and a $40 gift voucher to use at their onsite Tiara restaurant. Our drink coupons were quickly put to good use. Jess went with a martini outfitted in a smoked paprika rimmed glass, and I opted to go a gin cocktail which was obviously named for me, The Queen!
We spent our dinner vouchers on some pre dinner appetizers. The Charcuterie Board was top notch and paired well with a little Seared Foie Gras. We ate dinner in town at the Olde Angel Inn. After dinner it was off to the Irish Harp for a round of drinks and some live music. Check out some of our favorites from those two places here! The best part of Queens Landing is it’s fabulous location. It’s within walking distance to all of Niagara-on-the-Lakes main attractions. And it’s actually even shorter than you think if you cut through the park!
The following morning we took full advantage of the wonderful pool, whirlpool, and sauna before checking out. It was a beautiful day out so we headed to the waterfront to snap a few gorgeous pictures. That’s Old Fort Niagara in the background across the lake.
Breakfast was just around the corner, offsite at the Little Red Rooster Restaurant. And it was delish! It’s too bad they’re closing in a month. A fancy upscale Chinese restaurant will soon take it’s place. My eggs were cooked perfect, and came with bacon, fried potatoes, and thick sliced Texas toast. SO good!!
Jess ordered the Cinnamon Raisin French Toast and it looked and smelled amazing as well! If you’re looking for a comparable place, I hear Butler’s Bar and Grill is a favorite among the locals and it’s just right across the street.
After breakfast it was off to the award wining PondView Winery. If you like Ice Wine then you’re really in for a treat! This is the only place in Niagara-on-the-Lake where you can taste ice wine from a chocolate shooter. The shooters are made especially for PondView and are also available for purchase! How sweet is that?!? Our host Jenna showed us the ropes (she was SO much fun BTW!!). The trick is to take a few sips but leave a little bit at the bottom. Then swallow the rest with a big bite of chocolate shot glass. Absolutely heavenly!! The combination in unbelievable! I’m normally a sweet wine kind of gal, but I really enjoyed their Cabernet Franc Rose which is more on the dry side, and even ended up taking a bottle home with me.
How do you top chocolate ice wine shooters? With ice wine slushies of course! The Ice House serves up two flavors of slushies, Vidal and Cabernet Franc. I suggest sampling both before ordering a full glass. The Vidal was my favorite hands down, but I’m a white wine type of gal. The inside of this winery is quaint and cozy. I love the hand crafted wine barrel bar and matching tables. And don’t miss the Polar Bear out front. He makes for such a great photo op!
Our next stop led us to The Hare Wine Co., a fairly new up and coming winery in the Niagara region. The hare, fittingly a symbol of fertility and good fortune, also doubles as the owner’s namesake. John Hare welcomed us in and graciously introduced himself. You can tell how much pride and passion has gone into this project. The building itself pays homage to the region’s past, incorporating 100 year old bricks into its exterior as well as reclaimed barn wood flooring and shelving found throughout the estate. Hare Wine Co. is all about community. Don’t miss out on their slew of upcoming events, from Paint by the Glass to their Etsy Spring Market. The wines were outstanding as well. In my opinion you can’t go wrong with any of their dessert wines. Jess nabbed a bottle of their Jack Rabbit White for the road.Our final stop brought us to Southbrook Vineyards, an organic winery! Look for the big blue wall! Southbrook is a ground breaking vineyard in the Niagara region. In 2008, they became the first wine estate in Canada to earn both organic and biodynamic certifications for their vineyard and winery. The process is quite interesting and our host was extremely knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions we threw at him. We couldn’t resist a bottle of their 2016 Connect White as well as a bottle of the Anniversary which had quite a unique flavor. Plus it organic so it’s good for you right?!? If you’re an ice wine lover you MUST try their Canadian Framboise. It basically tastes like strawberry jelly. You’re welcome!
Another successful trip in the books! Can’t wait to come back next year! Have you ever been to Niagara-on-the-Lake? Do you have any recommendations? Check out more of our Niagara-on-the-lake fun here and here!
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