Canada may not be the first country that comes to mind when considering world class wine or significant historical events but a visit to the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario might change that line of thinking. Featuring outstanding wine country accommodations and gourmet regional cuisine, the Niagara region has a decided edge over many of the world’s wine country bicycle tours. The network of bike paths and quiet country roads make the Niagara Wine Country of Ontario, Canada an extraordinary destination for exploration by bicycle.
Nestled between two of the five Great Lakes, the Niagara Peninsula was settled by Loyalists fleeing north during the American Revolution. The most visible evidence of British influence can be seen in the gardens, architecture and pubs of Niagara-on-the-Lake, often called the prettiest town in Canada. Its charming main street is lined with unique shops, tasting rooms and restaurants.
The town is also home to the oldest lawn bowling club in Canada and the oldest golf club in North America. You can still watch competitors, clad head to toe in white outfits, bowl on the grounds of the club. The town’s Olde Angel Inn is one of the three oldest inns in Canada. Operating since 1789, it was rebuilt in 1815 after being severely damaged when the town, then named Newark which was destined to be the capital of Upper Canada, was torched and burned by retreating Americans.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is far from the region’s only highlight. Framed by Lake Erie to the south, Ontario to the north, and the Niagara River – the same river that flows over Niagara Falls – to the east, the Niagara Peninsula has much to offer. Over 35% of its agriculturally based economy is driven by wine grapes which are cultivated on some 20,000 acres and contribute $10,000 per ton to the Canadian economy.
With a climate similar to the great French regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy, and a latitude similar to Chianti and Rioja, cultivation of wine grapes on the Niagara Peninsula has been occurring for over a century. It wasn’t until 1975, when two young winemakers convinced the government to issue the first license to sell wine since Prohibition in 1929, that the region began its modern winemaking era. This opened the door to other producers and to the creation of high standards for wine production in Ontario. The two young winemakers? The founders of Inniskillin, one of the world’s most recognized and awarded brands of Icewine.
The Niagara Peninsula may be best known for its world-famous Icewine but don’t think that those are the only great wines being produced here. Closer examination, including tasting, will reveal excellent white wines such as Seyval Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling. Tops reds include Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Merlot. Your introduction to the finest wines in the region begins in the wine cellar of one of the finest wineries in the region – one who also happens to own the inn where you’ll stay during the first two evenings of your bicycling vacation with Sojourn.
In addition to patchwork vineyards, much of the region is still producing fruit such as peaches and cherries, and this rural landscape provides for peaceful rides along country roads. Cycling is popular in Niagara Wine Country and lengthy paved bike paths along the Niagara River and the historic Welland Canal make for easy access to numerous points of interest.
Learn more about Sojourn’s wine country bicycle tours in Canada Wine Country.