I grew up in Niagara, and Kevin and I have been lucky to spend lots of time in the area doing fun things. This includes quite a bit of time checking out wineries, particularly those in the ‘Twenty Valley’ region.
When Torontonians think of the ‘Niagara wine region’ they typically think about Niagara on the Lake. However, we’re particular fans of the Twenty Valley region, which we find to be less crowded and thus better for a local/authentic experience (particularly in summer 2020, when we’re all trying to avoid crowds).
The below image shows the various appellations of the Niagara wine region. Those in the left/middle of this map make up the ‘Twenty Valley’ area:
Below are all my recommendations for food and wine in the Twenty Valley wine region, which includes Grimsby, Beamsville, Vineland, and Jordan.
The Twenty Valley region has a nice website that explains when and where different events are happening.
They have 3-4 food & wine pairing festivals each year and they’re really good value. Typically how it works is you pay for a “pass” and then you can use each pass at participating wineries to get a snack & a drink (they also sell a cheaper “DD” pass, and each winery offers a special drink for drivers). So, that’s a good place to start, but below I’ll list some of my favourite places to go as well since festivals are likely being scaled back this season.
The Twenty Valley terroir is fairly different from Niagara on the Lake because of the escarpment, which is a natural formation of limestone cliffs. The grapes grown in this environment tend to have a unique minerality, which means this is an excellent place for tasting Cabernet, Riesling, and any Sparkling wines.
The following list is fairly long, so I’ve bolded the “must see” places. They are roughly in Geographic order from East to West (ish)
- Rosewood Estates Winery
- they also make honey and mead, but it’s a cute winery and all their wines are lovely
- Angels Gate Winery
- Known for their sparkling wines; they usually serve tapas on weekends though not sure what their current serving setup is
- Really friendly staff that are pretty knowledgeable about wine, so a great place for a tasting flight
- Tawse Winery
- This is one of the older wineries in the area. Everything they make is really good but it can get crowded, so beware of going in the busy summer season
- I recommend emailing or calling ahead if you plan to go with a group because they have some extra space in the back where they can do supervised tastings, but you need to give them a heads up
- Vineland Estates Winery
- In non-COVID times, their store/tasting room can be a bit of a zoo, but they make really, really good wines. The wine maker here, Brian Schmidt, is President of the VQA (Ontario wine region regulatory body), so this winery is a bit ahead of the rest in terms of what they offer to consumers. They have a restaurant (expensive but excellent), a cheese shop, a really pretty gift shop, and a wine tasting bar.
- Wines to try: Game Changer Rosé (made with their “optical sorter” machine, which uses technology to sift through grapes and ensure only the ideal grapes make it into the wine. It’s a high-end machine that they bought around 5 years ago and also rent out to other wineries); Cabernet Franc; Semi-dry Riesling; Chardonny Musqué (made with a grape that is unique to the Niagara region)
- Also worth noting: Brian’s father, Lloyd Schmidt, immigrated to Canada from Germany and he was a pioneer of the Canadian wine industry, beginning his efforts in British Columbia. Later he came to Niagara and helped start a bunch of different wineries. Many of the grape roots/stocks grown in Niagara and BC were literally brought by Lloyd from Germany to Canada
- Ridgepoint Wines
- Has a well priced restaurant that makes a great lunch but the service takes awhile because all the food is made to order, from scratch. So, an excellent and great value lunch, but not a quick lunch
- The staff here are a lot of fun and love what they do. The winery is run by a brother and sister team and their parents are Italian so they make Italian style wines. Great spot for a welcoming time and great wines.
- The Good Earth Food & Wine Co.
- This winery has a lovely restaurant and garden. They’re located below the escarpment so their wines are a bit more similar in profile to what you’d find in Niagara on the Lake.
- Great spot to have lunch. They also offer cooking classes.
- Honsberger Estate
- The place has an outdoor patio restaurant in the summer and a small indoor restaurant during the colder season; they’re famous for their pizza oven and they are a popular wedding venue. A beautiful oasis for lunch or dinner!
- The wine is excellent, especially the rosé
- Domaine Queylus
- It sometimes seems a bit out of the way, but they make really great wine and they do a great tasting. The wine maker there, Kelly Mason, also makes the wine at Honsberger Estate Winery and she has her own wine made under “The Farm” brand, which typically sells out as soon as its released. Highly recommend for serious (or budding!) wine nerds!
- Megalomaniac Winery
- The wine is good but not great, but the view is spectacular and it’s worth going for that alone
- Back 10 Cellars
- This place was started by a couple who bootstrapped the business and funded their initial losses by operating a wine tour & bus rental company, Crush Tours
- They follow a lot of natural wine processes, which makes good wine but is definitely a riskier process. The winery is run out of their house, and it’s a very warm and welcoming environment
- Kew Vineyards Estate Winery
- This is another good one in a beautiful old house. Very well known for their sparkling wines. I’m not as much a fan of their rieslings, but their “soldier’s grant” is a heavy hitting red that I definitely recommend
- They have a beautiful patio out back where you can just relax and enjoy the view
- Kacaba Vineyards
- It’s a small tasting room, but they’re probably making some of the boldest red wines in the area. Really good for people who like bold European style wines.
- When they host events they invite guests into the wine cellar in the back, so you get a proper intimate experience. Really knowledgeable staff there, who can speak well about their award winning wines.
- Calamus Estate Winery
- Located beside Balls Falls, a provincial park. They have a deck upstairs where you can sit and enjoy your wine with a view.
- The winery was recently sold by its original owners to a new family. They’re trying to add some cool things to their business model (potentially a restaurant and some nature walking tours), but their wine expertise isn’t quite the same. But the grapes are solid and they apparently have a hip young wine maker, so you can reliably drink their riesling, sparkling, and Gewurtztraminer wines. They also make some good red blends.
- One of the fun things about visiting Twenty Vallery wineries is that you often get to meet the family or team who own and operate the business, and frequently they are quite willing to share their story/knowledge to those who ask – this is definitely one such place!
- Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery
- Sue-Ann was a wine maker at other wineries until she took over her family farm, which has operated on this site for over 200 years. They used to grow concord grapes for Welches (like many in the area) but Sue Ann switched them over to wine grapes
- The winery is run out of her home and the tasting bar is literally her kitchen counter. It’s a lovely and welcoming place, and they’ll let you taste pretty much anything
- These are definitely more ‘juicy’ and drinkable wines, and we highly recommend visiting this winery so that you can enjoy the high quality wine and hospitality.
- Westcott Vineyards
- Just up the street from Sue Ann. They make excellent Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs. They’re a small batch winery so a lot of their stuff sells out fast.
- They have a covered back patio restaurant that I highly recommend. The restaurant is operated by Ricky & Olivia, and though it started out as a pop-up they now operate this restaurant all season long.
- Cave Spring Cellars
- They own several different properties but their ‘winery’ is located in downtown Jordan. It’s a cute little place to visit and their wine is great, especially their sparkling wine
- 13th Street Winery
- Note: they are closed on Sundays, so if you’re doing a weekend trip to Niagara be sure to visit this place on the Saturday. Though if you go on Sunday you should still be able to enjoy the outdoor art.
- This place gets really busy, but it has a lot to see. They have a bakery, art gallery, wine shop, and tasting bar. They also have a really cool selection of outdoor art installations. Definitely a good place for taking photos. Great spot to visit if you have non-drinkers in your group, because there is so much to do here.
- I’m a fan of their sparkling wine and their red wines.
- Food is available on their patio seasonally
- Restaurant Pearl Morrisette
- I haven’t been here but it’s incredibly well regarded by Toronto “foodies”. It’s appointment only for wine tastings. They also have a prix fix menu restaurant that requires reservations 3+ weeks in advance.
- Inn on the Twenty (Jordan) – attached to Cave Springs winery. It’s a lovely restaurant with great food and service, and a beautiful view.
- Lake House Restaurant (Vineland) – just off the highway. Often busy, always delicious, with massive portions. Amazing view and overall very consistently good.
- Just Cooking Rustic Italian – Italian restaurant with a bit of flair, locally operated buy a young team
- Casa Toscana (Grimsby) – Italian with pasta made in house
- Teddy’s (Grimsby) – a truly local spot; if you go, order the chicken wings “Teddy’s Style”, which is their house made specialty. A pitcher of beer, a few pounds of wings, and an order of fries will serve you well.
- Boo’s Diner (Jordan) – truly a dive, but cute and good/fast service and very affordable
- Lang on the Water (Grimsby) – this is a new Vietnamese restaurant. It’s right on the water and there’s a new trail you can walk on for a couple of kilometres. It’s a great location and the food is great too!
- Westcott Vineyards – seasonal back patio, open later than most other winery food options
- Honsberger Estate – fantastic patio and lovely indoor eating space as well. Food is hearty and delicious. Good dinner option
- The Good Earth Food & Wine Co. – lovely garden restaurant; Not open late, so a good option for lunch/brunch
- Ridgepoint Wines – this winery has a great restaurant, though not open late and the food is made to order and thus doesn’t come out quickly. The perfect spot for a luxurious late lunch. Call to confirm space availability during the COVID season.
- Station One Coffee House – a super cute spot for grabbing coffee or small food items (soup, sandwiches, baked goods, etc). They have a new patio out back to keep things safe.
- Vineland Estates Winery – For a special celebration, this is the place to go. Top quality food with an unmatched view, in a beautiful historic building. A bit pricey relative to other local options, but absolutely worth it.