A Niagara Foodies’ Hidden Gem for Over 30 Years – Benchmark Reopens!

Beyond the Plate: Unleashing Culinary Creativity at Niagara College


Niagara College’s Benchmark Restaurant, a cornerstone of the culinary program for over 30 years, has evolved to showcase the students’ academic experience while providing a hands-on learning opportunity. The restaurant’s recent revamp post-pandemic reflects a commitment to highlighting the culinary, tourism, and beverage programs, offering a unique dining experience for the college community, local visitors, and industry partners.


“As the restaurant reopens, it will continue to focus on a simple fixed-price lunch menu that changes with each term and season, offering not just a dining option but a journey through diverse food designs”

– Craig Youdale, Dean at Niagara College Culinary Services.



The thematic exploration revolves around connecting learned skills with the abundant offerings of the Niagara Region, spearheaded by Chef Justin Downes, emphasizing seasonal ingredients and hospitality, service, and beverage excellence.

“Real-world scenarios during service at Benchmark prepare our students for the challenges of the culinary industry, instilling a sense of urgency, effective communication, time management, and the ability to handle pressure. The restaurant’s service area becomes a crucial training ground, replicating the fast-paced nature of the industry and providing students with a more authentic experience”

– Craig Youdale, Niagara College Culinary Dean.



Student feedback on the reopening of Benchmark for lunch service has been overwhelmingly positive, with students thrilled about the addition of lunch service. The restaurant has been in full swing for over a year, hosting events like Final Exam Lunches, Stand Up Receptions, and Bakery Pop Up Cafes, creating a dynamic and engaging learning environment for students.



In terms of skill development, the program not only focuses on culinary expertise but also hones students’ business skills, recognizing the high-pressure nature of the hospitality industry. The Benchmark space serves as a platform for students to understand the complexities of restaurant operations, customer interactions, and the nuances of providing value and meeting guest expectations.





Niagara College’s Culinary Program stands out from the crowd, offering a unique blend of cutting-edge facilities, world-class faculty, and a commitment to innovation, sustainability, and industry connectivity. The DJP campus boasts a diverse array of resources, including a vineyard, hopyard, vegetable production facilities, herb gardens, bee hives, tender fruit trees, and greenhouse technology. Such integration, coupled with operations like a brewery, winery, and distillery, creates an unparalleled learning environment, making Niagara College one of the most distinctive culinary education spots globally.



While the current restaurant concept will continue to evolve, the focus for Benchmark in the near future is on expanding lunch services in conjunction with academic events, Culinary Arts Café, and other initiatives. The dynamic nature of the culinary world keeps the door open for further evolution, ensuring that Niagara College’s Culinary Program stays at the forefront of culinary education.



Reserve your spot at Benchmark Restaurant and (re-)discover this amazing gem in our community: 



Check out the programs latest events, offerings, pop-ups, and more: 




Savouring Diversity: Celebrating World Class Wines at the First Pan-Canadian Wine Masterclass

“You would have to drive 6,023km from Alderlea Winery (Vancouver Island) to Domain de Grand Pré (Nova Scotia) to experience the side by side tasting that we are starting this Masterclass with!” With these intriguing words, Carl Boucher (Carl’s Wine Club) set the stage for an unforgettable evening celebrating Canadian wines from coast to coast. The atmosphere was filled with excitement as over 60 attendees gathered to embark on a sensory journey through 11 Canadian wineries, their stories, and the passion behind their creations.


In a span of just under 3 hours, a diverse group of wine novices, enthusiasts, and industry veterans got to witness the passion and dedication from panellist such as Richard da Silva (Da Silva Vineyards & Winery – Naramata BC), whose family started farming on the Naramata Bench in 1959 after immigrating from Portugal; and from Brian Schmidt (Vineland Estates Winery – Vineland ON), whose family started out in British Columbia, then moved to Niagara and helped introduce the widely used Weis Clone of Riesling to many vineyards across Canada.





What quickly became evident was the shared thread that wove through the panellists. Despite their geographical separation, they were united by an unbreakable bond rooted in their love for farming and the artistry of winemaking. Lighthearted anecdotes peppered the discussions, offering glimpses into the personal journeys of these winemaking pioneers. From Lou Puglisi’s (Bella Terra Vineyards – Niagara-on-the-Lake) bold decision to invest in a neighbouring farm instead of buying his first car, to the animated conversations about the significance of appellations in wine production and marketing, each story added a layer of depth to the evening.


The hosts of the event, Carl and Mira Boucher of Carl’s Wine Club, masterfully steered the conversation, infusing it with energy and curiosity. Their seamless integration of unique wines, including the exclusive Montepulciano Rosé by D’Angelo Winery BC, and their thoughtful questions to the guest speakers kept the audience engaged throughout. The palpable excitement of Carl and Mira for Canadian wines was contagious, spreading quickly among the audience.





Reflecting on the evening, attendee Ross Macfarlane shared:



“My favourite parts of the event were hearing Richard Da Silva from the Naramata Bench praise the red wines of Niagara, and overall being able to taste BC, ON, and NS wines side-by-side. I would definitely love to see more events like this, especially if accessing wines from other parts of the country becomes simpler.”


Indeed, the desire to access a diverse selection of Canadian wines from various provinces was a common theme that emerged from conversations that night. This shared sentiment birthed a question that lingered in the air during the relaxed afterparty in Bella Terra Vineyards’ tasting room: Will there be another Pan-Canadian Wine Masterclass?



When John Skinner, the visionary behind Painted Rock Estate Winery, was approached about featuring his renowned Red Icon wine alongside other Canadian gems, his response was immediate and resounding.



“As an industry, we have to work together to not only build a reputation for Canadian wines internationally, but also here at home. As the old adage says, a rising tide lifts all boats.”





Brian Schmidt, a seasoned attendee of countless wine-related events both local and international, was effusive in his praise for the Pan-Canadian Masterclass.



“The Pan Canadian Masterclass is without a doubt one of the best I have been a part of… start to finish… entertaining, engaging, compelling all while still maintaining a professional atmosphere. Carl and Mira really knocked it out of the park… I look forward to this becoming an annual event… I would commit right now to flying to BC for the next one…”



In a country as vast and diverse as Canada, the unity forged through the art of winemaking is a testament to the power of shared passion. From the rocky terrains of British Columbia to the lush landscapes of Nova Scotia, the Pan-Canadian Wine Masterclass celebrated not just the wines, but the stories, connections, and dreams of the individuals who pour their hearts into each bottle. As glasses clinked and conversations flowed, it was clear that this event was more than a tasting; it was a celebration of Canada’s rich winemaking heritage and the promise of an engaging and thriving future.



Featured: Bella Terra Vineyards, Da Silva Vineyards, Black Market Wine Co., Carl’s Wine Club, Closson Chase Vineyards, Leaning Post Wines, Vineland Estates.



About Carl’s Wine Club:


Founded on Canada Day in 2020, Carl’s Wine Club is free to join and features a different Canadian winery each week via social media and e-mail. Members can learn more about each winery and have the option to purchase a tasting pack from that winery. With over 10,000 members across Canada, Carl’s Wine Club is dedicated to helping wine enthusiasts discover – and fall in love with – Canada’s wines.



Staying Cool With These Niagara Ice Cream Hot-Spots

As summer winds down, beat the heat by exploring Niagara’s top ice cream and gelato spots. In this blog, we’ve compiled a list of must-visit destinations, each offering a unique frozen treat experience. But what’s the difference between ice cream and gelato? While both are frozen desserts, ice cream is creamier due to its higher fat content, while gelato is smoother and denser. From classic flavours to innovative combinations, these establishments are ready to tantalize your taste buds and make your summer unforgettable. Gather your friends and embark on a journey to enjoy the finest frozen concoctions Niagara has to offer!



If you’re located in Welland or Fonthill, we highly recommend you give these three close-to-home places a try! Merrittville Big Scoops has a delicious selection of ice cream, milkshakes, and more for you to choose from, all while you can relax and enjoy the sunset on their picnic-style seating! In the mood for gelato? Scoot down to Gelato Village for their endless selection of Gelato flavours! Celebrating a birthday? Visit Cool Licks in Welland for their house-made ice cream cakes, and their variety of flavours from their ice cream bar.








For those located in Niagara Falls or Niagara-on-the-lake, these three locations have been keeping Niagara cool all summer long, and you have to try them! Starting with Rollz Up Ice Cream’s unique take on a classic, their wide-variety of toppings has been known to satisfy any sweet-tooth. Looking for a great atmosphere and patio to enjoy some sweet treats on? Ronnie Don’s Ice Cream will definitely be your go-to spot this summer! Their fun and colourful cones, cups, and shakes have been a huge hit this year, and they sure do taste delicious. Now, if you’re visiting our local wine country and are looking to enjoy some Ice Cream, Cow’s has been a staple here in wine country and will add the perfect touch of sweet to your Niagara experience.





Last but not least, if you’re located near St. Catharines or Grimsby, you may find yourself becoming a regular at these three locations! Lake Street Subs & Creamery right in the prime on central St. Catharines has been known for their large selection of Kawartha ice cream, served up in their yummy waffle cones! And don’t forget about Hometown Ice Cream, whipping up their dairy treats from scratch, all made right here in Niagara… So delicious! Head downtown Grimsby for another unique take on ice cream with La Maison Rose Ice Cream Shoppe… And yes, they taste as good as they look, if not better! 





Don’t let the summer slip away without indulging in the icy delights Niagara has to offer. Whether you’re a fan of traditional ice cream or the velvety allure of gelato, these local favourites are waiting to provide you with a refreshing and satisfying experience. Hurry and make your way to these spots before the season melts away!



A Toast to Canada’s Finest: Exploring the First Pan-Canadian Wine Masterclass in Niagara

In recent decades, Canada’s wine industry has experienced a remarkable surge in quality, garnering international acclaim and recognition. Behind every bottle lies a captivating story of dedication and innovation from passionate winemakers across the country. Thanks to Carl’s Wine Club, an esteemed community of over 10,000 wine lovers, a rare opportunity awaits to explore the diverse and rich tapestry of Canadian wines. The inaugural Pan-Canadian Wine Masterclass, slated for August 18, 2023, promises to be an enlightening journey through ten handpicked wines from different regions, showcasing Canada’s flourishing wine culture.


Canada’s Growing Wine Scene


The Canadian wine landscape has transformed over the past three decades, witnessing a proliferation of wineries that craft exceptional wines, consistently earning prestigious international awards. Beyond the liquid in the bottle, each winery has a fascinating story to tell, giving wine enthusiasts an unparalleled glimpse into the world of Canadian viticulture. This masterclass offers a rare chance to experience wines from diverse regions and to learn about the unique backstories behind each vineyard’s creation. AND… you do not have to be a wine expert!



The Masterclass Lineup


The Pan-Canadian Wine Masterclass will take place in the enchanting surroundings of Bella Terra Vineyards, nestled in the picturesque vineyards of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Attendees will savour ten distinct wines, handpicked to represent the essence of their respective regions:


Bella Terra Vineyards (Ontario; Niagara-on-the-Lake)

Leaning Post Wines (Ontario; Niagara)

Vineland Estates Winery (Ontario; Niagara)          

Closson Chase Vineyards (Ontario; Prince Edward County)

Black Market Wine Company (BC; Kaleden)

Da Silva Vineyards & Winery (BC; Naramata)

Painted Rock Estate Winery (BC; Skaha Bench)

Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery (BC; Kelowna)

Domaine Grand Pré (Nova Scotia)

Alderlea Vineyard (BC; Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island)




Throughout the masterclass, attendees will embark on a sensory exploration, discovering a wide range of varietals that reflect the unique terroir of each region. From crisp and luscious whites such as Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay to elegant and full-bodied reds like Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, every sip will unveil the distinct character of Canadian wines.



A Journey of Winemaking with Special Guests from BC and Ontario


Beyond the tasting experience, the masterclass will delve into the intricate details of winemaking techniques. Participants will gain insights into how climate and soil influence wine characteristics, crafting the exceptional flavours that grace our glasses. Engaging discussions with industry experts and winery owners from BC and Ontario will captivate attendees, sharing anecdotes and wisdom that highlight the dedication and passion propelling Canada’s wine culture to new heights.




The Pan-Canadian Wine Masterclass is an ode to the exceptional quality and diversity of Canadian wines. As Carl Boucher, Founder and Chief Wine Officer of Carl’s Wine Club, expressed, this event is a testament to the relentless dedication and innovation of Canada’s winemakers. This exclusive opportunity invites wine enthusiasts to raise a glass in celebration of the exquisite flavours and craftsmanship behind Canada’s world-class wines.


Taking place at Bella Terra Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake on August 18, 2023, the Pan-Canadian Wine Masterclass promises to be an unforgettable event. To ensure an intimate and immersive experience, seats are limited, so early ticket purchase through Carl’s Wine Club website (https://www.carlswineclub.com/pancanadianmasterclass) is highly encouraged.


A big thank you to the event sponsors: ASL Print FX and Lakeview Vineyard Equipment


About Carl’s Wine Club


Founded on Canada Day in 2020, Carl’s Wine Club is free to join and features a different Canadian winery each week via social media and e-mail. Members can learn more about each winery and have the option to purchase a tasting pack from that winery. With over 10,000 members across Canada, Carl’s Wine Club is dedicated to helping wine enthusiasts discover – and fall in love with – Canada’s wines.




Discover the Hidden Flavours of Niagara: Unleash Your Taste Buds with Niagara Food Tours!

When founded in 2019, Niagara Food Tours’ goal was to bring business and tourists to the Niagara region’s lesser-known districts, such as downtown St. Catharines and the historic downtown core of Niagara Falls. When owner Milan Curcic relocated from Hamilton to St. Catharines a few years ago, he had a vision of providing an exciting and interactive experience that would not only support local restaurants and small businesses but also bring them the exposure they deserved.


Niagara Food Tours’ main mission is to showcase the hidden gems and less-traveled destinations of the region that deserve the attention of curious tourists and foodies. Milan, who frequents the local food scene with friends and family possesses an intimate knowledge of the region’s culinary hotspots.


“As someone who loves going out for dinner and drinks in this region, it was a natural choice for me to base the tour routes and destinations on the less explored areas,” Milan explained.





One of the most appealing aspects of Niagara Food Tours is the incredible variety of cuisines offered. Whether you have a hankering for authentic Mexican, tantalizing tapas, gourmet bar food, or exotic Cuban and Indian flavours, these tours have it all. Each stop along the tour provides a unique and memorable experience, ensuring that participants are treated to the rich diversity of culinary options available throughout Niagara.



However, it is not only about the cuisine. Niagara Food Tours strives to provide its customers with a complete experience. Each tour includes a flavour of local history as well as facts on the area’s present state. Participants get a greater understanding for the location they’re exploring by pointing out notable sites and detailing the growing business landscape, forthcoming events, local attractions, and things to do. In St. Catharines, for example, the tours emphasize the Performing Arts Centre, Meridian Centre, historic places such as Mansion House, The Welland House location, and Harriet Tubman’s link to the city.




The tours are designed to be flexible and accommodating. A guided tour typically lasts between 2 to 3 hours, allowing participants to immerse themselves fully in the experience. For those who prefer a more independent exploration, self-guided tours are available, enabling guests to complete the tour at their own pace and on their own schedule. Niagara Food Tours can also accommodate your dietary preferences, with vegetarian and vegan options readily available at each stop.





The success of Niagara Food Tours has led to exciting new experiences coming soon: Milan and his team have plans to expand their offerings to include Niagara-on-the-Lake this year. Additionally, soon to be launched self-guided tours in Niagara Falls will provide visitors with the opportunity to savour the region’s culinary delights on their own terms. In the coming months, the company will be introducing dinner and show packages in partnership with the Performing Arts Centre, allowing guests to enjoy an evening of culture and gastronomy.




Niagara Food Tours is committed to supporting local businesses and providing meaningful employment opportunities for young adults. Milan and his team strive to give back to the community, and throughout the year, they collaborate with Food 4 Kids Niagara to help those in need. Visitors can find the Niagara Food Tours booth at the St. Catharines Farmers Market every Thursday, where they can learn more about the tours and meet the team.


If you’re looking to embark on a unique culinary adventure that not only engages your taste buds but also supports independent Niagara businesses and gives back to the community, look no further than Niagara Food Tours.


When in Niagara, join them on their mission to celebrate the region’s culinary diversity, support local businesses, and create lasting memories that will leave you craving more.


Hiring The Perfect Niagara Food Truck For Your Summer Season Events

Food trucks have become an increasingly popular catering option for outdoor events such as weddings, family get-togethers, staff parties, and more. They offer a unique culinary experience, convenience, and a wide variety of food choices. However, when it comes to hiring a food truck for your special occasion, there are several factors to consider ensuring a successful and memorable event. In this blog post, we will discuss the key things you should know and consider when hiring a food truck for your outdoor event. 



Tropical Fiesta Food Truck


Determine Your Event Wants and Needs 

Before beginning your search for your perfect food truck, it’s crucial to determine your specific requirements. Consider the size of your event, the number of guests you expect, and the type of cuisine you desire. Some food trucks specialize in specific cuisines, while others offer a diverse range of options. Defining your needs will help you narrow down your choices and find a food truck that perfectly aligns with your event vision. 


Research Local Food Trucks That Fit You and Your Guests Taste 

Take the time to research local food trucks in your area. Look for trucks with positive reviews, reputable backgrounds, and a strong track record of delivering quality service. Explore their websites or social media pages to get a sense of their menus, pricing, and availability. Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask questions about their experience, certifications, and whether they can accommodate any dietary restrictions or special requests. 



MJ Ingribelli Food Truck



Finding The Perfect Menu For Your Event

When selecting a food truck, pay attention to the variety of menu they offer. Ensure that their food options cater to a wide range of tastes and dietary preferences among your guests. Moreover, discuss the possibility of customizing the menu to incorporate any specific dishes or themes you may have in mind. Flexibility in menu selection will help you create a memorable dining experience for your guests. 


Having The Proper Licensing and Insurance

One critical aspect of hiring a food truck is ensuring that they possess the necessary licensing and insurance. Food trucks should adhere to local health department regulations and possess valid permits to operate. Request to see their permits and certificates to verify their compliance with food safety standards. 



905 Hotdog Pound Food Truck



Making Sure The Price is Right

Discuss pricing and payment terms upfront with the food truck operator. Inquire about their pricing structure, such as whether they charge per person or offer packages for events. Ask for a detailed breakdown of costs, including any additional charges for setup, travel, or extra services. Clarify payment methods, deposit requirements, and cancellation policies to avoid any confusion or surprises later. 


Having The Proper Space For Your Foodie Friends

Consider the logistics and space requirements for the food truck at your event venue. Ensure that there is ample space for the truck to park, set up, and operate smoothly. Discuss power supply needs, including access to electrical outlets or the availability of generators if required. Communicate with the food truck operator about any specific venue restrictions or limitations to ensure a seamless setup and service. 



World Street Food Tour



The Final Step, Time Coordination

Now that you’ve finalized all of the important details, it’s time to coordinate with the food truck operator regarding the timing of their arrival, setup, and service during your event. Discuss the duration they will be available, the estimated serving time per guest, and any specific schedule requirements you may have. Clear communication and synchronization between the food truck and your event timeline will help avoid delays or interruptions. 


Hiring a food truck for your outdoor event can bring a delightful and convenient culinary experience for both you and your guests, while supporting Niagara’s small businesses. By considering these essential factors, such as determining your needs, researching local options, menu variety, licensing and insurance, pricing and payment terms, logistics, and timing, you can ensure a successful and memorable occasion. 



Will Niagara Bounce Back in 2023? – The Road to Recovery and an Unwavering Passion for Niagara

While our community has seen Niagara businesses struggle, adapt and pivot many times in recent years, one question dominates conversations with owners and staff alike: What can we expect in 2023?


With your help, hundreds of restaurants continued to have an engaged audience during tough times and Niagarans have really put their full weight behind #supportlocal when it was most needed.


When we look back, 2022 was yet another year filled with adjusting to new realities of closures, openings, and staff shortages. With the main tourism season ahead of us in one of the world’s most popular destinations, we wanted to know what we should expect:


April Brunet – Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Lais Hotel Properties Ltd in Niagara-on-the-Lake, says that “the first quarter of the fiscal year has some softer periods in the leisure sector, no doubt from messaging in the news around recession, rising costs for households and some shifts back to traveling to southern destinations.”



“However, we remain cautiously optimistic overall.  It’s wonderful to see the small meetings market returning consistently, and the weddings market remain strong this year.  Overall, we anticipate a year of stabilization”, Brunet adds.


The economy and news around it are definitely something that’s on everybody’s mind, but there were also other factors slowing the return of big numbers of tourists in 2022 that we will not have to worry about this year.


“I’m expecting great things!  In 2022 domestic tourism largely returned to pre-pandemic numbers, while international visitation lagged behind at half, because of the still existing ArriveCan app at that time.  Now that it’s been removed, I expect international visitation to approach pre-pandemic numbers, and snap back like a rubber band!  With the favourable exchange rate, American visitor travel to Canada should get a boost!” says Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati.


It seems that to date the region’s biggest driver for visitor numbers still are and will remain the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas.


At Niagara Falls’ Greg Frewin theatre, which caters to a lot of groups along with individual visitors, Alanna Frewin says they are still seeing most of their visitors arriving from Toronto and southern Ontario.  “There seems to be a slow return of our US visitors, however, this is still very small. Our tour bus and group market is getting back into the swing of things and by fall should be laying the ground work for redeveloping these markets to their more robust fullness of previous years”, Frewin adds.


While it is widely expected that the Ontario tourism sector won’t fully recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2025, the Niagara region is not just sitting back and waiting until the tides turn in our favour. There are a lot of new things to discover for visitors and locals alike.


Niagara Parks Power Station & The Tunnel – Source: niagaraparks.com

Mayor Jim Diodati points out that “the new Niagara Parks Power Station is definitely going to be a new highlight.  That, along with the OLG Stage will be two huge new offerings for our guests and will keep people wanting more.  The exciting thing is that there’s always something new to come and explore here!”



At Greg Frewin Vegas-style theatre a new show at night is complimented by a show during the day that is familiar to most people who have ever visited the Falls: “We have developed a new show staring Christian Mascia who is a very talented magician Greg has been mentoring.  We’ve also partnered with Niagara Adventure Theatre (formerly IMAX) who is presenting their Niagara Falls adventure movie in our theatre during the day”, says Alanna Frewin.


The Gardens at Pillar and Post in Niagara-on-the-Lake
The Gardens by Vintage Hotels – Source: Vintage-Hotels.com

If you are looking to escape to Niagara Wine Country and spending some time in the Old Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, you’ll definitely want to take a stroll through the newest addition to the Vintage Hotel (VH) properties: “The Gardens [located across from the Pillar & Post] is a great example of how VH embraced adopting new experiences. The Gardens and the Ice Rink provide our guests a full season of options to enjoy while visiting.  We’ve created signature events and packaging that enable our guests to enjoy the great outdoors while savouring unique offerings from our culinary team and wine partners within the community”, states April Brunet.


Experience driven tourism is a very strong trend for travellers these days and Niagara is well positioned to get us back to where we need to be.  As Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodiati puts it: “People love experiential tourism and one of a kind unique experiences.  They love to eat and drink where the locals eat and drink. […] I think local restaurants should keep their focus on what they do best, their unique offerings.  Our local establishments put their heart and soul into their food and service offerings.  That’s what elevates a really special place and puts it on the map.”


“A location’s reputation is its secret sales agent that never sleeps.  We have so many of these unique and special locations in our community just waiting for the curious traveler to discover!”


Mr. Mayor, we could not agree more! We are excited about the opportunities that this season holds and for the path forward to an even stronger Niagara as a “have to visit” destination.


Make sure to check out all the great restaurants, wineries, and more on WhenInNiagara.com and create your itinerary for your next exciting visit.



Unleashing The Full Potential Of Ontario Wine Country – An Economic Driver For Niagara And Beyond

Ontario winemakers and grape growers see a future where their products will be the leading choice among wine consumers in this province, with more than three million tourists visiting Ontario’s wine regions each year to enjoy world class wines and hospitality.



Ontario’s VQA Wine and Grape Industry’s newly released 2030 Vision anticipates substantial growth in this important sector of the provincial economy, fuelling increases in investment, market share, jobs and related tourism.



“The growing recognition of the quality of Ontario VQA wines, the excellence of our wine country tourism experiences and the opportunities for growth will combine to take our world class industry to another level, with premium wine at the centre of a thriving economy and culture,” said Del Rollo, Chair of Wine Growers Ontario.



Among the projected growth targets within the next seven years, the 2030 Vision foresees:


  • More than 40,000 direct and indirect jobs in Ontario’s grape and wine production, tourism and hospitality sectors;
  • Annual Ontario VQA wine sales of more than half a billion dollars (up from $385 million per year currently), with all-channel share of Ontario’s wine market growing by 20 per cent (from current 13 per cent);
  • Three million annual visitors to Ontario’s wine regions (up from 2.6 million today);
  • A 75 per cent increase in capital investment by Ontario wine producers, with 4 million new vines planted over 20,000 acres.


“Are these ambitious goals? They are, but they are absolutely achievable,” said Carolyn Hurst, Chair of Ontario Craft Wineries. “To get there, we need to come together – the grape and wine industry, our culinary and hospitality partners, and government.”





Our wine industry contributes $5.5 billion annually to the province’s economy. In 2019, 22,000 full time equivalent jobs were supported in the agriculture, food and beverage, hospitality, tourism, education and research sectors.



With the increase of the #supportlocal and #drinklocal movements over the last few years, we can see a growing appetite and understanding for the amazing wines that are produced in our own backyard. And, in a lot of cases at a fantastic value compared to equally priced wines from around the world.



Don’t believe it? Haven’t tried enough? Curious consumers will, for now, have to venture beyond the limited selection available on liquor store shelves and engage with wineries or their agents directly.







Husband and wife team, Carl and Mira Boucher of Carl’s Wine Club, based in British Columbia, have done exactly that and made it their mission to bring wines from across Canada to more Canadian consumers. For the past three years they have tasted thousands of Canadian wines, and are offering their top scoring selections to winelovers across the country. Their journey into the depth of the Canadian wine industry is a testament to how many world class wines are being produced across the country and specifically right here in Niagara. Most of these products might never by discovered by the casual wine drinker as access to market is still very limited for Canadian wineries. If you are curious about what you have been missing out on, make sure to follow them on social media and join their live Wine Wednesday broadcasts. Carl & Mira engage with winery owners and winemakers from across Niagara and the rest of Canada and give you an opportunity to get involved in the conversation.



Exciting times are ahead for the wine, food, and wine tourism industry in Niagara and we are excited to connect you with all of it through our website www.WhenInNiagara.com, directory, and blog.




It’s National Pizza Day… Celebrate With These Local Pizza Joints & Niagara Wine Pairings!


Niagara is renowned for its delicious, and uniquely made pizza! The area is home to a variety of excellent pizzerias and restaurants that serve up some truly mouth-watering pies. Whether you’re looking to celebrate National Pizza Day or for some pie to enjoy during the Super Bowl this weekend, we guarantee you can find the perfect pizza and local wine pairing here in Niagara.


New to pairing wine with your pizza? The marriage of the two flavours is a perfect balance of sweet and savoury, with the acidity of the wine cutting through the richness of the pizza. Not only is the flavour combination of wine and pizza delicious, but they can also both be enjoyed with a variety of different toppings, flavours, and occasions






Hosting A Pizza Party With Great Wine And Great Company!


Hosting a pizza party is always a great way to get together with friends and family and enjoy some delicious food. Whether it be a special occasion, or just an excuse to get together, ordering from these local-favourite pizzerias will make the party extra special, and don’t forget to pair your meal with a nice bottle of local wine.






If you’re going for a classic crowd-pleasing pepperoni pizza, RT Pizza in Niagara Falls has been know for their “Niagara-Style” party tray pizzas. Locals can’t seem to get enough of their delicious pies, big chicken wings, and reasonable prices. To pair with this meaty pepperoni pizza, enjoy it with a delicious bottle of medium-bodied red wine, like the Burnt Ship Bay Cabernet Merlot, which is the perfect house wine that will have all your guests going in for a second (and maybe third) glass!


You Had Me At Pizza in Grimsby, is another amazing pizza place that serves up some of the best New York Style pies in the Niagara Region. They offer a variety of topping combinations, from “tragically Canadian” to more unique items like the dill pickle and magic mushroom options. All pizzas are also available in calzones and Detroit Style for those guests who want something different! If you’re looking for a unique and delicious pizza experience, You Had Me At Pizza is the place to go.





The Perfect Dine-In Pizza Experience (Super Bowl Ready!)


Although Niagara is filled with delicious take-out style pizzerias, there’s always an occasion where you’re looking to enjoy some pizza at a local dine-in restaurant. Skip the mess and visit one of those top-rated local spots.


If you’re venturing out from the classics when it comes to toppings, we recommend giving Zappi’s Pizzeria a visit. A staple in the Niagara Pizza Scene, Zappi’s is known for their delicious topping selections, pizza combinations, and great dine-in atmosphere. With a wide-selection of local beverages and wines to choose from, Zappi’s will not disappoint despite the occasion!






Handle Bar Hanksin Welland is the perfect sports bar to sit back, enjoy some delicious pizza and wings, and watch the upcoming game, including the Super Bowl this weekend. Their classic 8 inch and 12 inch pizzas are cooked to perfection, with a variety of toppings and pre-set combinations, we promise there is a pizza for everyone there. With a variety of original beverages, great food, and fun atmosphere, you’ll find yourself becoming a “Hanks Regular” in no time.




The D.I.Y Pizza Connoisseurs


Making pizza at home with family or friends can be a great way to have fun, spend time together, and enjoy a delicious home-made meal. Whether you’re making a classic cheese pizza or getting creative with your toppings, it’s always a great experience.


From picking out the ingredients to rolling out the dough, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in the process of making your favourite pie at home. If you haven’t tried it yet, a locally made sauce called Aldo’s Pizza Pie Sauce have been all the rage! Now available in over 16 locations across Niagara, their delicious blend of ingredients makes for the perfectly balanced sauce, guaranteed for any home-cook to love.


Another great benefit to a D.I.Y pizza night is the option to pair your custom za’ with locally crafted beverages. Change things up with a delicious white sauce pizza and caramelized onions, to pair, we recommend a medium bodied white wine, such as the Bella Terra Chardonnay. So next time you’re looking for a fun activity, especially one that pairs well with our local beverages, why not try making pizza at home!



It’s safe to say, that when it comes to delicious pizza (in all types of forms), Niagara is the place to be to really enjoy a classic pie. From New York Style to Niagara Style, there will always be a delicious pizza and a local wine to pair with your name on it.



The Perfect Valentine’s Day Date Night in Niagara

Niagara is a great place to experience a romantic date night. There are so many activities to choose from and delicious restaurants to dine at. For a fun and adventurous date night, you can visit The Tunnel at the Niagara Falls Power Station, take a wine tour of the Niagara wineries, or experience the magic of the Niagara Falls Illumination lights.


But, when it comes to restaurants, Niagara takes gold for having a local-favourite spot for every type of date night. Whether you’re looking for an intimate romantic dinner, a casual night out, or an adventurous excursion, Niagara has the right destination for it.







The Full Date Night Experience… Dinner, Drinks & Entertainment


Parkway Social in St. Catharines, is the perfect spot for a fun night out with your partner. Whether you’re looking for an exciting game of bowling, some classic arcade games, or a thrilling round of laser tag, Parkway Social has it all! Not to mention their amazing food and drinks menu (all available to be severed to you while bowling), including a wide variety of cocktails, beers, and other beverages. Plus, their friendly and knowledgeable staff will make sure you have an enjoyable experience.


If you’re looking for the perfect date night with dinner and a show, look no further than the Greg Frewin Theatre for a variety of captivating shows in Niagara Falls. Before the show, take advantage of their new dinner buffet made by their culinary team, or even order a la carte from the appetizer menu to share! Enjoy a drink with full bar service available as you sit back and watch the magic! This is an evening you won’t forget, and the illusions may even leave you and your valentine scratching your head!





The Perfect Romantic Date Night… Great Food, Great Company, and Great Wine


A true romantic dinner is a classic occurrence for Valentine’s Day celebrators, and Valley’s Restaurant in St.Catharines, is one of the top places to be! Valleys specializes in freshly made Italian-inspired dishes, from homemade pastas to delicious eggplant parmesan. Their extensive wine list features selections from the Niagara Region and all the way to Italy. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, as well as their staff will make you feel right at home. 


Casa Toscana is an absolute gem! Located in the heart of downtown Grimsby, it is the perfect spot to enjoy an intimate dinner, with amazing food. Their authentic Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil is sourced from their own farms in Tuscany and can be refilled in jars on your way out! Their coffee, pastries and gelato for dessert are the perfect way to finish off a delicious meal. If you’re looking for quality food, a great atmosphere and a unique experience, Casa Toscana is the place to be!




The Perfect Casual Night… An Amazing First Date Atmosphere


If you’re looking for a laid-back, casual atmosphere for a date night, M.T Bellies located in Welland is the perfect spot for you! With a wide selection of drinks, and a variety of classic dishes, there truly is something for everyone. The welcoming mood makes it a great place to relax and enjoy a meal, so if you’re looking for a nice restaurant to grab a bite to eat and enjoy some treats, M.T Bellies is a must-try!


The District Tapas and Bar, located in the heart of St.Catharines on St. Paul Street is cooking up a flavour packed menu of their take on tapas! Serving mouth-watering tapas-style dishes such as chicken and pancakes, avocado bruschetta, and duck confit tacos, this location is the perfect place to bring your date and enjoy a wide-variety of sharable plates and unique cocktails. In addition to their tapas and delicious menu, their music, decor, and laid-back atmosphere is guaranteed to leave you and your company already planning their next visit.




No matter what type of date night you’re looking for, Niagara has the perfect restaurant for it.