Five Reasons the Niagara Peninsula is Perfect for Making World Class Wine

Niagara is a humble wine growing region that is one of the world’s best.

Here are five reasons why the Niagara Peninsula is perfect for making World Class wines.

 

1. The Talent

 

Terroir is not just about the great soils and topography that Niagara lays claim to. Terroir is also about the people behind the wines.

 

These people make the countless decisions behind each wine we taste in Niagara, from the viticulture techniques to the way that wines are labelled.

 

It all contributes to your experience and enjoyment, and it is all a reflection of the place where these wines are made.

 

This is where Niagara truly shines as a wine region, especially now with a couple of hundred years of winemaking and grape growing under its belt.

 

 

The talent found in Niagara’s winemaking industry surpasses all expectations. You’ll find people like Sue-Ann Staff whose family has been in the grape growing industry for many decades, to new immigrants who bring their passion and education to the craft of winemaking like Andrezj Lipinski at Big Head.

 

 

We have winemakers who are self-taught and truly excelling, like Adnan Icel at Icellars, and winemakers who have studied and brought back the best of the best from other regions, like Chablis-born Jean-Pierre Colas at 13th Street Winery.

 

Niagara has a wealth of talent and diversity behind each winery…and it shows.

 

Each vintage, I am amazed at the quality and unique styles of each wine I taste from Niagara’s independently owned wineries.

 

 

2. The Many Varietals

 

Micro-climates in the Niagara region allow us to ripen everything from Riesling to Pinot Noir to Cabernet Sauvignon, and do it at a world class level. Many wine growing regions are limited by their climate, soils, or even by bureaucratic rules to only be able to work with a few different varietals.

 

For example, in Burgundy they can only work with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In Chianti, Italy, they are allowed to work mostly with Sangiovese.

 

 

The pioneering and innovation era is over in those regions, but in Niagara we are just starting to understand and excel at growing the right grapes in the right places with the right approach. After a few decades of experiments and studies, we are now at a place where the wine quality is exceeding expectations.

 

In Niagara, the varietals we can produce are like our wines and our winemaking talent – diverse.

 

 

If you’re thinking of a visit to Niagara wine country, there’s a very good chance you’ll discover a new favourite wine varietal – or many!

 

 

3. The Diversity of Flavour Profiles – With Niagara’s Signature Bright Acidity

 

Speaking of diversity, not only does Niagara produce a multitude of grape varietals, but there is also a wonderful diversity in the flavour profiles across Niagara’s 10 Sub-Appellations.

 

For instance, the Four Mile Creek can get really hot in summer months. At times it can be as hot as Osoyoos, BC – Canada’s only official desert. The wines from the Four Mile Creek tend to be richer and more concentrated.

 

 

At the same time, wines just a short drive away in the Vinemount Ridge Appelation might carry a fresher, snappier flavour profile due to the cooler micro-climates.

 

Wherever you find yourself tasting wines in Niagara, there is one flavour profile that is a signature of Niagara – what I like to call ‘bright acidity’.

 

Since Niagara has warm sunny days coupled with cool evenings – or a strong diurnal temperature change – Niagara wines can be rich and flavourful, yet still bright and fresh. These wines can age really well, yet still be versatile and enjoyable now.

 

This is the kind of thing that many warmer wine regions struggle with, and that many locals just take for granted.

 

 

4. The Innovation

 

 

Unlike regions of the world with heavy traditions and bureaucracy around what varietals and wine styles are ‘allowed’, in Niagara, winemakers are free to innovate and listen to the land.

 

 

They’re able to plant vines where they feel they will grow best, and are not limited to certain varietals or techniques.

 

As a result you see innovative new wines like Marynissen’s Cabernet Franc Gewurz – a 50 case production wine that completely blew past my expectations.

 

And you see wonderful winemaking like that of Francois Morissette at Pearl Morissette – unforgettably delicious, low intervention wines that truly express Niagara’s terroir.

 

 

5. The Potential

 

 

Niagara’s future for World Class winemaking is very bright, as is the prospect of any Niagara wines you might be cellaring.

 

There are new vines being planted every day in Niagara, and in 2020, Niagara had ‘the Vintage of the Century’. 2021 is looking like it is going to be a stellar vintage too.

 

If you haven’t yet visited wineries in Niagara, or if you haven’t visited recently, it’s time to plan a visit. You won’t regret it!

 

 

Cheers,

Carl

 

Join Carl’s Wine Club for free and discover more world-class Canadian wines!  https://www.carlswineclub.com/jointheclub

 

A Day in Niagara with Chefs Ray Syegco and Selah Schmoll of Incoho Restaurant

Author: Tiffany Mayer

Follow her on Instagram: @eatingniagara

 

Featuring Ray Syegco – Chef and Owner & Selah Schmoll – Pastry Chef and Owner

 

Ray Syegco and Selah Schmoll’s journey into the professional kitchen business started with nursing. Ray, who’s from the Phillippines, and Selah, who grew up in Niagara Falls, were studying nursing when they realized that cooking might just be their passion, and decided to pursue it.

 

They ventured out to Niagara-on-the-Lake and worked in a few winery restaurants before eventually crossing paths at Trius Winery.

 

They quickly realized they had the same passion to open their own restaurant. After a few years of planning, they finally opened Incoho in downtown St. Catharines in March of 2019, and have been loving it ever since.

Most recently, they were each named Top 30 Under Thirty winners. This prestigious award is presented annually to the hospitality industry’s top young performers.

 

 

We caught up with them to find out how they like to spend their time outside of the kitchen. Here’s what they had to say:

 

Favourite place for a coffee break?

 

Groundswell Coffee Truck.

 

 

Breakfast or brunch? Where are you going and what are you having?

 

My house. We don’t often go out for breakfast/brunch.

 

Essential place to shop for ingredients and recipe inspiration?

 

Market Square for both! It’s full of inspiration and great ingredients.

 

 

 

What made-in-Niagara beverage is always on hand?

 

Wine – Ferox

 

Cider – No Boats on Sundays

 

Gin – Polonée Distillery

 

Juice – Small Batch Company

 

When you dont feel like cooking, you eat:

 

We love eating locally! Some of our favourite restaurants are:

Eh José Taqueria, Pharmacii Snack Bar, and Ma Chinese Cuisine in St. Catharines.

 

   .

The Good Earth Food and Wine Co. in Beamsville.

 

 

Where do you go in Niagara to get away from it all?

 

We go to Ferox Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Fabian and Stephanie are incredibly hospitable, and make everyone feel welcome. We always have a great time visiting the winery and love enjoying their product.

 

 

Cured Provides Antidote to Pandemic Dining

Author: Tiffany Mayer

Follow her on Instagram: @eatingniagara

 

What: Cured Charcuterie & Cocktails

 

Where: Unit 4, 1161 South Pelham Rd., Fonthill

 

Get in touch: @cured_charcuterie on Instagram; @curedcharcuterie on Facebook

 

 

Christie Devos doesn’t like to be rushed when she goes out to dinner.

 

She’s not a fan of time limits at the table, even in this new era of pandemic dining when many restaurants have capped the length of reservations.

 

After all, eating is a social and sensory affair. Devos has reinstated that approach to dining in Niagara with the opening of her restaurant, Cured Charcuterie & Cocktails, in Fonthill earlier this month.

 

“For me, going out is really about the social hub. It’s about good, fresh food”

 

“For me, going out is really about the social hub. It’s about good, fresh food,” Devos said. “During the pandemic, we really found that going out was only to eat lunch or supper. We like to go out, we like to take our time and be out for a couple of hours.”

 

Few things allow for that kind of leisurely meal like a charcuterie board decked out with cured meats, flavourful and full-bodied cheeses, and all the sweet and sour accompaniments.

 

 

 

They’re conversation pieces and interactive, especially at Cured where diners build their own boards, choosing from 24 different meats and cheeses that change weekly for a customized experience every visit.

 

 

“It’s fresh, it’s local. We’ll change it up all the time so you’ll want to come because you’re going to get something different all the time,” Devos said. “The fact you couldn’t go anywhere and make your own charcuterie board (before this) was crazy to me.”

 

Although charcuterie boards and boxes can be counted among the pandemic’s most popular comfort foods, the idea for Cured had been percolating with Devos for years.

 

 

 

Before the world shut down in March 2020, however, she was busy managing another local dining success, Bricks & Barley in Niagara-on-the-Lake. But the imposed slowness of the pandemic reminded Devos of her idea and the benefits of running a place of her own, closer to her family in Welland.

She was keen to make life better for others with her new venture, too.

 

“We wanted to do something with the locals and something super supportive of local,” Devos said. “I’ve worked for a lot of people and everyone says they want to support local but they very rarely do or stay with it because it can get expensive. We’re trying to stick to that and keep it as local as possible.”

 

That includes everything from hiring local trades to build the Cured space to emphasizing Niagara and Ontario on the menu, which also includes a list of ever-changing features, including a daily flatbread and featured panini, and fare for vegetarians and kids. That way everyone is included in a meal at Cured.

 

 

On the charcuterie menu, the focus is on staples — prosciuttos and salamis — and specialty items, like ’Nduja, a spreadable, spicy Italian sausage. Cheeses also go beyond the usual suspects to include smoked or saffron blue cheese, or a crackling aged Gouda from Toronto.

 

“It’s not something you’re going to find in a grocery store.”

 

Jams, chutneys and pickles are locally sourced from Port Colborne farm T&N Jarry. Many are exclusive to Cured, like the bourbon berry jam or banana date chutney.

 

 

“It’s another talking point for the board,” Devos said. “It’s not something you’re going to find in a grocery store.”

 

 

The same attention has been paid to the beverage program at Cured. Wine is Niagara only, and a resident mixologist crafts cocktails with fresh-squeezed juices and spirits infused in-house for elevated, seasonally inspired imbibing.

 

“With handcrafted cocktails, it’s like food,” Devos said. “You’re creating flavours, you’re building them. It’s not something everyone is focused on but I appreciate a well-crafted cocktail”.

 

“It’s who we are,” she added. “It’s not just eating and drinking to fuel yourself. With the way world is today, it’s your opportunity to go out and be with friends and not be locked away.”

 

 

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8 Niagara Wines to pair with Thanksgiving Dinner

Ultimately, if we want to cut right to the chase: The wine that pairs best with Thanksgiving is the wine that excites you to share with family and friends.

 

Because Thanksgiving is all about sharing experiences, stories and grateful memories together. It’s about eating and drinking the food and wine that you enjoy the most.

 

That said, some wines go really well with the traditional Thanksgiving foods of turkey or ham.

 

Depending on what part of Canada you’re in, there’s also the tradition to have fish – like a nice salmon, or roast beef.

 

To provide a little inspiration, here are some Niagara favourites I can recommend for your pairings this weekend.

 

With ham & pineapple, I would go with the Sue-Ann Staff Robert’s Block Riesling. The bright acidity of the Riesling will cut through the fattiness of the ham, and help balance the sweet pineapple sauce.

 

Turkey is a very versatile food and I feel you can pair it very well with either a white or a red. For the red, I would go with Whitty’s Vineyard Gamay from 13th Street Winery.

 

 

Gamay is traditionally a medium-to-light body wine which doesn’t overpower the flavours from the turkey, but also matches very well with the herbaceousness of the stuffing.

 

For a white pairing with that big ol’turkey, I would suggest the Bella Terra Vineyards Fumé Blanc. The light oak treatment gives this wine a creaminess that compliments the juiciness of the turkey meat.

 

For a salmon dish, I would be a big fan of pairing it with some Chardonnay from Westcott Vineyards.

 

Westcott has several different Chardonnays that would be marvellous with a salmon dish, depending on the style you prefer. Westcott’s selection includes a spectrum of Chardonnays, from the simpler, unoaked Lillias Vineyard Chardonnay to the more complex, old-world style of the Butler’s Grant Chardonnay.

 

For the roast beef, I would go with the Nanny’s Blend of Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon from Marynissen Estates.

 

A Cabernet Franc from Domaine Queylus would also work very well with roast beef.

 

These reds have great structure that would draw out and compliment the bolder flavours of the roast beef and the wine’s fruit components will enhance the gravy and sides.

 

“Now let’s not forget something very important. The Niagara region produces some World Class Sparkling wines as well.”

 

A Thanksgiving meal wouldn’t feel complete in my home without some great sparkling wine and a toast to all those I am grateful for.

 

Some World Class options for sparkling wines include the 13th Street Winery  Cuvée Rosé NV that scored 94pts with the Toronto Star, or the Big Head Wines Traditional Method Big Bang Black NV that I also rated 94pts.

 

I would love to know what wines you’re opening this weekend, and what you paired them with.

 

From my family to yours, Mira & I wish you a safe, healthy and happy Thanksgiving!!!

 

Cheers,

Carl

 

Join Carl’s Wine Club for free and discover more world-class Canadian wines!  https://www.carlswineclub.com/jointheclub

My First Day in Niagara Wine Country (Part 2)

It was my first day touring in Niagara, and we had one more stop before lunch time!

 

Before hitting the patio at Ravine Vineyard for lunch, we had a very highly anticipated stop at Icellars; another up-and-coming Superstar in the region of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

 

To be honest, I had never heard of Icellar before putting together a tasting marathon of 20 different Cabernet Sauvignon from all over Canada for International Cabernet Sauvignon Day. The 2018 Icellar Cab Sauv took first place with an amazing score of 94pts, and I wanted to meet the man behind this unexpected Cab Sauv discovery.

 

Have you heard the story of winemaker Adnan Icel? Adnan, a Turkish Canadian, fell in love with the beauty of the Niagara region and made a drastic shift from his 25 year career as a mechanical engineer and MBA grad…to start a winery.

 

Adnan is a self-taught winemaker and winery owner who planted his first 40 acres of vines himself. He built a fully geothermal winemaking facility completely off the grid, and is now working on his organic growing certification… all of that in the last 10 years. This is completely crazy to me in the best possible way 😊.

 

I was greeted by Elif, Adnan’s wife and business partner, and Simba, the famous winery dog. Their beautiful tasting room helps you feel like you’re a part of the winemaking process…it’s set right inside a hangar among the barrels.

 

When we sat down for the tasting, I quickly realized that Adnan had plans to go through his whole portfolio. We started with the 2019 Sauv Blanc (Fume Blanc Style), with 18 hours of skin contact and 6 months of barrel aging… this was a WOW right away, and I gave it 90+pts.

 

We followed that with his 2017 Chardonnay (also 90pts) before trying his rose, where he blends a total of seven varietals for an outstanding result. A dry rose, with great strawberry and rhubarb flavours, great length and complexity (92pts).

 

… and then, it was time to taste some Reds.

 

 

We started with a couple of Pinot Noirs. I was very impressed with the bold and oaky 2017 Reserve Pinot Noir, a solid 92pts wine. After we tasted the 2017 Syrah, Adnan opened some of his red blends. I was particularly blown away by the 2016 Arrina Blend, an assemblage of 50% Merlot, 29% Cab Sauv, 17% Cab Franc, and 4% Malbec. WOW, Absolutely WOW… 93pts for this Rockstar blend.

 

We then tasted the 2017 Reserve Cab (92pts).

 

But the tasting would not have been complete without a barrel tasting of the Vintage of the Century, the 2020 Reserve Cab; soooooo smooooth!

 

After one hour and a half of tasting 17 different wines, chatting about his native land, the state of the Canadian economy, and touring the whole facility including the barrel room, Elif offered us a Turkish coffee.

 

Sadly, I had to decline because I had another winery to get to and was on a timeline. But Adnan would not let me go before I tasted his 2016 Riesling Ice wine. OMG…  another revelation!

 

“…How in the world did this ingenious Canadian winemaker, Adnan Icel, pull off all these wines at such a high level? We will need to call it the ‘Adnan Touch:’ Everything he touches turns to amazing wine.”

 

Anyway, I shook off my stunned and surprised look, gave the Riesling Ice Wine a 95pts (as I don’t think that I ever tasted a better Ice Wine…) and off we went to our next tasting room.

 

What a memorable visit… thank you Adnan and Elif Icel!

 

Cheers,

Carl

 

Join Carl’s Wine Club for free and discover more world-class Canadian wines!  https://www.carlswineclub.com/jointheclub

 

12 Beauty Breakfast Joints to Kick-start Your Day

Author: Tiffany Mayer

Follow her on Instagram: @eatingniagara

 

 

It’s been dubbed the most important meal of the day for good reason. A hearty and balanced breakfast can make the difference between just another day, and a candidate for the Best Day Ever. We polled the local masses to learn who fills up their orange juice glasses — and coffee mugs. Here are some of their favourites.

 

Niagara Falls

 

Dena’s Home Cookin’ in Niagara Falls is amazing! Great prices, family-run and the food is delish. I love that brekkie is served with fried mushrooms, sliced tomatoes and a slice of fruit. I have never been disappointed.

 

— Lindsay Mills

 

 

 

Continental Pancake House & Family Restaurant. The prices are very reasonable and you get large portions. The wait staff are so friendly. I like to go there every Sunday for breakfast with my husband.

 

— Paulette Dubas

 

 

 

Flipped on Montrose Road. It’s a new place, but they are doing everything right.

 

— Debbie Barnier

 

 

 

IHOP on River Road. Great food and amazing service.

 

— Maria Lisa Serafini-Bronizewski

 

 

 

Pelham

 

Pelham Street Grille is a really comfortable gem in Fonthill, and the staff are very charming. Fare is consistently delicious.

 

— Cathy Thompson

 

 

 

St. Catharines

 

Sunrise Cafe has always done breakfast right. Get your potatoes on the grill with onions or deep fried. Don’t forget to grab some dessert for later. Owner Mira makes it all fresh.

 

— Matt Cumpson

 

 

 

All you have to do is look at the menu to see why The Diner House 29 is a go-to for breakfast, brunch and lunch-seekers throughout Niagara. Why bother with short or long stacks when you can have one of The DH’s legendary deep-dish pancakes baked in a cast iron skillet? Or omelettes that treat eggs with the respect they deserve. DH classics include the Iron Rice Bowl and Fave Son-in-Law, the latter starring deep-fried poached eggs, and both unlike anything anywhere else. Service is five star, despite the running joke that it is a two-star diner.

 

 

 

 

The hardest part about going to The District Tapas + Bar for brunch is choosing what to eat. There’s the classic breakfast, which is everything you’d expect it to be — eggs, bacon or sausage and home fries. But then there’s the chocolate avocado pudding, the shakshuka-like baked eggs, lobster grilled cheese and chicken and waffles, among others. We can see why Facebook group member Kate Notwell is obsessed with this place.

 

 

 

 

Fans of the former Bleu Turtle in West St. Catharines will pick up on a similar vibe at Bistro Mirepoix. That’s because owner Maddy used to serve breakfast and brunch things there before going out on her own to fill a first-meal-of-the-day void in Midtown. Pork belly Benedict is a favourite of Facebook group member Catherine Moyes Martin. Smoked salmon, sourdough waffles, sides of fried cheese — all are on the small but mighty menu that won’t leave you wanting.

 

 

 

 

Husband and wife team Jason and Nicole Sawatsky make brunch everything it was meant to be. Consistently an Open Table award winner, The Yellow Pear focuses on fresh and seasonal — and the flagship “Benny.” That’s their spin on Eggs Benedict and can include lobster, pork belly, or brisket served atop a decadent Cheese Dots waffle. Facebook group member Catherine Moyes Martin is a big fan of their chicken and waffles.

 

 

 

 

Vineland

 

Revalee Brunch Café is in Facebook group member Denise Elliott’s regular breakfast rotation. After all, no brunch eater gets left behind at Revalee Brunch Café. With thoughtful omni and vegan menus that change with the seasons, there’s choice galore for any eater. Maybe it’s the roasted turkey croissant or the fried green tomato, lettuce and tempeh (FGTLT) sandwich on the menu right now that will set your day in motion. Whatever the case, one look at what’s on offer and you’ll want to drop everything and head to Vineland, stat. Service is stellar, too.

 

 

Stevensville

 

The Scuttlebutt Tap & Eatery serves breakfast from 8:30 a.m. until noon on Sundays. Everything about this place boasts small town, neighbourhood charm. It’s comfortable and familiar, serving classics, including three-egg omelettes with tater tots and toast on the side, waffles dressed up with whipped cream and fruit, and a legendary toasted Western sandwich. It’s a favourite of Facebook group member Julie Webb.

 

 

Now go forth and eat breakfast, and show this day who’s boss.

A Day in Niagara with Christine Flynn, Chef, Writer, Good Earth Proprietor, and Mom

Author: Tiffany Mayer

Follow her on Instagram: @eatingniagara

Photo Credits for Shot of Christine and her daughters: Nataschia Wielink

Name and Occupation: Christine Flynn, Proprietor Good Earth Food and Wine

Home city: Beamsville

 

Christine Flynn is a Renaissance woman. She’s the proprietor of The Good Earth Winery and a partner at The Good Earth Farm. She’s executive chef and partner at iQ Food Co., a restaurant group with multiple locations in Toronto. The celebrated chef, writer, food stylist and photographer is also co-author of the candid and endearing cookbook How to Eat with One Hand: Recipes and Other Nourishment for Expectant and New Parents. And her work has also appeared in The New York Times, Wired and Bon Appètit, among others. She’s also chef-partner with Zing Pantry Shortcuts and her Buzz Hot Honey is available nationally. Oh, she’s also mom to twins. Somewhere in between all of that, she manages to squeeze in some down time. Here’s how she likes to spend it in Niagara.

 

Essential caffeine pitstop?

 

I make coffee at home using Signal Coffee Co. They roast right here in Port Dalhousie and as someone who drinks large volumes of coffee, I appreciate the care they put into making great coffee. I also am a bit of a nerd and I really love their branding. It has a bit of an 80s Miami vibe to it, and seeing a bag of Signal Coffee Co. beans in my cupboard always puts me in a good mood.

 

Favourite place to pack a picnic (and whats in the picnic basket?) 

 

I am devoted to Bushel and Peck on Lake Street in St. Catharines. Cait and Jess do an amazing job of curating local produce and products as well as the occasional specialty item like tinned fish from Portugal. They also offer local delivery and over the past year and a half have really lifted my spirits and made it easier to be a mother to two toddlers since it’s not always possible for me to get to the store. My ideal picnic would be a loaf of De La Terre bread, a block of Emerald Grasslands butter, cured meats from Pingue, a few cans of Scout Tuna some Buzz Hot Honey and Dispatch Hotsauce, all of which you can order at B&P, plus a six-pack of City Seltzer Cool Melon!

 

 

Go-to for lunch with friends?

 

I love eating on the patio at Westcott Vineyards. Ricky and Olivia have created a beautiful restaurant with dishes that are simple, but inspired. My daughters and I have eaten our way through the menu several times and they love the oysters and the wood oven-roasted fish, while I usually go all out and order the steak with chimichurri. Ricky and Olivia pay special attention to sourcing and for me it’s an added bonus that they are supporting local farmers and showcasing the best in regional produce and proteins.

 

 

If you were to spend an afternoon shopping in Niagara, where would you go?

 

I’m not much of a shopper because I have a very small house so I mostly stick to things that can be consumed. I do, however, have a soft spot for Mercantile 17which is a beautiful housewares shop in St. Davids. The shop is really well curated with lots of eco-friendly and sustainable options, and great gifts. I love their candles and soaps, and I always seem to walk out with a new plant friend every time I visit.

 

 

Best spot to find writing and creative inspiration?

 

Anyone who knows me knows I walk a lot. I wear through shoes regularly, and during the rare times I’m not working or parenting, you can find me in the woods exploring the Bruce Trail. We are so lucky to live here, and I try to take full advantage of the trails and to tune in to the lessons nature has to teach us about resilience and patience. I’ve written many essays and recipes in my head while stomping around the Short Hills and the Louth Conservation Area and while I don’t want to give up all my secret spots, I do encourage everyone to get out and unplug in green-space as often as they can. It does wonders.

 

 

An evening out looks like?

 

I’m a decent cook so for me to go to a restaurant I really am looking for a compelling menu that I can’t make at home. Dispatch never disappoints and almost always surprises me with a new technique or idea. The proprietors, Adam and Tam, are wonderful people, and Gizem, their chef, is hands down one of the chefs I look up to most in the region.

“Everything she makes amazes me with bright flavours paired with old-world techniques that have been passed down through generations. Whether it’s burnt yogurt or her carrot tarator, I find her cuisine both exciting and craveable.”

 

 

Favourite hidden gem?

 

We recently launched Good Earth Farm Niagara and I’ve been spending a lot of time there with my daughters. There’s pick your own pumpkins, hayrides, a corn maze, fire pits and food trucks, and we’re adding new activities as we continue to grow.

 

The Awesomeness of OSTIN’s Restaurant

The Nitsopoulos family has been a strong pillar in Niagara’s hospitality industry for more than 45 years. They’re the family behind the St. Catharines Holiday Inn, Best Western and Hampton Inn — along with the businesses within them, including Parkway Social, Baci Café, Lounge Six, Parkway Conference Centre, Perkins Restaurant, Energy Fitness, Wrigley’s Field and Reflections Fitness Centre. Combined, they employ more than 450 people. And most recently, they’ve addedthe stunning OSTIN’s Restaurant, located in the former JJ Kapp’s restaurant at the Holiday Inn on Ontario Street, to their offerings.

 

Those who know the “Nitsos” (because if you know them, you don’t call them by their full name!) know them as strong community supporters, donating to and hosting many charity events over the years. No matter the reason, though, when it comes to hosting people their goal is to always deliver a top-notch experience. The stylish, new OSTIN’s Restaurant — that’s Nitso backwards — is no exception.

Converting JJ Kapp’s into OSTIN’s was to be a six-monthprocess when work began in 2019. But then COVID-19shutdowns prolonged the effort. After a complete overhaul that saw the adjoining Parkway Lanes bowling alley transformed into the upscale Parkway Social, featuring a laser tag arena,arcade, VIP bowling lanes and a bar, the restaurant needed to follow suit.

 

Now standing in the modern, but warm and welcoming space, Tom Nitsopoulos tells WhenInNiagara about the concept that took inspiration from restaurants such as the famous Earl’s and Joey’s. The project, which was celebrated on Sept. 25 with an official ribbon cutting and open house, was brought to life by Stoney Creek-based Design Link International and local architect Peter Lesdow.

 

“We wanted our space to have that welcoming feel to it — a busy and vibrant spot that mixes business with pleasure. We wanted our space to have that welcoming feel to it — a busy and vibrant spot that mixes business with pleasure — and we feel that we have that formula when you combine Parkway Social, the adjacent upscale bowling alley and entertainment social club, with OSTIN’s Restaurant,” Tom says.

 

“At OSTIN’s we have a few different private rooms. Our Social Room can accommodate 40 people, the Glass Room holds 12 people and the Ostin Room can accommodate 48 people. All three rooms have built-in AV and TVs for presentations. You can now come for a business meeting and transition into casual dinner and drinks all under one roof.”

Some of the menu highlights are truffle fries, smash patty burgers, Nashville chicken sandwiches, lobster mac and cheese, fillet mignon, fresh pickerel, artisan pizzas and more. Tom’s personal favourite is the rack of lamb.

 

OSTIN’s will host a few dinner events in the coming months;for example a “Whiskeys Worth Knowing Dinner” in October, which will include three whiskies paired with a three-coursemeal to showcase food and drink together. 

 

Check out this stunning new restaurant on WhenInNiagara and add it to your “Have to Visit” list.

They also offer a date night menu on Thursdays (with wine!)and will be introducing a Sunday buffet brunch. Stay tuned for that one.

 

 

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My First Day in Niagara Wine Country

Coming from Kelowna to Niagara, I had great expectations for my first day of wine touring.  

 

This was my first visit to a region that I thought I knew a lot about…but in hindsight, I was only scratching the surface! There’s nothing that can replace an in person visit. 

 

It’s 9:30am and I am greeted by Marcel and Lou from Bella Terra Vineyards, located on Line 2 Road in the heart of NOTL (the locals’ term for Niagara-on-the-Lake).  

 

The sun is shining, and for 45 minutes I listen to Marcel and Lou explain the geographical position of the vineyard versus the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, Niagara Escarpment, and of course Niagara Falls.  

 

Everything makes sense now that I can truly see the terroir. I can see why the Four Mile Creek Appellation is so well suited to grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and especially Cabernet Franc.  

 

This is not the land of Pinot Noir and Gamay… this is the land of the Big Red, and YES, there are many of them around here. 

 

First Stop: Big Head Wines. Jakub Lipinski, the son of founder Andrzej Lipinski, is waiting for me with a nice selection of 22 wines…. Yes 22 wines! First thing in the morning! It’s a good thing we had a spit bucket!  

 

We chat about their philosophy about Appassimento, botrytis affected grapes, carbonic maceration…but all along we taste some very impressive wines.   

 

We start off with the Big Bang Black, a sparkling traditional method. This turns out to be one of my favourites of them all, with a stunning 93pts, showing incredible complexity, flavours of blood orange, ginger, toasted almond, and a soft and persistent mousse.  

 

The Pinot Gris from the Raw series, a 92pt and one of my top 3 Canadian Pinot Gris this year, was a fun and refreshing pour.  

 

The creamy Riesling and a very special Savagnin, which both scored 93pts, were also part of my biggest enjoyments.  Savagnin (also known as Traminer) is a grape that you rarely see outside of France, and BY FAR my favorite expression of this grape I have ever tasted.  

 

These were only my top scoring whites. When we finally move onto the Reds, the 2018 Malbec from the Raw series was the star of the show with a healthy 94pts, along with the 2017 Biggest Red (Blend of Petit Verdot, Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc) who also has a Rockstar score of 94pts in my books.  

 

The biggest Red is a big and bold expression of ingenious winemaking skills, and a wonderful expression and potential of the Niagara-on-the-Lake terroir.  

 

The 2018 Select Cab Sauv never disappoints me and consistently ranks among the top Canadian Cabernet Sauvignon in my books. 93pts is in order for this great Appassimento wine.  

 

We end the visit on a high note… with 100% Appassimento Petit Verdot that shows power, depth, concentration, spice, and spectacular length…another 93pts.   

 

WOW, Big Head Winery’s portfolio is as diverse as it gets, reaching new heights every year and showing Canadians that our local talents are ready to take over the wine world.   

 

Well done Jakub & Andrzej Lipinski, absolutely World Class…. 

 

This was just a start…. We had one more stop before lunch time! More to come next week 😊 

 

Cheers, 

Carl Boucher 

 

Join Carl’s Wine Club for free and discover more world-class Canadian wines!  https://www.carlswineclub.com/jointheclub 

 

15 Niagara Patios to Help You Fall For Autumn

Author: Tiffany Mayer

Follow Her on Instagram: @eatingniagara

 

The calendar says summer is officially ending. That doesn’t mean patio season is over, however. Fall has proven it’s no slouch when it comes to offering all the ideal conditions for enjoying a meal or tipple al fresco, even if you have to bring a sweater. We asked around to find out where our fellow Niagarans like to spend their days before imbibing and dining moves indoors. Here’s what we found out.

 

St. Catharines

 

Chocolates Etc! We always take out-of-town friends there for dessert or just an afternoon sweet treat. Gelato, espresso, gorgeous setting and live music – whats not to love?

 

— Allison Lynn

 

My favourite patio is Caffe Gatti for a glass of red wine and their amazing pizza or a sandwich. The pastries are amazing!

 

— Kathy Evans

 

I have been to Brass Monkey Locals patio at least three times this summer. It’s located on St. Paul Street in downtown St. Catharines, so it’s convenient from anywhere in the city. A great burger/onion ring place. They also do vegan.

 

— Allison Smith

 

Lounge Six Parkway Sky Bar at Parkway Social. Always a nice crowd on this rooftop patio, interesting view and it has a new menu. Scared of heights? Dine at the new personal patios alongside the building — private dining, great food, reasonably priced for when you need an intimate night.

 

— Mike Gretzinger

 

The Merchant Ale House offers two patios: streetside on St. Paul, St. Catharines’ main drag, or tucked behind the building in a setting that channels urban revival à la Brooklyn. The back patio boasts exposed steel beams, Edison lights and an Instagrammable industrial vibe. It’s a great place to catch up with friends over a pint of Drunken Monkey Oatmeal Stout and enjoy some satisfying pub grub, including vegan offerings.

 

Thorold

 

The Karma Kameleon Gastropub. They have a cozy patio and garage door-style windows to bring the outdoors in. Do some shopping around downtown Thorold. Then check out this hidden gem. And you have to try their lobster grilled cheese. Good prices with large portions. Definitely not a tourist trap. They genuinely care about the quality of food and service, and they never disappoint.

 

— Cassidy Brunyansky and Candy Jones Bureau

 

Niagara-on-the-Lake

 

Bricks & Barley has an amazing selection of food, including gluten-free options. Great prices, atmosphere and an amazing patio with outdoor fireplace, heaters and retractable roof. Friendly staff, too.

 

— Candy Jones Bureau

 

The Grist Craft Kitchen and Brewery is technically in St. Davids where it channels all the bucolic charm and history of this corner of Niagara-on-the-Lake. It’s one of Niagara’s newest craft breweries, run by a family with deep local roots. They lovingly restored an old packing shed that belonged to a longtime farming family, building a new favourite watering hole in the process. Even better, the patio is dog-friendly and staff have been known to share some prosciutto treats with them.

 

Welland

 

Taris on the Water has a patio overlooking Niagara’s other waterfront: the old Welland Canal. Right in the heart of downtown Welland next to a restored, decommissioned lift bridge, this bistro champions wine country cuisine in one of the region’s industrial hubs currently reinventing itself. The food and view are equally worth a reservation.

 

Port Colborne

 

The Smokin’ Buddha is another beacon for boat nerds with a view to the Welland Canal and all the lakers and salties heading into and out of Lock 8 at the Lake Erie terminus. The menu is inspired by owner Kevin Echlin’s world travels. It’s a local landmark and patio seats are highly coveted by those looking for a bite and a beer.

 

Niagara Falls

 

Queen Bean Niagara Falls is a quaint cafe serving excellent signature sandwiches and salads. They have specialty coffee and nitro brew at reasonable prices and offer a respite from the busy tourist area of Clifton Hill. They serve Niagaras best coffee. They are also licensed and have two patios.

 

— Cher A Van Ditelli

 

Secret Garden Restaurant in Niagara Falls has a huge patio and an amazing view of the Falls.

 

— Stephan Szeker

 

Counterpart Brewing boasts some of the most thoughtful suds and menus in Niagara. It’s off the usual tourist path so this is the spot to eat and drink like a local in Niagara Falls. The patio is large with lots of umbrellas for shade, so there’s plenty of room to treat yourself to a well-crafted meal or pint that will keep you coming back every chance the forecast allows.

 

Grimsby

 

Casa Toscana Fine Foods & Cucina offers a quaint and charming reprieve in downtown Grimsby. It’s great for people-watching and eating Tuscan specialties made to order. You can also shop in the extra virgin olive oil bar and cheese store for some nibbles to enjoy on your patio at home.

 

Vineland

 

Megalomaniac Food & Drink has been this summer’s must-visit patio. Everything from the stunning views to The Yellow Pear’s gorgeous brunch spreads starring comfort foods made with local, seasonal ingredients have inspired countless rave reviews for good reason.

 

Whatever you’re hungry or thirsty for, Niagara has a patio ready to serve. New favourites are waiting to be discovered and become that place where everyone knows your name.

 

Author: Tiffany Mayer

Follow Her on Instagram: @eatingniagara