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Dazzling Foliage and Great Wine at Niagara-on-the-Lake

huffingtonpost.com 

It’s hard to imagine a town with more joie de vivre than Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada.  Hugged by water on three sides, this tranquil settlement has emerged as one of the world’s most respected wine-growing regions, yet remains largely undiscovered.  With a rich history dating back to the first Loyalist settlement in pre-revolutionary days, the region has been lovingly cultivated and manicured for generations.  Mile upon mile of orchards that once yielded sweet crops of strawberries, peaches, plums and cherries, now produce some of the most sophisticated and complex wines this side of Bordeaux (which shares it’s same latitude).  A unique micro-climate influenced by Lake Ontario and the mist swirling into the air from nearby Niagara Falls, warms the air keeping the area more temperate than most northern farming regions.

Today Niagara-on-the-Lake boasts 22 innovative and distinctive wineries which produce exceptional estate vintages, sparkling wines and Icewines that have won worldwide acclaim as “liquid gold”.  To sample the world’s premier Icewines is reason enough to plan a visit to Ontario wine-country, but fine wines are just the beginning of the delights that await.

The village of Niagara-on-the-Lake is often considered to be the loveliest town in Canada.  It exudes quaint Victorian charm.  Streets are dotted with stately inns, charismatic bed and breakfasts and elegant historical hotels.  The Prince of Wales Hotel which hold center stage on King Street, is a prime example with its regal “Place des Vosges” red brick facade and playful white latticework frills.  Flower plantings fill your every glance and invite you to stroll along the streets to discover artist boutiques, antique shops, dlectable bakeries and cozy restaurants.

Niagara-on-the-Lake is also known for their wonderful summer theater performances.  The highly acclaimed Shaw Festival is celebrating it’s 50th year.  The festival stages performances from June until November, in three theaters that celebrate the works of George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries.  This year’s playbill includes My Fair Lady, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, On the Rocks and many others.

Your days will be filled with visits to unique and impressive vineyards, from historic homesteads, to grand chateaus, to LEED Certified Eco-designed wineries.  Half the fun is learning about each maverick vintner and discovering how they have carefully crafted their individual low yield – high quality wines.  And as you might expect, a region that is so passionate about its’ harvest of grapes, is equally as devoted to cultivating the highest quality organic produce.  This abundance of exceptional local ingredients has attracted celebrated chefs, artisinal fromageries, and food craftsmen of every description.  This region is a foodies paradise!

Should you need a bit of excercise to work off your sumptuous meals and wine tastings, you’ll find the Greater Niagara Circle Route a perfect choice.  The wide, paved and mainly traffic free, scenic route is designed for hiking, cycling or even rollerblading.  It winds its way past the Welland Canal, Lake Ontario shoreline, Fort Erie, and numerous vineyards.

All in all, Niagara-on-the-Lake makes a spectacular destination for a romantic getaway, girlfriend weekend  or nature lovers retreat.

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