Plan an Off-The-Radar Niagara Wine Country Wander

If you’re feeling wine country’s call this fall, but are concerned about the possibility of large crowds, now is the perfect time to discover the quieter side of Niagara wine country. A little advance planning, combined with some insider tips and tricks, is all it takes to create a relaxing rural Niagara wine country escape.

Niagara Wine Country Insider Tip #1: Explore The Escarpment

Many tourists overlook the fact that Niagara actually has a second regional wine appellation, the Niagara Escarpment. This section of bench lands, located to the west of St. Catharines, is home to more than 50 wineries, many with a more rural, low-key vibe than the large estate properties found in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Don’t let the Escarpment’s understated air fool you; wineries located here are earning an equally impressive level of recognition from the world’s wine critics as their big-name counterparts to the east. Hidden Bench Estate Winery, Thirty Bench Wine Makers, Megalomaniac Winery, Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, Flat Rock Cellars and The Foreign Affair Winery were all recently recognized with big wins at the International Wine and Spirit Competition.

Niagara Wine Country Insider Tip #2: Score Front-Of-The-Line Access With Your Phone

This fall, the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival is offering wine lovers an easy new way to skip the crowds when out wine touring. Simply purchase a Niagara Grape & Wine Festival Discovery Pass, which is valid on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from September 11 through September 27. In addition to scoring fantastic wine and food pairings at eight participating wineries, the $49 pass gives holders access to a fast and easy reservation system that grants them a front-of-the-line tasting experience upon arrival. Before or after the tasting experience, pass holders can simply scan the winery’s unique QR code to unlock complimentary content to enjoy independently. As they wander about the winery and vineyards, they can access winemaker tasting notes, vineyard updates, interesting winery stories and more.

Niagara Escarpment wineries where you can enjoy this Discovery Pass experience include:

Niagara Wine Country Insider Tip #3: Follow The Lead of the Locals

Niagara residents love their wine, so following in their footsteps is a great way to find your way to wineries that aren’t as likely to be teeming with tourists. Niagara locals tend to prefer casual places where they can enjoy a glass of wine with a great meal. Favourites include Henry of Pelham,  Honsberger Estate Winery and Bistro, Creekside Estate Winery, Redstone Winery, The Good Earth Food and Wine Co. and Westcott Vineyards.

Niagara Wine Country Insider Tip #4: Try Something New For Your Overnight Stay

While hotels in other parts of Niagara are bustling with tourists, St. Catharines has a collection of fantastic accommodation options that are a little more low key. With this awesome Stay One Night, Get One Night Free promotion, it’s a great time to book a fall Niagara getaway.

What’s more, Downtown St. Catharines’ dining scene is on fire right now, so if you’re ready to explore a little more after a day of wine touring, a host of buzz-worthy restaurants and bars await.

Round out your stay with additional restaurant, winery, shopping and activity suggestions from  Tourism St. Catharines and Shop Lincoln. You can also read our latest blog posts on finding new Niagara Escarpment waterfalls, Niagara’s culinary and craft brew scene, fall cycling in Niagara and exploring the Town of Lincoln for more trip inspiration.

COVID-19 Considerations

To help protect the health of yourself and others, please remember to bring and wear your face mask, wash and sanitize your hands regularly and practice physical distancing of at least 2 m/ 6 ft. Contacting the places you wish to visit in advance is recommended to check to see if reservations are required.