Editors Note: Jess had an amazing time on her tour of Niagara Region, as you'll soon find out. It's probably one of the most popular places to visit in Ontario, but we would be remiss if we didn't mention that there was absolutely no sampling of wine on this trip; everything waited until she got to the end of her day. Riding a motorcycle requires an incredible degree of skill and we strongly believe that even one drink is too much. But you can still bring some of Ontario's incredible wine or craft beer back to your hotel or home to enjoy at the end of your ride!
It’s no secret that I am originally from the Niagara Region, and it’s also no secret that I love motorcycling, a fun adventure, and of course a good glass of wine (but not combined). So of course it made sense for me to get out on a journey touring Niagara’s wine route, while stopping at some beautiful wineries along the way!
My friends at Clare’s Harley Davidson, located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, graciously loaned me a 2008 Harley Davidson Night Rod Special for the day. I rode a Night Rod Special when I toured Temiskaming and fell in love with the bike’s raw power, forward riding position and quick handling. So, of course I was more than happy to take this bike out again.
From Clare’s Harley Davidson, we rode along the Niagara Parkway, passing historic sites such as the Laura Second Homestead before stopping in at the Ice House Winery. This winery is located right off of the Niagara Parkway, and offers a beautiful view of the Brock Monument above rows and rows of green grape vines. The Ice House Winery is the only winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake that specializes solely in ice wine. Tucked away in an old peach packing barn built in the late 1800’s, this rustic location was the perfect place to start our adventure. We grabbed a bottle of ice wine to try some infamous Ice House ice wine slushies at home – what a great summer treat!
The Ice House Winery specializes soley in ice wine
Continuing along the Niagara Parkway, we made our way through the quaint town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. This charming town offers so much to see for any visitor – whether you enjoy theatre, wine, food, horse and buggy rides, shopping, or cruising on a motorcycle. The low rumble of our Harley’s certainly grabbed a few looks as we rolled through town.
In front of the beautiful memorial clock tower in NOTL
Pillitteri Estates Winery was the next stop on our wine route tour. We cruised along Niagara Stone Road, and pulled right into the large, paved parking lot. With a warm welcome from the staff at Pillitteri, we were off on a tour of the estate with our tour guide, Rachel. Pillitteri Estates Winery is full of rich history, which was something my mother and I truly appreciated. We learned how three generations of family members are currently involved in the day to day operations of the winery, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. The property consists of 5 vineyards, the first of which was planted in 1965 when it was used primarily as a fruit orchard.
The importance of family and winemaking was evident as we toured the vineyards, the 7,000 square foot barrel cellar, and wine store. Every detail from the stairs leading into the cellar, to the customized chairs mounted on the wall bore some association to the 23 members of the Pillitteri family. The number 23 will always remind me of the Pillitteri family! This was a perfect destination for my mother and I to visit; we enjoyed the warm hospitality, history, and very thorough tour that was provided to us.
That day, we truly felt like we were part of the Pillitteri family during our time at the estate. Armed with a bottle of roséwine from the Carretto Series and a basket of fresh cherries from the orchard, we said our goodbyes and continued on the next leg of our adventure.
Mom and I posing in front of the Carretto, a cherished Pillitteri family heirloom
A quick jaunt down East & West Line took us to Lakeshore Road which offers an amazing motorcycle route along Lake Ontario. It was the perfect day for this adventure. Despite a wetter than usual summer, mother nature was on our side today. The light breeze coming from the lake offered a refreshing break from the sun. We happily cruised along the waterfront towards Beamsville. Passing Prudhommes Landing, I knew we were getting close to our next stop, the Good Earth Food & Wine Co.
This beautiful winery is located off the beaten path in the Twenty Valley region, which adds to its rustic charm. We carefully navigated our bikes along the stone pathway and quickly parked, eager to grab a bite to eat. The Proprietor, and as I learned “Facilitator of Fun”, Nicolette, energetically greeted us with a big smile and personality to match. I grinned and immediately felt a connection to Nicolette and her winery. Despite a busy lunch service, Nicolette took some time to share her story with us.
Established in 1998, the Good Earth Food & Wine Co. sits on Nicolette’s family farm where she grew up. This location offers an opportunity for the wine connoisseur and foodie to enjoy an array of delicious food and wine options. The bistro is one of Niagara’s original “farm to table” experiences, offering a diverse menu selection using fresh ingredients. The small lot vineyards here produce chardonnay, Riesling, pinot noir and cabernet franc grapes, which are harvested by hand and treated with great TLC to produce some tasty wine! I also learned that Good Earth Food & Wine Co. hosts cooking lessons, which is a fun activity to try out if you are ever in the area!
A quick snapshot before diving into our meal!
With full stomachs, we slowly rode through Beamsville and up the escarpment, along Mountain Road and Fly Road. Our next stop was the newly established Vieni Estates, which is a well-known winery for its Italian style winemaking. In addition to a beautiful winery, the property also offers a bed & breakfast option for those who are travelling from out of town or just need to get away!
Steven greeted us, and gave us a detailed tour of the wine making facilities, which sits on 175 acres of property situated on the edge of the Niagara Escarpment. I learned that the estate offers a variety of grapes, and is home to the famous Aglianico grape from Italy. Vieni is the only winery in Ontario to grow this type of grape, which was brought over from California and is native to ancient Rome and Greece. The Aglianico wine is created in the amarone style using The Natural Control Method, where grapes are allowed to dry naturally without any interference from machines. This is a great place to visit if you are looking for a true taste of Italy.
Vieni Estates is a true Italian style winery
Our day eventually came to an end at Rockway Vineyards. We took a beautiful route down Victoria Ave, Eighth Ave, Pelham Road, and onto Ninth Street. I’ve ridden through the Pelham area, located South of St. Catharines, a few times now, and I always enjoy the winding roads which are usually shaded by beautiful green sprawling trees. The Night Rod appreciated some of the quick corners on Ninth Street, and I didn’t mind them either!
Last stop of the day!
Rockway Vineyards is a large facility, offering a golf course, vineyard and great dining experience.
Our tour guide, Bill, was a wealth of knowledge and gave us a great tour of the antique wine museum. It was amazing to see how the art of winemaking has progressed throughout the years from the 17th and 18th centuries to present day. A retired chemistry teacher, Bill was able to teach us the technical aspects of what goes into making a great wine. I learned a lot, and made sure to purchase a bottle of Patio 9 white wine to enjoy at home after our adventure was over.
Bill and my Mom in a serious wine-making conversation
We made our way back to Clare’s Harley Davidson later that day, taking Pelham Road and Decew Road. If you ever make it to Niagara, make sure you ride down Decew Road and check out the beautiful waterfalls – this is a must see/must ride destination for all motorcyclists! My first time on this tricky, windy road years ago was scary but made me a better rider for sure! We toured along the Welland Canal back to Niagara-on-the-Lake and called it a day. Later that evening, once the bikes were parked, we looked at our nice collection of wine from the day and spent the evening sipping wine and chatting about our adventure. I’m fortunate to live in beautiful Niagara, and hope you all have a chance to take a tour out here with your family to experience all that Niagara has to offer.
Admiring our Collection of Wine From The Day