Our visit to Niagara Falls had come to an end, so we drove back towards Toronto on the scenic Niagara Parkway and made one more stop: Peller Estates, one of the most established wineries in the Niagara Peninsula.
Many of my European and American friends find it surprising that Ontario has a wine industry. But some regions of Ontario have climate and soil conditions that are perfectly suited for wine. Most people also don’t know that Southern Ontario is located at the same latitude as Southern France because Canada is always regarded as a cold, northern country. Well, in recent decades Ontario entrepreneurs have started to invest aggressively in the wine industry, and Peller Estates is a perfect example of this trend.
Ontario-grown wines include a wide range of red, white and rose varietals, but one of the products that the Ontario wine industry is most well-known for is ice wine, made from grapes that have been frozen while they are still on the vine. Along with Germany, Canada is the largest producer of ice wine in the world and 75% of Canadian ice wine production comes from Ontario.
Peller Estates is one of Ontario’s most storied wineries and their history started in 1927 when Andrew Peller, a Hungarian immigrant, arrived in Canada. He gained lots of practical experience when he planted vineyards in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. More than 40 years later he was able to purchase a winery and wine-making license in Ontario. Since then, it is the 3rd generation of the family, under the helm of John Peller (Andrew’s grandson) that is running this family-owned winery.
Turning off the Niagara Parkways just south of Niagara-on-the-Lake, we were struck by the large chateau-esque building that welcomes visitors to the estate. The main entrance area is beautifully decorated and has a comfortable seating area where visitors can relax and get ready for their wine tours. We were quite impressed by the elegantly designed main building which is also home to the Peller Estates Winery Restaurant which has been rated “extraordinary”, the highest rating of the Zagat Restaurant Guide. The restaurant’s executive chef is Jason Parsons, a local celebrity and CityLine television personality.
The retail store on the left has an equally upscale design and attractively displays the company’s products. Kevin, one of the wine experts, approached us and told us about the history of the company and ended up taking us upstairs to the private tasting room for which a special appointment is normally required. He also explained that many of the special wines made by Peller Estates are not available through regular channels; they are only sold to members of the Wine Club who receive two bottles of premium wine every month. Kevin also took us into the lower level of the building, a huge cellar with dozens of barrels of wine that can even be rented for private parties.
At the end of our private tour we even got to taste a glass of rose sparkling wine called Ice Cuvée Rose which has just a bit of ice wine mixed into it for a touch of sweetness. As we left we saw some VIP guests being flown in by helicopter, so this winery definitely attracts some high-calibre visitors. We had enjoyed our visit to Peller Estates and our overnight travel adventure in the Niagara Peninsula. I am hoping to make it back there some time in the late spring to see some of the peach and apricot trees blossom.