There’s no better time to visit wine country than in the fall. The weather is crisp, the colours are bright and harvest is in full swing.
You can drink all the wine you want, but I’m a firm believer that you’ll gain a whole new appreciation for it once you see, first hand, the work that goes into turning grapes into wine.
The following list of wineries are ones where much of the production process is visible to visitors of the winery. If you’re there at the right time, you’re bound to get a glimpse into what “harvest” really looks like.
- Vineland Estates Winery
Vineland is an iconic property not just within the Beamsville Bench but in all of Ontario (and Canada for that matter). Before you head inside to the tasting room/boutique, have a look around (specifically the area to the left of the wine boutique before you get to the restaurant). There’s a beautiful lookout point here which is an amazing view on its own (you can see right across Lake Ontario to Toronto on a clear day), but you should see a good amount of action happening on the crush pad down below.
2. Niagara College Teaching Winery
A teaching winery for a reason, you can really get a taste for what goes into making wine here and the staff are more than happy to show you around. There’s even a new experience on offer to visitors allowing them to actually partake in harvest! (you can do this during the Icewine harvest as well…if you dare to bear the cold early mornings!) The winery is also part of a great tasting program where you can sample wines hand selected by the winemaker (former fellow classmate of mine Gavin Robertson)
3. Jackson Triggs
Book a tour at Jackson-Triggs for the full overview of harvest and production. The winery was literally made for it. You’ll go into the vineyard and learn about where it all begins (the most important part!), you’ll get a look at the crush pad (where the grapes come in which are then crushed and de-stemmed), you’ll walk along a steel catwalk through production and see where fermentation begins. You’ll head down to the barrel cellar and learn about the influence of oak and the aging process, and last but not least, you’ll go through a structured tasting. It doesn’t get more thorough than that.
4. Big Head Wines
A diamond in the rough! Wine fans in Niagara know this is a must stop this season. Andrzej Lipinski has made a mark at every winery he’s worked at, and now finally has his own. A true family-run winery, on the day I visited every member of the family was working. The wine is top notch, and you’ll be right in the center of it all as the tasting bar is in the middle of a fully functioning cellar. It’s vastly different than any experience you’ll get in Niagara and worth the stop for an insiders view of harvest.