Travel staffer Christina Talcott spent a day in the Niagara Peninsula's wine country. Here is her reporter's notebook.
About 1 hour from Buffalo
Flights: starting at $119 on Southwest Car rental: $35 Toll: $1
From Buffalo Niagara International Airport, take Route 33 west to Interstate 290 north, then take I-190 north, then go west on Robert Moses State Parkway to Niagara Falls. Cross into Canada, then drive north on River Road toward Niagara-on-the-Lake.
WHAT TO DO
To see where ice wine is made, pick up a wine route map at any winery, or plot your route on http://www.winesofontario.org. Since the ice wine harvest usually starts in December or January, winter is a particularly exciting time at Ontario vineyards. Jan. 16-25 is the annual Niagara Icewine Festival (905-688-0212, http://www.niagaraicewinefestival.com), featuring galas, ice bars (yes, bars, tables and chairs carved out of ice), special dinners and exclusive winery tours. From April to November, Niagara-on-the-Lake hosts the Shaw Theatre Festival, which features almost a dozen plays by George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries (905-468-2172 or 800-511-7429, http://www.shawfest.com).
WHERE TO EAT
Across from Cave Spring Cellars is tiny, peppy Zooma Zooma Cafe (3839 Main St., Jordan Village, 905-562-6280, http://http://www.zoomazoomacafe.ca), where an open-face Reuben on rye runs $7.95 and live bands play some evenings. Though the origin of Buffalo wings is disputed, Duff's Famous Wings (3651 Sheridan Dr., Buffalo, 716-834-6234, http://www.duffsfamouswings.ca/home.html) claims their invention. Grab a bowl of them on the way in or out of Buffalo; there are also branches in Toronto. For a list of restaurants that won this year's Vintners Quality Alliance awards, visit http://www.winesofontario.org/VQAwinners/index.html.
WHERE TO STAY
In Buffalo, the cozy four-room Elmwood Village Inn (203 St. James Pl., 716-886-2397, http://www.elmwoodvillageinn.com, starting at $95) is in the studio- and boutique-filled neighborhood of Elmwood Village. In Jordan Village, Ontario, the Inn on the Twenty (3845 Main St., Jordan, 905-562-5336 or 800-701-8074, http://www.innonthetwenty.com) offers spa, culinary and golf packages; rooms without packages start at about $137 weeknights in winter. For a budget stay in Niagara-on-the-Lake, try the Best Western Colonel Butler Inn (278 Mary St., 905-468-3251 or 866-556-8882, from $68).
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For Niagara Falls information, call 905-356-6061 or 800-563-2557 or visit http://www.niagarafallstourism.com. For info on Ontario wine tourism, call the Wine Council of Ontario at 905-684-8070, Ext. 221, or visit http://www.winesofontario.org.