Combining Two Passions: Travel and Wine

I’m a traveller and I like to drink wine. Yet, I haven’t visited as many wine regions as I’d like. When I was younger while travelling western Europe, I didn’t have the same level of appreciation for the wine making process or the curiosity as I do now. So this year, I decided that since I’m staying close to home (travelling within North America), I’d try to visit as many wine regions in Canada and the US as possible and combine my two passions, travel and wine.

In June, we explored Niagara-on-the-Lake, wine country in southern Ontario about a 90-minute drive from Toronto and 30 minutes from Buffalo. The region has been producing great whites for years and is particularly known for ice wine. I believe it’s gaining a decent reputation with its reds as well.

Ice wine fact: Grapes must be picked at “a sustained temperature of -8 C° or less” in order for it be called ice wine in Canada.

The city Niagara-on-the-Lake (NotL) is a well-preserved historic town and even if you live nearby, like I did while growing up in Hamilton, you should take at least a weekend trip there and step back into the 19th century.

Niagara on the Lake

This perfectly preserved town is almost too perfect to be an actual town.

A bed and breakfast in Niagara on the Lake

A 19th century home converted into a business.

NotL is surrounded by vineyards and a wine tour here is super easy as vineyards are literally side-by-side.  We loved visiting the small wineries, and one of them, Riverview Cellars told us that the small wineries in the area help each other out by referring visitors to each others’ tours.

Riverview in Niagara on the Lake

Riverview Cellars winery. A family-run vineyard and winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Photo from wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com.

It’s a tight-knit community and every September, there’s a big festival. I liked the quaintness of the area and the camaraderie among the smaller wineries.

But I won’t be returning to NotL for the festival in September. Instead, you can catch me in Walla Walla for four days. Walla Walla, what? By now you know I didn’t make a typo. I have this strange urge to get up and dance while saying Walla Walla repeatedly. Walla Walla, what? Walla Walla. 

Located in southeast Washington, Walla Walla is known for not only wine, but onions, too! Here’s what Wikipedia had to say about it (I edited parts out for conciseness):

Walla Walla is the largest city in and the county seat of Walla Walla County, Washington, United States. The population was 31,731 at the 2010 census. Walla Walla is in the southeastern region of Washington, approximately four hours by car from Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, and thirteen miles from the Oregon border.

Walla Walla is famous for its sweet onions. Many wineries are located in the area.

In July 2011, USA Today selected Walla Walla as the friendliest small town in the United States.

The region makes very tasty Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots and Syrahs, apparently. Based on what I’ve read, people not too long ago were saying that it’s the next Napa. The rolling hills are reminiscent of the California region and I think it has experienced rapid growth like Napa did in the 70s and 80s. I’ve gleaned from other articles, though, that they don’t care to be like their California cousins. Good for them! Walla Walla today has over 180 wineries and plenty of tasting rooms, even in the city. Needless to say, I’m excited!

A trip to Napa Valley seems to be the next obvious place to go, but to tell you the truth, I’m more interested in Sonoma and Russian River. I will eventually make my way to all three. Another obvious is the Okanagon. I spent a summer weekend in 2009, but it’s time to go back, you know, with my newly acquired WSET level 2 knowledge and all!

Which wine regions in Canada and the US have you visited and where do you think I should head to next?

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