Fine dining is sometimes a hit-and-miss experience in Niagara, especially around the popular Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake areas near the border. There are lots of tourists who need to eat somewhere, and who have lots of money to throw around, and so frankly the competition is not always fierce.
So if you have the time and inclination, I suggest getting away from Niagara central to visit wine country west of St. Catherines, near the rural farming towns of Beamsville, Vineland, and the like. One of our best wine country lunch experiences in Niagara has been in this area, at the restaurant at Vineland Estates Winery, located just south of Hwy 81 (AKA King St) in the Beamsville-Vineland Area. They are on the Beamville Bench with a great view of the area and Lake Ontario in the distance. More importantly, they offer a varied, well executed menu of regional cuisine at prices that reflect the quality of what’s on offer: not at the grossly inflated prices one pays for so-so execution at restaurants closer to tourist central. They also have an appealing looking dinner menu but we have never been at the right place at the right time for dinner.
Reservations recommended: 1-888-846-3526 (1-888-VINELAND).
While in the area, I suggest you drop in on some of the fine Ontario wineries on the benchlands. Vineland Estates itself offers a wide range of wines from basic general list mass-market wines to expensive reserve Cabernet and Pinot Noir. The benchlands are especially noted for the wines that thrive in Ontario’s cooler climate — look out especially for good Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. Other wineries in the area to check out include Peninsula Ridge (furthest west), Kacaba, Lakeview, Malivoire and Cave Spring. Mind you wineries are popping up so fast in the area I’m finding it next to impossible to keep up!