The Scoop: In 2002, a handful of wineries in the Niagara Falls region came together to provide people with a unique experience. They formed the Niagara Wine Trail, a touring trail of popular local wineries, and it has since grown to more than 20 local vineyards. The Niagara Wine Trail not only provides information about the winemakers, but it also recommends transportation options, restaurants, and places to stay during a trip. For its dedication to showing wine-loving couples a great time in the region, the Niagara Wine Trail has earned our Editors’ Choice Award.
When couples decide they want to explore the wineries of the Niagara Falls region in New York, they often heed the recommendations of the Niagara Wine Trail. The organization highlights the region’s products and its unique local proprietors and suggests itineraries that make the most of a couple’s experience.
A typical day may begin with a couple packing their lunches before embarking on their journey, so they don’t have to stop and think about eating while touring wineries. They may also decide to book a half-day tour with a local limousine service, so they can get a little tipsy without worrying about driving. Next, they make sure to pack their Winter Wine Pass or Spring Wine Pass, which gives them various discounts.
Then, the couple heads to the first of five wineries — the suggested number of stops for a single tasting day. And, if they share their preference for certain types of wine with Niagara Wine Trail in advance, they can receive customized recommendations for stops on their tour.
“We recommend choosing three to five wineries you could do in a day. And if anyone is looking to plan their trip, we can provide them with a personalized suggested itinerary, as well,” said Liz Maute, Niagara Wine Trail’s Media Director.
After the final winery stop, couples can head to dinner at a local eatery, including Mariners Landing Restaurant, where they can enjoy clam chowder while taking in the views of Krull Park and Lake Ontario.
On another day, couples can even check out a few other area attractions, including landmarks in the city of Buffalo, historical sites, and, of course, the famous falls. Couples flock to the Niagara Wine Trail because it’s an exciting way to get away for a few days.
“We will often get couples doing mini-vacations together,” Liz said.
For its dedication to helping couples have a memorable time while exploring the region’s vineyards, the Niagara Wine Trail earns our Editors’ Choice Award.
Elevating the Profile of Niagara Wine’s Tradition
The Niagara Falls area has long been home to orchards and vineyards, but, in the late 1990s, the region’s wineries decided they wanted to boost their profile.
“There were three or four wineries that wanted more people to know where they were,” said Liz.
So they developed a trail map to help wine enthusiasts find them. Eventually, other local wineries saw that they could bring in more visitors by joining forces with the wineries on the trail.
Today, the Niagara Wine Trail includes more than 20 wineries. Because couples can’t visit them all in a day, or even on a weekend, they often extend their vacations or return multiple times.
The wine trail is self-guided, so visitors can choose the locations they most want to visit, and come and go at their own pace. The Niagara Wine Trail staff also emphasizes safety during tours and wants to ensure that visitors get from winery to winery safely.
“We have many people who take an Uber around the trail or they can contract with a limo or transportation company to drive them around. If you are drinking little bits of wine, we want you to have a designated driver,” Liz said.
The general goal of the Niagara Wine Trail organization is to get people invested in visiting a scenic part of the country beyond the famous falls.
“And we work with local tourism organizations, including Niagara USA, which encourages people to come to Niagara Falls and stay in our area for longer,” Liz said.
Hosting Fun, Wine-Centric Events All Year Round
Throughout the year, Niagara Wine Trail hosts a variety of special events.
In February, couples can celebrate their love with the Be Mine with Wine event — held on two consecutive weekends around Valentine’s Day. Partners can sample wine, mead, and cider expertly paired with chocolate and desserts.
Vino at the Casino is held each March at the Batavia Downs & Hotel. Participants can sample the offerings of wineries on the Niagara Wine Trail while gambling at the casino and noshing on appetizers.
In late July, the organization hosts the Niagara USA UNCORKED Wine Festival in Lewiston, New York. Attendees can have three tastes at each participating winery, and take home a souvenir wine glass. Another event called Harvest Fest is held annually in late September.
The most popular of the group’s events, though, is Hallowine, held in October.
“Our largest event is the Hallowine Murder Mystery, and we have 2,000 to 3,000 people attend — on average,” Liz notes.
Participants are given a murder mystery scenario and asked to head to different wineries to interview characters. In 2019, for example, attendees were asked to solve the murder of Professor NWT, the “revered leader to the Superheroes in Aragain Wood.” At each winery, participants interrogate superhero suspects for clues.
To close out each year, the Niagara Wine Trail hosts Share the Bounty, a fundraiser for local food banks and charities. Participants can buy tickets to this event at local wineries.
The Niagara Wine Trail: A Romantic Getaway for All Seasons
Couples traveling to the Niagara Falls area will find picturesque settings and tasty wines at local wineries, which are popular destinations in every season.
“Because of where we’re located, we offer wines in the winter with ice skating. In the spring, it’s about the blossoms, and getting things started. In the summer, couples enjoy getting out in the vineyard for picnics, or taking a jet boat tour or a helicopter ride over the falls,” said Cate Banks, Niagara Wine Trail’s Executive Director.
The wineries are also romantic spots for engagements and marriages. The area is a romance mecca, as Niagara Falls is considered the honeymoon capital of the world.
“It’s romantic walking hand in hand through the vineyards. The wineries also host a lot of weddings,” said Liz.
Couples interested in visiting the Niagara Wine Trailshould start planning now — especially if they are considering scheduling their visit during the trail’s 20th-anniversary celebration in 2022. The trail will offer special events throughout the year to commemorate the occasion.
Until then, there are still plenty of ways to explore the trail.
“Some come for an afternoon, some for a weekend, and some for a week. It fits anyone’s definition of vacation, and it appeals to a lot of different travelers,” Cate said.