By Michael Lowe
I’ve often wanted to play the part of tourist in my own backyard by staying at one of Niagara’s many B&Bs while touring the wine route. The Vinifera Inn, located at the ‘gateway’ to Niagara in Grimsby, provides the perfect opportunity.
I was introduced to the inn via social media interactions with proprietor Barb van Pelt and was immediately struck by the name and its possible connotations. It turns out that not only is the Ontario Heritage designated house located right on the wine route, it also offers wine pairing dinners set in a cellar specifically designed to showcase the enjoyment of wine from nearby wineries. Dubbed ‘The Corkery Wine Bar and Tasting Cellar’, (below photos) it proved the perfect space to discuss the house and its history with the owner over a glass of wine.
Built in 1846 by the Bowslaugh family, the Victorian home features four en suite rooms lavishly appointed in period style (below photos). Some rooms have antique claw foot tubs and each room is decorated with a specific theme.
Barb van Pelt, who is responsible for the decor, and husband Ron, have owned the place for 13 years. They are people with a passion for good food and wine and are very knowledgeable when it comes to local dining. Before spending the night in the beautiful Allan Suite (below photo), we take their recommendation and call to check table availability at a new Vineland hotspot, Just Cooking.
Just 10 minutes drive from Vinifera, Just Cooking features rustic Italian food in a comfortable bistro setting. The restaurant is a pleasing addition to the local dining scene and our first experience won’t be the last – watch for an upcoming feature. Dishes include a roasted half chicken with marsala wine and mushrooms and a featured veal chop with mixed mushroom risotto (below photos). Both are sensational, well executed examples of pure, simple flavours.
Back at the inn, we taste wines at the cellar bar experimenting with various glass sizes and shapes and discussing the nuanced differences each vessel contributes to the wine. After a good night’s sleep, breakfast is prepared by Barb van Pelt in the spacious kitchen adjacent to the dining room which displays photos of the original owners (below photos).
Fresh fruit, biscuits with preserves, a variation on quiche and French toast are washed down with plenty of hot coffee before bidding our hosts farewell.
Planned stops for the day include The Good Earth Food and Wine Company and Back 10 Cellars. The Good Earth Food and Wine Company combines the best of both worlds into a one-stop shopping destination – a charming bistro, cooking school (below photos) and winery with spaces to enjoy vineyard views while sipping a glass or two.
At Back 10 Cellars I meet Andrew Brooks who takes me through a tasting of all their wines. This is my first visit to Back 10 and the tasting leaves me most impressed and spoiled for choice. In all, another fine weekend enjoying the scenery, food, wine and hospitality of Niagara.
If you are coming to Niagara for a visit or are just locals looking for a short respite from the norm, the Vinifera Inn is a great option. Room rates are competitive and the location is perfect for touring the Vineland and Beamsville bench wineries.
Vinifera – The Inn on Winery Row
245 Main St., East