Turn a day trip to Ontario's wine country into a romantic weekend getaway. Jordan Valley in Niagara has all the perfect ingredients: wineries, spas and luxurious accommodations.

I love wine -- who doesn't? (Well, I suppose some people don't, but not very many people I know.) And although I know some things about wine (I can taste a bottle at a restaurant without looking like an idiot, and I know my malbec from my rioja from my vinho verde) I'm anything but a wine snob. And I've never understood why the wine snobs I do know (it's one of the risks of loving wine so much: one or two are bound to crop up) always scoff at the idea of Ontario wine. Here's the absolute truth, coming from a woman who is not easily impressed: only an hour and 15 minutes from Toronto sits a hidden gem that everyone should visit. It's called the Jordan Valley. The scenery is pastoral, the vintners and restaurateurs are inspiringly passionate and the wine and food are truly world class. (For more information, visit winecountryontario.ca.)

My husband and I left the kids with the grandparents and the city behind on a Friday afternoon, at the height of the unseasonably warm spring weather we had this past March. (This could play havoc with the vines, by the way: keep your fingers crossed, because it's either going to mean a bumper crop or total devastation.) We arrived at the Inn on the Twenty (innonthetwenty.com), and were greeted in the lobby with warm apple cider and red velvet cupcakes. Clearly, they had me at hello. Our room, the Rittenhouse Suite, was spacious and cozy, decorated in a mix of country and contemporary that worked perfectly,and made me want to decorate my own bedroom in similar style. There was a sitting area with fireplace, a large flagstone terrace (it wasn't quite warm enough to sit outside) and a deep whirlpool tub. Each room at the inn is also equipped with a television and DVD player and wireless internet, plus full access, via room service, to the culinary delights available at the On the Twenty restaurant across the street. (There's an underground passageway that attaches the two historic establishments, so your food will never arrive cold.) Garden Alcove suites like the one we stayed in start at $339 per night in the summer season, based on double occupancy and including breakfast for two.

Friday Night

We walked through the quaint village to the Jordan House Tavern, a casual pub-style establishment with an upscale inn upstairs. The Jordan House Tavern features Niagara Wines and, according to my husband, an impressive list of beers on tap. (His favourites: Hobgoblin and Samuel Adams) The food was a definite step up from pub grub: we shared a big Greek salad and the fish tacos with salsa, coleslaw, cilantro, red onion and chili lime sauce. I would go back for the tacos alone.


We booked a full day of tasting and touring. Our first stop was The Good Earth Food and Wine Co. for lunch and a tasting (goodearthfoodandwine.com). The Good Earth is one of those truly special places, the kind you know (or at least hope) you'll revisit many times and share with family and friends, too. We met the winemaker, Andrea Glass, who didn't put on any airs or affectations as she took us through a flight of The Good Earth Wines (they're delicious: the 2009 Riesling was chosen as one of the official VQA wines of the 2012 Ontario's Legislative Assembly, and it's easy to see why). We also met Nicola Novak, who runs the entire operation. Novak has lived on the property, which also houses fruit orchards and an interactive cooking school, since she was a child and makes you feel like she's truly pleased that you stopped by to visit her home. When you leave, you actually forget that you haven't known her forever, and you miss her a little bit.

And the food. The food. We started with a cauliflower and goat cheese soup and a salad of hearts of romaine, crispy prosciutto, sourdough croutons and parmesan cheese. Our friendly and knowledgeable waitress suggested pairing the soup with a chardonnay and the salad with a medium dry Riesling. Next, my husband ordered the daily "hot pot", which was delicately curried chicken with baby bok choy (Sometimes a curry is just a curry. This was not just a curry). I ordered the delectable charcuterie and cheese board, which I enjoyed with a glass of ros├ę (affectionately dubbed "the panty remover" by Novak and her team because of its surprisingly high booze content. See, I told you: no airs or affectations around here).

Next, we headed to Tawse Winery (tawsewinery.ca) for a tasting. Tawse is a family owned estate winery located on the lower slopes of the Niagara escarpment. The winery is completely eco-friendly, employing both organic and biodynamic methods to cultivate and harvest its grapes. It's also powered by a modern geo-thermal energy system that has reduced the winery's use of traditional forms of energy by 80 percent, plus a Wetland Biofilter that facilitates the complete re-use of all sanitary and winery process water. The award-winning wines served to us during our tasting session were impressive, indeed - especially the 2008 Tawse David's Block Merlot, which had distinct Bordeaux-like qualities and had us returning the next day for a bottle to take home. (You can find Tawse wines at a range of chic restaurants in Toronto, including Black Hoof, Cowbell, George and Foxley. Take that, Ontario wine snobs.)

Finally, we enjoyed a guided tasting at Cave Spring (cavespringcellars.com), before dining at the On the Twenty restaurant. Highlights of the meal included seared diver scallops (paired with a Cave Springs Riesling) and Ocean Trout with red king crab cake, braised Swiss chard, applewood-smoked trout caviar and shrimp jus (the menu suggested Gew├╝rztraminer, but I liked the Riesling so much I stuck with it).


I headed to the Spa on the Twenty in the morning for a facial. With its pine floors and doors, and wrought iron fireplace in the lounge, the spa was homey and inviting. Refreshments are available in the lounge, as well as lunches courtesy of the Inn on the Twenty restaurant. (I was still full from the night before.) I had the Advanced Sea Essential Facial (75 minutes, $120) which intensely rehydrates the skin (trust me, you'll need it after a weekend of wine tasting) while soothing and smoothing. The facial included body massage, a double facial mask and a heated mud mask applied to my back, which worked to detoxify my body during the entire treatment. I was left feeling refreshed, rehydrated - and ready for more wine!