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I’ve always known that the Niagara region is home to some of the country’s best wineries.

Creativity is in full view at Niagara’s wineries, where you can explore both wine and fine art

By Lora Grady

Many of Niagara's wineries don't just showcase the art of winemaking, but some of Canada's great painters, illustrators and photographers as well.


I’ve always known that the Niagara Region is home to some of the country’s best wineries. But I had no idea the area also boasts some of Canada’s most impressive works of art, including pieces by artists like Jean-Paul Riopelle and Ray Mead.

One of the largest and most diverse collections is located at 13th Street Winery in St. Catharines, where co-owners Doug Whitty and John Mann, along with their wives Karen and June, respectively, have created a space to discover and decompress through wine, art and food. Surrounded by over 50 acres of vineyards, the grounds themselves are a work of art – a landscape of lush green grass, winding paths and serene gardens dotted with fascinating works of art, including a sculpture garden that spans most of the property and a spacious art gallery.

Whitty sees a clear connection between the art and 13th Street’s collection of wines, created by winemaker Jean-Pierre Colas. “Just like with art, our winemaker can express himself in different ways depending on what grapes he uses and what parts of the palate he appeals to,” Whitty says. After all, he adds, “anything can be art if you do it right.” This sentiment comes through in the careful craft of winemaking that Niagara is famous for.

I start my visit at the tasting room where I check out the diverse wines that Colas’ team creates, including a refreshing cabernet blanc rosé and an aromatic pinot noir. The tasting room is a great spot to sit, sip and unwind, but I can’t wait to explore the sculptures.


The first piece I notice is Floyd Elzinga’s metal pinecone sculpture, which doubles as a cozy fire pit. On a chilly evening, visitors can find Whitty filling it with firewood. Each piece has its own QR code for anyone wanting to learn about the artist, which I appreciate as an art newbie. Kids love The Hunt by Toronto artist Ken Hall, which depicts a pack of five wolves on the move. Yes, 13th Street is family-friendly – there’s even a big hill for little ones to roll down and lots of green space for dogs, too. Next, I head to the bright, airy art gallery.

Mann and his wife, June, began collecting art in the late ‘60s and four years ago, the 13th Street Gallery was built to house their collection. There, I find pieces from some the country’s most celebrated painters, including Henry Saxe and Milly Ristvedt, alongside new exhibitions from emerging Canadian artists. The winery also supports art students from nearby Brock University, the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto and the University of Ottawa by offering a professional setting to display and sell their works in the gallery.

“As an emerging artist, it can feel difficult to make my work seen. I really appreciate what 13th Street does to uplift the community,” says Taylor Elliott, a fifth-year Studio Arts student at Brock University who currently has three works on display. The Gallery hosts “meet the artist” receptions for every exhibition that opens there, including those featuring students, and it often host artist talks, too. By purchasing wine from 13th Street’s Expression Project collection, 25 cents from each bottle (and 10 cents for each can) goes toward three scholarships 13th Street awards each year that support students like Elliott.

Once I’ve worked up an appetite, I enjoy a charcuterie board from the bistro where chef Josh Berry prepares edible works of art. And before I leave I stop by the farmhouse store and bakery, where I pick up some homemade apricot jam (the fruit is grown onsite) and gamay jelly, and 13th Street’s famous butter tarts. Don’t miss the Bakery Gallery — that’s where I saw stunning textural canvases by Toronto artist Cynthia Chapman.


Henry of Pelham in St. Catharines is another must-visit location for oenophiles and art aficionados alike. Order a glass of wine and take a tour of the Bobbi Speck art collection. During the 1970s, owner Paul Speck’s parents, Paul Sr. and Bobbi, offered free studio space to many Canadian painters and sculptors in Toronto. Today, pieces from a number of those artists are displayed throughout the winery for visitors to enjoy.

“Wine is a cultural experience; it goes hand in glove with food and art,” Speck says. While the artwork is not for sale, patrons are encouraged to explore and learn about the artists through explanatory cards. Among the most notable works are paintings of CN and CP trains from Alberta artist Robert McGuiness, as well as big, colourful acrylic canvases by Rick McCarthy. “We really want our visitors to get a Canadian cultural experience,” Speck says. This kind of consideration is what makes Niagara the ideal draw for visitors from abroad seeking the fulsome Canadian experience all in one place.


It’s worth the 30-minute drive from St. Catharines to Niagara-on-the-Lake, a scenic drive filled with views of rich agricultural land, to visit Stratus Vineyards, even just to pick up a bottle from the winery’s Artist Label Series. The annual, limited-edition Brut Nature sparkling wine features labels designed by Canadian artists. To date, Stratus has featured artwork from prominent artists such as Curtis Talwst Santiago, Scott McFarland and Marie Lannoo; the winery is currently working with the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg to select the artist for the 2014 vintage.

The Stratus Tasting Room is adorned with a stunning mural from the late Richard Halliday’s Constellation Series. The label of Stratus’s signature Blanc de Blancs Méthode Traditionnelle features a print of the mural. “We consider wine an art form and love the synergy of promoting this ‘agricultural art’ with the fine arts,” says Suzanne Janke, Stratus Vineyards’ estate director says. “Together, they stimulate the different senses and contribute to the celebration and deepening of Canadian culture.”

After a day spent taking in the art and culture in the Niagara Region, I’m inspired by the creativity I’ve seen both from artists and winemakers. Each spot I visited was full of surprises and for both the artistic and culinary worlds, the creative process never ends. I’m looking forward to going back to these three spots to sip and see what’s new.

Lora Grady is a lifestyle writer.

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Visit Niagara Canada. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.