The Niagara Escarpment begins south of Rochester, New York and extends westward parallel to and south of the shores of Lake Ontario. It crosses into Canada, at Queenston, Ontario in the Niagara Peninsula where it is breached by the Niagara River.
The Niagara River began eroding out the 11 kilometre Gorge between the edge of the Escarpment and Niagara Falls about 12,000 years ago, thus exposing the bedrock. These rocks are about four hundred million years old.
Forests in Niagara region are some of the most beautiful anywhere along the Escarpment’s length. This is the Carolinian vegetation zone, where tulip trees, sassafras, black cherry, paw paw and shagbark hickory are scattered throughout the forests. Black Cherry dominates, rising tall and straight to a lush canopy high overhead. Some are more than a metre in diameter.
The Niagara Region is one of Canada's prime agricultural areas. Rich mineral soils and the moderating effects of Lakes Erie and Ontario are two factors contributing to the excellent growing conditions.
The Escarpment also creates a microclimate that allows the growing of vinifera grapes, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling.
As the ground warms up in spring, cool air is drawn inland from Lake Ontario. Flowing in a circular pattern down the Escarpment and along the ground, this cool air delays bud burst on the vines, preventing potential damage by late spring frosts. In fall, the air circulation works in reverse. Air is warmed over the lake and moves inland along the ground. When it reaches the Escarpment it rises, drawing more warm air in behind it and giving the region the long, warm fall days needed to develop optimum sugar content in the grapes.
The composition of the soil in this region was formed over 12,500 years ago when the glaciers retreated leaving behind deposits of clay, loam, sand and gravel. The soil mix is enriched with minerals and trace elements from different strata of bedrock which provide nutrition to the vineyards and add complexity to the wines.
Niagara’s Escarpment Wineries
Escarpment Explorer Brochure