The distance between Niagara wineries and the natural wonder of Niagara Falls has shrunk with the opening of Niagara Community College’s Culinary Institute just steps away from the brink of the falls.

The school brings much-needed attention to the hospitality industry of the region with several programs including culinary arts, restaurant management, and winery operations. The building, once the site of the long-forgotten and abandoned Rainbow Centre, hosts several outlets including a restaurant and wine boutique. The restaurant, which carries some local wines, will probably be the main draw for tourists but there’s plenty of excitement around the all-New York State Wine Boutique.

“We’re thrilled to promote and complement the efforts of the Niagara Wine Region and the other wine regions of the state as a whole,” says manager Bill Metzgar.

The store stocks wines from each New York State AVA and covers the whole range of New York wine styles. Its location, on Old Falls Street adjacent to the school’s restaurant Savor, is perfectly situated for tourists — right in between largest hotels (and casino) and the most-visited vantage points for viewing Niagara Falls. If the restaurant, the patisserie, deli or Barnes & Noble Bookstore doesn’t get the curious to stop in, the wine boutique may ultimately be the clincher.

“We’ll be doing tastings and classes regularly here because it’s always the best way to introduce visitors to the wines of our region” says Metzgar.

Much of store’s staff are students who have been enrolled in winery operations classes and worked hands-on with the school’s partner Freedom Run Winery.

“We want them to be able to connect the customer with who and where these wines come from,” adds Metzgar.

For many locals, this one included, the excitement goes beyond the school’s promotion of local wine and hospitality.

“The number one remark I hear from locals is that they’re so happy to see the space that was the former Rainbow Centre Mall be repurposed into something that’s so attractive and so beautiful and vibrant,” says Metzgar. “It’s bringing new life and new people to downtown Niagara Falls.”

With the wines from outside the Niagara Region, the store is mostly relying on wines that are distributed. The logistics of delivery, tasting samples and ordering is a work in progress and once that Metzgar looks forward to working on.

“We currently have room for eighty different wines and we are very interested in trying what else the state has to offer,” says Metzgar. “We are getting plenty of feedback from customers already and we’re hoping we get more wineries to take interest in our store and the possibilities of reaching the huge audience that visits Niagara Falls every season.”

Wineries that want to know more about the Wine Boutique may contact Bill at