Wine Country Redux
Couldn't decide whether to reply to the active post, or make a new one. Just yell if you want me to move this.
Just did a whirlwind weekend in the Ontario wine regions. We stayed on the Inn on the Twenty in Jordan, connected to the Cave Springs winery (though not to their vineyards, more on that later). The accomdations were incredible.
On our own on Saturday at 10:30, we did a private guided tour at Flat Rock Cellars. Say what you will about their wines, but the service we received on the tour, and the intimacy we had with the process as part of the tour, was incredible. We were impressed with the architecture of the facility, the incredible view, the susatainable and geo-thermal practices they engage in, the fact that they grow all their own grapes onsite instead of using contract growers, and with overall unpretentious dedication to good wine of the operation. I tasted a riesling and a pinot, and we left with a bottle of their blended white "Twisted" and a Pinot Noir. The white is a great summer wine, good for my non-wine loving friends, and the Pinot had a great spice level to it.
We also stopped in at Kacaba on recommendation of this board, but found the service was spotty and the wines unmemorable for the price tag.
On Saturday afternoon, we did a tour run by the Crush On Niagara company. We were picked up in a van by a retired and generally uninformed guide, and we drove around to several B&Bs picking up couples to form a total of ten people. The tour started at Jackson Triggs, a huge (largely superficial tourist trap) of a facility. Truthfully, if you were a beginner, the Triggs tour (or the Hillebrand we did on Sunday) would be a great palce to start. Yes, it's big and corporate, but they take you through the steps of wine making in earnest. It was interesting for us to compare with the size of the operation we saw at Flat Rock. They also finish with a structured tasting, trying to educate the masses as to how to taste their wines! We tried a riesling, a chard and a pinot (I think), none of which were impactful enough to buy. We did pick up a bottle of Meritage, though.
Our Crush tour continued at Konzelman Cellars. We were supposed to do a wine and cheese pairing, but this amounted to a plate of cheese set on the tasting bar while we tried a flight of three. We purchased a Baco and a Merlot, mostly for cellaring purposes, and because they were under 12$ and not widely availible. Unfortunenately, we are mid-twenties winos on a budget, but we want to support Ontario wineries and drink wines we love, so we have to makes some compromises on quality some of you might say.
We then did a tasting-from-the-barrell at Strewn, where we bought a Riesling-Gewurtz blend that was lovely, fresh and sweet, and a Merlot, to hang on to until winter. Again, both affordable and rare bottles.
We finished up at Caroline Cellars, where there was a Lobsterfest going on, so it was bit busy. Okay, very busy, and not with people who were interested in their wines. my partner tasted a mediocre Chard, and I tried a Gamay which we bought - yummy, spicy stuff.
On Sunday, we did a pairing seminar at Cave Springs with the sous-chef from On the Twenty. They paired a scallop with a Sauv Blanc, shrimp with a yummy yummy Riesling (not too sweet, really!), and salmon with a Chard or a Pinot Noir. My partner had the Chard, not my taste, but he enjoyed it, and I had the Pinot. As with most pinot noir, there wasn't enough body behind the pepper for my tastes. But the food was lovely!
We then hit Marynissen, where we've been before. I tried a new Riesling that was dry, not sweet, and a much sweeter summer blend white that would have been good for the "Twisted" crowd. We left with a bottle of the Riesling, plus two Cab Merlots for the cellar (so rich and lovely) and a cab Franc for my partner's dad, who loves his heady reds. Lovely folks at Marynissen, and willing to donate a case to hlep us carry our wares!
Then we did Stratus. yes, the facility is stunning and the design is lean and modern. I tried a new release white that was nice, but not wroth the money for us, the Stratus red, which we love, and a reserve Cab Sauv that was pretty strong for my tastes. Unlike everywhere else, they don't throw in the cost of tastings here if you end up buying a bottle. Not cool, but they can get away with it, I guess. We still left with two bottles of the Stratus Red, because they were down to five and promised to be sold out by the end of the day.
We went back to the mainstream doing the group tour at hillebrand. If we hadn't done triggs on Saturday, it would have been a new and informative experience, but by that point, i sort of knew the processes already, and didn't have patience for tourists gulping down their tastings before the guide could do the structured tasting with them. Tried the trius brut, a sauv blanc and a red ice wine, obviously a summer-oriented flight that catches the underdeveloped American tourist palette! At the tasting bar, I tasted a Gewrutrz that was not avalible in the LCBO, so we bought some. Again, under $15.
We wrapped up the weekend at Henry of Pelham, where we had a lovely lunch on the patio, and I had a flight of Riesling, Pinot Noir and Gamay. The Riesling was great (I acutally think every Riesling I had this weekend was amazing), but the Gamay also made a big, big impact - pepper corn flavour with a great fruit behind it. They didn't have any more bottles of the 2005 I tried, so I bought the 2006 instead.
All in all, we tried too many wines for me to really remember the most impactful. I do, however, remember that I was really, really impressed by the education I received in the tours and the efforts of the wineries to educate the tourist population in to more intelligent consumption. I am pretty sure that even on my budget, I can drink locally produced wines that are complex, flavourful and interesting to my palette. Of course, we'll still go to Australia for our shiraz and Europe/Cali/BC for our other deep reds, but for summer-fall wine drinking, for BBQ pairing, and for under $15, we are confident we can dirnk some pretty yummy wines by our standards. And when we do spend more money, such as at restaurants, at least we can now identify what we're looking for in a wine, and get something truly memorable and bang-for-our-buck.
Now, to pay the VISA bills...and find a place to store our 14 bottles!
Thanks for the knowledgeable reviews, LL! I am going to bring my visiting parents to the wine region this coming weekend, and although I prefer the smaller wineries, I like your idea of starting at a big winery for a tour and overview. Henry of Pelham, or maybe Hillebrand, sounds like a good place to do that! Then we can visit some of the smaller wineries like Calamus, which I love, and Featherstone, which I want to visit. I think we will also do a walk through the town of NOTL as it has cute shops (and the jam store!) which my mom may like. Any other suggestions, let me know! We go this upcoming Sunday.