notl wineries and eats
with the incoming nice weather, a notl visit is definitely in the cards but i'm out of the ontario wine loop now!
wondering if there's anything new i should seek out and suggestions for places to eat lunch? i've had meals at hillebrand/peller and strewn and tastings at a number of wineries so far. i've been thinking of trying the following this coming summer:
niagara teaching college (lunch)
le clos jordanne
and could be convinced to go back to 30 bench, stratus and tawse if they're producing anything particularly remarkable these days.
it was certainly an ambitious number of places to hit, so it's no wonder we only got to about half of the list but here are a few notes on what i thought of this years offerings. overall it has been an unimpressive release season so far. whites seem to be the predominant pick:
niagara teaching college - really flat and little depth in their wines. was a bit unimpressed when i asked to taste the gamay noir but was it wasn't open.. then they found an open bottle and offered it to us with the hesitation that it might be 6 days old. just toss it!
daniel lenko - just did not get it. his chardonnays were certainly good and the 05 meritage was delicious, but justifying his price for the bottle is a bit hard to do. he is selling off ice wine and late harvest vidal at ridiculously low prices (though certainly not the best i've had) which is prompting me to consider getting another case to just give away as i please.
13th street - nice bubbles but not great bubbly. seriously? what is so redeeming about their bevvies? missed out on tasting the sandstone gamay that other wineries raved about (won't be released for another couple of weeks) did still walk away with a nice spicy rose and the june vineyard reisling was pretty nice.
organized crime - entertainment! the owners are brash in a fun way and have a few brash wines to suit. we were warned that the wines weren't taking to the bottle well and after two days they hadn't settled yet. still grabbed a pinot gris that was very well rounded.
lailey - we were pretty much rushed right out the door with incredibly surly service from the staff. nothing really extraordinary though their cabernet was drinking pretty great at a $45 price tag for a magnum. very very interesting roses. totally unexpected tasting notes compared to the nose.
30 bench - definitely my go to. we opted for the premium tasting and wasted a bit of time with a chat and too many fanciful words and pairings to take-out chinese food but still very delicious and pretty much consistently the best in the ontario vineland. 05 chardonnay is stunning and all i could afford at $30. appreciated that you could try virtually anything they had available at $10 for 4 tastes + 2 ice/dessert wines. the 02 vintage release cabernet was delicious and made me regret opening mine a couple months back... the new $85 pricetag suggests i should have taken a little more time with it.
stone road grille - fantastic. odd that the main sign is "REST" but otherwise it was a delightful experience with expert but not formal service. the "3 little pigs" provided some of the most moist and well spiced sausages i've had from housemade charcuterie and the panna cotta dessert couldn't have been more tailor made for me with a stratus ice wine syrup sauce, poached rhubarb and a dollop of cardamom whipping cream. glass of 05 stratus white was also drinking very nicely though certainly reminiscent of a chardonnay more than anything else.
I spent a weekend in NOTL a couple of weeks ago and while I didn't get the opportunity to eat out (apart from a great bakey place In Virgil - just before you enter town NOTL that does outstanding pies and bread); my friend that has a spot in NOTL absolutely insists that REST (Stoneroad Grill) is very good as is the Hillebrand Estate Restaurant.
So pinestripeprincess your review are quite helpful. I traipsed around a couple of the wineries and must admit to being horrified at the prices for grape juice in NOTL these days :) So sorry couldnt help that one; but at Stratus; I did a flight of tastings ( they charge for it) and while I though the white was pretty good, the red in my opinion certainly required some maturing ( I dont know that much about wine). I was horrifeid at the prices. These were blends ( i think the red was 4 or 5 blends), and while I might not taht much about wine I knew enough not to pay $45 even for the white that I liked.
By the way for those that like a good pint and deecnt pub-grub, the Angel Pub sells lots of good British beer ( plus many more). I got a couple of very tasty black and tans in after my wine tastings ( cleansing ale)!
I highly recommend going to Hidden Bench, just north of 30 Bench off of Mountain Rd. Their wines are really outstanding, IMHO some of the best made in Canada. I should mention though that all of their red wines are sold out at the moment, so if you're not a white wine drinker then maybe wait till the Fall...
Thirty Bench is also worth checking out again. Their wines have improved immensely from the 2005 vintage onwards (the winery was sold and a talented new winemaker was hired to run the vineyards and make the wines). The Rieslings are great, and the 2005 Thirty Bench Red is very good, for a Niagara Bordeaux-based blend (and a decent buy at $22).
Both the Stratus Red and White 2005 bottlings are very good (tried them at the Somewhereness event a few weeks ago). I find the White tends to drink well in the first three to four years from the vintage date, whereas the Red tends to benefit from a good two to three in the cellar past the release date. The 2002 Red is drinking great now in fact!
And I second Treadwell's in St. Catharines. It's a great restaurant, with a great VQA-oriented wine list. More reasonably priced than some of the high-end places in NOTL, and much better food too! Stone Road Grille is good, if you are stuck in NOTL :-)
Stratus' 2005 red is reported excellent, but I haven't tried it yet. 2005 was a very good summer for reds - late front = natural pruning of vines = fewer grapes to enjoy the long, hot summer that followed and lots of sugar and nutrients to the remaining grapes. Smaller yields, better wines....
For a casual lunch or break in the afternoon, hit "The Pie Plate" in Virgil - just down the road from Stratus. IMHO the best lemon meringue pie (they have little ones) I have EVER eaten. They have respectable salads and sandwiches for lunch too. It's a cute little house on the left hand side of the road if you are headed towards NOTL. Would be a good place to pick up a take-out lunch too.
The Peller resto is very good and the patio is gorgeous......I am never disappointed by their food.
Another thought would be hitting Treadwell in Port Dalhousie on the way there (lunch) or way back (dinner). It's divine and the setting beautiful (right on the canal with a gorgeous patio). I tend to avoid the restos in NOTL proper as they are so over-priced and the food generally sucks. Stone Road Grille and exception and I've heard good things about : http://www.theoldwineryrestaurant.com/ - heard the pizza was great, but haven't tried it yet....
Great list. I'd add Vineland Estates (lunch too), Fielding, and Hidden Bench. Not sure if you'll be able to get into Le Clos Jordanne; they don't have a "public" winery. The good news is that they'll have a fair bit more product on the shelves this fall.
Tuesday to Friday, try Zest in Fonthill for lunch. Zooma Zooma in Jordan might be worth a try. Henry of Pelham has a nice cafe (the Coach House) that is open in the summer, overseen by Erik Peacock of Wellington Court in St. Catharines. He's great.
Another nice lunch option, new this summer, is to pick up a picnic basket from the Good Earth Cooking School in Beamsville.
ah ha! that's what i was thinking when i saw the website... sadly likely no tasting space.
i'm pretty sure i've done henry of pelham (damn how the mind loses things), but the sounds of the other options are promising. i especially love the the idea of picking up a picnic basket as i've done an impromptu picnic on the muddy grounds of 30 bench before they were fully tour operable.
thanks so much!
apparently you gotta eat at Stone Road Grill- though I've yet to try it- just can't get the timing right.
Calamus was great for wine, i'd add that to the list- no eats. 30 Bench does a great guided tasting that we really had a good time with. I"ll try to remember some others that I'd recommend- we're going next Sunday.