Throughout the month of November, 25 of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s wineries are opening their doors Friday-Sunday for the delicious wine and food tasting event known as Taste the Season! For ~$45CDN you can indulge in some of the seasons best flavours as we settle into the cooler weather with winter just around the corner. The best part? You don’t have to visit them all at once! Spread it out equally across the November weekends or go big and do as many as you can in one day. It’s the perfect excuse for consistent girl time, romantic dates, or just an excuse to drink more wine! You can visit each of the wineries once, just be sure to have a copy of your ticket either printed or on your smart phone so the wineries can scan it.
Robin and I have opted for the more laid back and spread out the enjoyment approach as we did five wineries clustered around Queenston Road, close to the Outlet Collection of Niagara. See?! You could even make it a wine, dine & shop day, how great does that sound? Anyways, we started at Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery, a 100+ year old farm and organic winery that has been within the family for 5 generations. It’s located in the sub-appellation of Niagara called St Davids Bench, which is different than others as it has the warmest weather on average. Therefore the soils are lighter, airflow and water drainage is more consistent, and it’s positioned on the highest elevation along the bench. Here we sampled their 2012 Sand & Gravel Redcoat which is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Paired with their delicious beef bourguignon with a cheesy puff pastry, this duo will warm you up from the inside out on the coldest of days! It helped to bring out so many flavours in the stew, and was a great wine to drink on its own. I find sometimes reds can be a little bitter, but this was not the case and it was full of hearty flavour.
After enjoying the beautiful vineyards it was off to our next destination! I missed the turn I originally wanted, so we decided to make Niagara College’s Teaching Winery our second stop! They have a wonderful building where you can not only taste wines but also learn about all of the aspects that go into winemaking. It’s a unique state of the art living laboratory for their students, and the first of its kind in North America! Here we tried their 2010 Cabernet Franc which they paired with a simple yet yummy Pork Capicola Crepe with caramelized onions and cheese stuffing. Drizzled on top was their ice syrup, made with the same grapes as ice wine but minus the fermentation. It was an interesting combination but was delightful on the palette, especially when paired with the beautiful sunshine and stellar view!
Next on the docket was Maleta Estate Winery. What I thought was a young winery has actually been around for quite some time! Ownership changed a little over 3 years ago, but it was previously known as Sunnieholme Winery which was founded in 1918! Nestled in on what used to be the shoreline of an ancient lakebed, the thin their vines to yield only two tonnes per acre. This means small quantities but higher quality wines! While we waited for the Taste the Season special, we tasted one of their Rieslings. It was unlike any riesling I had ever tasted, almost as if it was mixed with an ice wine. It wasn’t my cup of tea, however their 2006 Cabernet Merlot definitely was. It was a perfect pairing to their delightful Moroccan Lamb Tagine & Couscous. We had the pleasure of enjoying our food & wine with the chef Venus, who used to run her own catering business, but went back to school for international business! I’ll definitely be back to visit again soon to grab one of their delectable bottles of red wine and hopefully for another chat with Venus!
A few kilometres away was our next winery, Coyote’s Run. Similar to Maleta, they focus on producing small batches so that they can focus on a balance between complexity and flavour quality. Coyote’s Run is extremely unique as the vineyard is actually home to two – Red Paw and Black Paw. Red Paw consists of iron-rich soil that is perfect for fruity wines that are refreshing for the palette. Black Paw has a darker soil which retains moisture, producing richer winer that have bold, smokey undertones. For Taste the Season we sampled their 2013 Five Mile Red, a blend of Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah. The blend makes it an easy wine to drink and pairs nicely with simple meals or h’orderves, like the peach wood smoked pork loin layered on a crostino with caramelized red onions.
Last on the list for the day was Château des Charmes, and it was the perfect ending! Founded by Paul Bosc, a fifth generation wine grower, he definitely does so in style. A beautiful building with even more stellar grounds, if they take all this so seriously, of course their wine is amazing! Château des Charmes is Canada’s first commercial vineyard dedicated exclusively to vitis vinifera, a specific type of vine that is native to the Mediterranean, central Europe and southwestern Asia. Taste the Season-ers get to sample their Brut Sparkling Wine Méthode Traditionelle while nibbling on a mini spiced pumpkin pie. The pairing was perfect – and something to keep in mind if you’re hosting an upcoming dinner party! The sparkling wine wasn’t overly sweet, meaning it didn’t over power the pie or your taste buds. I might just break this out next time I’m a big girl and have a dinner party!
Compared to my Discovery Pass experience with Niagara’s Wine Fest, I found that most of the wineries for Taste the Season were sampling their reds rather than lighter whites like that of the Wine Fest. I’m not complaining, I love diversifying my wine flavour palette! However if reds aren’t your thing, I’d still give it a shot. Many of the wineries will let you taste more of their wines, and you’d be surprised how many pair well with the food! I’m already excited to try some more again this weekend. See you soon NOTL!