Before I begin, a quick happy thanksgiving to my American friends and followers! I hope you all enjoy the time you’re spending with your families and those you cherish. Wishing you all the best!
The third weekend of Taste the Season has been crossed off with the fourth and final weekend beginning tomorrow. Have you had a chance to grab your pass and check out some of the 25 wineries featured? I managed to visit five the first weekend, four in the second, and now another six during the third weekend. This past Saturday we focused on the stretch of wineries that follow the Niagara River, a separate appellation from other wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Our first stop was at Riverview Cellars, the furthest winery down the Niagara River from the town of NOTL. It’s quite a nice area with a somewhat cottage-like feeling inside as a lot of wood is used to decorate the interior. Here we had their 2013 Rosso, a Cabernet Merlot blend with a beef brisket slider topped with horseradish aioli, giving it a bit of a kick. The food & wine were quite delicious, however I must say I wasn’t impressed by their service. We had to wait a little bit (which is totally understandable, Saturdays are the busiest days for the wineries) but when we were attended to, the woman was not friendly at all. She didn’t greet us, just scanned our tickets and poured us the wine. Most of the wineries have told us a bit about their wines, but all she said was that it was “aged in a barrel” and that our food will be there shortly, and then proceeded to be extremely chatty and chummy with another couple. It was like a complete 180! I don’t know if it was because we were younger (we’ve had those looks before, like we’re just students looking for a cheap way to indulge in alcohol), but I was really not impressed considering other wineries have been extremely wonderful even while they’re swamped. All she had to say was “I’m just tending to this couple, I’ll be right with you to tell you more” and we would have been happy pandas! Unfortunately this wasn’t the case, and I don’t like talking badly about establishments, but with this service I won’t be back.
The tune changed as we arrived at our next stop, Inniskillin. As soon as we entered the grounds I can see why this is a hotspot for many winos, aficionados or otherwise. The area is absolutely beautiful as vines surround the buildings and inside is even more spectacular. (Fun side note: the grapes that have nets over them are specifically for ice wine as these help protect them until the deep freeze of winter when they’re harvested.) The architecture is wonderful with a mix of stone and wood as if modern meets traditional. Their beautiful high ceilings and open concept areas are wonderful especially since they’re paired with huge windows for lots of natural light even on a cloudy day! Here we were spoiled with their 2013 Oak Aged Vidal Icewine that was paired with a delectable Hubbard squash biscuit topped with a house made bruschetta, bacon marinated in icewine and smoked blue cheese. Now I’m not a blue cheese fan AT ALL but this combination was a treat for the tastebuds! The sweetness of the icewine contrasted against the savoury of the bacon and cheese was delightful. I could eat this one over and over again so if you’re going to hit any Taste the Season locations, this would be one of my top choices!
Just down the road is Reif Estate Winery, which we visited during the wine tour I did last April. These beautiful grounds still had some autumn leaves hanging on and it was busiest I’ve ever seen it! We past the hustle and bustle where we were shown to one of their cellars. With dim lights, wine barrels placed around the room, and beautiful low lights, it created an intimate setting as we sampled their 2013 Chardonnay paired with Tide & Vine’s Lobster Pumpkin Bisque. Extremely creamy and rich, the dry 2013 Chardonnay complements the bisque well as lobster can have a sweetness to it.
Our fourth winery was Lailey, a small winery set back in from the Niagara Parkway. You may notice the totem pole next to the driveway before noticing the winery itself! The building is quite unique as it is a combination of the homey feeling you’d have at a cottage mixed with a modern architectural design. Inside it’s fairly simple with a long bar where you can sample their wines. Unfortunately I can’t tell you much about their wines as no information was offered by those working, other than that we tasted their 2013 Syrah (also known as Shiraz) which was paired with a Pork Terrine (similar to a paté) with a blueberry compote. I haven’t had many Syrahs, but I found this red to be extremely smokey in flavour. It took away a lot of the taste from the pork, and like many reds I feel like it would pair better with a red meat. That’s just my two cents though!
Detouring off the Niagara Parkway, we arrived at Peller Estates Winery. Another stunning set up similar to Inniskillin, you get a great view of their vineyards from its slightly elevated vantage point. Unlike the other wineries, their Taste the Season special was outside as we were served their 2013 Private Reserve Gamay Noir with their spiced butternut squash and goat cheese flatbread topped with smoked forest mushrooms, roasted chestnuts and sage pesto fresh from their wood-fire oven. Both the 2013 and their 2012 vintages won the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines. It has a bold yet light taste with fruity undertones and a hint of spice. I’d say it’s probably one of my favourite red wines yet, and with Taste the Season we’ve been trying quite a few of them!
We didn’t have to go far for our last stop of the day, Two Sisters Vineyards. With Peller Estates in such close proximity, it has a little bit of competition but it’s not to be taken lightly! A beautifully elegant building that has castle like qualities as soon as you step inside its front doors. Its high ceilings and beautiful decor definitely make it fit for a princess… or two. Here we were treated to their 2013 Riesling which they paired with an Italian-inspired paté on a crostini garnished with pear chutney. The richness of the paté was cut by the Riesling as it wasn’t overly sweet, but a delicious citrus flavour appeared after sipping on it. It was extremely refreshing and would make not just a great wine to have with a light or rich dinner, but one to enjoy on a beautiful summer day! I’d love to return for another tasting to see if their other wines are just as delicious as this one. I’ll be sure to share my findings when I do!
After the past three weekends, you think we would be wine-d out! You could say we’re die hards as we still have eleven wineries left to visit… think we can manage to visit them all before 5pm on Sunday? I think so! Stay tuned for my fourth and final installment of Taste the Season next week, or maybe I’ll see you at a winery or two!