It’s hard to believe we’re already a week into October! With the end of September it was the last weekend for the Niagara Wine Festival. For three weekends wineries from all over Niagara came and set up tents in Montebello Park to celebrate the area’s grape-y goodness. It’s a great place to get acquainted with many of the wineries without worrying about driving. Safety first, kids! However, a word to the wise – be careful when leaving and re-entering. There was no area for smokers/vapers so many people got forced outside because they had reached capacity so security just closed the fence with no warning! They were super unprofessional about it also in that I was sitting there by myself since Robin went out to vape and were less than helpful. If anything the proceeded to talk down to me and made it seem as if it was my fault. The nerve! Although we didn’t let that stop us, and we took it as a sign to head home as we had a full schedule for the final day of the festival.
Amanda and Kyle came in and we made a full day of it as we picked up some Discovery Passes. For $40 you can indulge in food and wine tastings at 8 of the many wineries scattered throughout the Niagara Region. I’d suggest grabbing these passes as the food and wine pairing experience is $10 on it’s own, meaning you get it half price! The passes can be used across the three weekends so you don’t have to indulge all in one day. However… why not do them all in one day? Go big or go home right?
And with that we made our way to Vineland where I strategically discovered 8 wineries that were all within walking distance. It was a long day but worth every step, so think of this entry as your guide to Vineland’s wineries! Also don’t eat too much before starting – the portions are quite satisfying.
ONE :: Stoney Ridge Estate Winery
We began at Stoney Ridge Estate Winery, which opened in 1985. They feature more than 30 products, although you’ll probably recognize them most for their Tragically Hip wine. Here we tried their 2013 Gewurtztraminer paired with a delicious apple sweet potato ginger soup. Their Gewurtztraminer was quite light and not overly sweet, thus making it a good pairing with the soup as it was already quite sweet itself. The winery also has a beautiful patio where you can enjoy some sunshine while sipping on a nice refreshing glass of wine.
TWO :: Kacaba Vineyards
A short 15 minute walk down King Street takes you to Kacaba Vineyards. With its first vintage in 1999, the winery has won a number of prestigious awards. This is a no-brainer as they had their 2010 Reserve Syrah paired with a melt-in-your-mouth roast duck on golden mashed potatoes with a delicious fruity glaze. Kacaba is one of the first wineries to grow the grapes specific for Syrah wines, and they are all about the quality. Usually they have 8 tons of grapes but with this batch they only had about 2 to ensure better quality – and it showed! It was probably the best red we had with tons of body and lots of flavour. A perfect hearty wine to snuggle up inside with since winter’s coming!
THREE :: GreenLane Estate Winery
Our next stop was GreenLane Estate Winery, where we were greeted by their lovely staff. As we waited for our food pairing to be prepared, we were invited to taste a few of their other wines. They had a wide range of both whites and reds to choose from, although their Chardonnay is absolutely delightful. As I’m practically religious to Rieslings, it was quite a surprise! We then indulged in their Turkey Porchetta which was paired with their 2013 Rosé. I love how versatile Rosé wine is, and it was a great reminder that it pairs great with turkey… perfect for Thanksgiving!
FOUR :: Tawse Winery
We then made our way off the beaten path into wine country as we came upon Tawse Winery. The grounds are absolutely beautiful as you walk into a modern wine bar. For the Discovery Pass we were led through glass doors and into their inner workings for their 2012 Cabernet Merlot paired with braised short rib bolognese on orecchiette. Here we learned they have some of the oldest riesling vines in Ontario, and they have six daughter vineyards scattered throughout the Niagara Region.
FIVE :: Megalomaniac
Megalomaniac was our next stop as we wandered through their beautiful open concept showroom. They have a number of wines, all with their own flair and feel. We had their Groundbreaker, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir blend while enjoying a beef slider with bacon, caramelized onions, and dijon mustard. For an extra $5 you could try four of their wines, like their Narcissist Riesling and Bubblehead Sparkling. After seeing their beautiful vineyards, you’ll want to enjoy a glass or two. Since it was a clear day we could see as far as Lake Ontario!
SIX :: Ridgepoint Wines
From Megalomaniac we could see a smaller building a little further in the distance. A short walk cured our curiosity as we arrived at our next winery, Ridgepoint Wines. Here we tasted their 2010 Pinot Noir and 2010 Merlot Cabernet Aglianice which was paired with a mushroom risotto and lamb skewer. Their focus is on reds as over half their vineyard is dedicated to three varieties of red wine grapes.
SEVEN :: Vineland Estates Winery
Our second last stop was at Vineland Estates Winery, a beautiful complex that includes a restaurant and beautiful event facilities as well as their wonderfully rustic showroom. We were lead down into their cellar to enjoy our Discovery Pass experience, but not before being invited back up afterwards by one of their lovely staff. We indulged in a cold cashew corn chowder and maple greens wrapped in prosciutto while enjoying their 2014 Riesling and 2013 Cabernet Franc. The Riesling is the product of their oldest vines and is full of flavour – hands down our favourite Riesling of the day! I’d definitely suggest a full visit here to explore the grounds as many of the buildings are over 100 years old, and the scenery is just delightful. I didn’t want to leave!
EIGHT :: Featherstone Estate Winery
Last but not least was Featherstone Estate Winery. A small family-operated winery along Victoria Avenue. Unfortunately we were too late to enjoy their food experience, but we were able to taste their 2012 Gemstone, a Baco Noir blend. We were told it pairs nicely with red meats, making it great for barbeques. The winery itself is really beautiful and quaint, and their little pup wandering around gives it a homey feel.
The four of us had a wonderful time exploring a part of the Niagara Region we wouldn’t have normally. I’d highly suggest taking the time to visit a few of these wonderful wineries, and maybe even do the tour yourself next year! If you do, I’d suggest doing it in reverse so you avoid going up some steep hills like we had to. The Discovery Pass was a great opportunity and worth every penny. The next wine festival is Niagara’s Icewine Festival in January which also has a Discovery Pass… which I just might have to look into!