If hours of tasting wine while being chauffeured around the Niagara Region sounds like an ideal day for you, then you’re going to love this post!
This past weekend was a day of sampling delicious local wines as a double date with my friend Amanda and her boyfriend. It was an early start to the day as we were picked up by Niagara Fun Tours in Niagara Falls at 10:30am. I’d say a good day is one that starts with some wine before noon. Besides, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right? Our driver agreed with me on this. We hopped on the bus and after a few more pick ups we were at our first stop – Diamond Estates Winery!
Diamond Estates is the second largest wine maker in Ontario and also works as a distributor for international wines as they store a number of wines in their facility. We were given a glimpse of their huge wine cellar for the tasting, where we started by sampling two wines from their FRESH line, their Moscato and Gewürtztraminer Riesling. Both were very light and fruity with a lot of citrus-like undertones. Perfect for the upcoming summer months for sitting out back on the patio! These both pair well with lighter dishes like fish, fruit, and vegetable-based dishes.
Afterwards we tried two from Dan Aykroyd’s line. Yes, you read that correctly – Dan Aykroyd has invested over a million dollars into the company and so voila, his own line of wines! We had a sample of his Merlot as well as one of his ice wines. In case you didn’t know, the Niagara Region is well-known for its ice wine and Ontario has the largest number of ice wineries in the country. Ice wine requires a little more preparation as the grapes are harvested at night during the winter, therefore the juice obtained is extremely concentrated and high in sugar. This past winter we had a brutally cold season which means next year you’ll see a great batch of ice wine! Okay, back to Dan. His wines were easy on the palette, but had a nice spice to them. As most reds, it would be perfectly paired with one of the nice juicy steaks you’ll be barbecuing this summer!
Our second stop on the tour was the breathtakingly gorgeous Konzelmann Estate Winery. The winery sits on the coast of Lake Ontario, offering a gorgeous view from the small lookout near the vineyard. We took a quick peek while admiring the beautiful architecture of the Germanic-style building before entering to feed our inner wine-os. The staff were absolutely wonderful as they walked us through each of the four wines we were tasting. We started with their Riesling, a nice light white with hints of citrus and lychee. Not quite as sweet as many of the Rieslings I’ve had, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Next was their Peachwine which was hands down the favourite of our group. Made using local Niagara-on-the-Lake farm peaches, this wine was like nothing I’ve ever tasted. An extremely refreshing summer wine, you’d love to be sipping this on the patio while catching some rays. I know that’s the main reason I bought a bottle, and I just might have to stop by again and get a few more! We then hopped over to their gentle merlot, nice and easy on the palette, and finished off with their Vidal Special Select Late Harvest ice wine. I was quite a fan of their ice wine as well. The Late Harvests are not as sweet as the regular Vidals, but I did find this one to be sweeter than the Ice House Winery‘s Late Harvest.
My favourite part of this stop (besides the actual tasting of course) was that our host gave us tips on what to look for in a structured tasting. I listened very carefully and took notes so I could share this information with you! When tasting new wines, you need to look for three things:
- Milkiness – if the wine specifically says it’s unfiltered, then it’s okay if the wine is slightly cloudy, otherwise the wine should be clear
- Smell – if the wine has a weird smell to it like that of acetone, sulfur, or wet basement (literally he said this) then this is probably a sign that something’s off
- Colour – the hardest to judge as you need to be very familiar with wines to know, but if the colour is darker than it should be this means that it has started oxidizing, meaning proceed with caution
So now you can take your new found knowledge, throw in some fancy words on how to describe the wine like ‘earthy’ and ‘full-bodied’, and you can impress all your friends, coworkers, etc!
With two wineries down and two to go, it was time for our lunch stop before heading on to winery numero trois. The bus took us to Harvest Barn, a local country market that features delicious meats, cheeses, salads, etc from the Niagara region. After picking up some treats, it was off to the Rancourt Winery where we sampled their Noble Rouge, Noble Blanc, and Rosé wines. In all honesty, I wasn’t a huge fan of their wines. I found all three to be quite bland. Mind you the Noble Rouge and Blanc are meant to be a very easy going wine and a great one for people just starting to get into wine as it’s easy on the palette. However I’m a
wine snob lady that knows what she likes, and these ones just weren’t for me! Although for a few extra bucks I sampled their ice wine, and that was delicious! Their Cabernet Sauvignon ice wine had a wonderful strawberry flavour with other berry undertones. If you’re going to sample any of them, I’d pick this one!
On the way to our final wine stop, our driver took us along a more scenic route which featured the country’s smallest chapel. It literally seats about 9 people. This tiny little gem had the whole bus giggling as it looked so out of place on the huge plot of land. We arrived at Rief Estate Winery to another gorgeous area (who am I kidding, pretty much any area around there is gorgeous) where we were taken to their back room for the tasting. We tried two of their whites, Riesling and Vidal, and their Riesling ice wine. Similar to Rancourt, I found their wines to be more dry, including their ice wine. For those that aren’t a fan of sweet wines, this would be the place for you. For me though, the draw was the grounds. Rief Estate Winery has an absolutely gorgeous garden, wine barrel fountain, and a wine cellar which you can walk in to admire the beautiful oak barrels the size of a small apartment.
The last stop was a different kind of treat as we were able to sample some of the sweet treats of Chocolate F/X. Their a fan of anything you can dip in chocolate, and so was I! Raisins, almonds, strawberries, and a lot of things in between to conquer any sweet tooth craving. My favourite was the yogurt covered almonds, but whatever tickles your fancy, they probably have it.
As this was my first multiple-stop wine tour, I was very pleased with the day! The four of us had an absolute blast and we all left with at least two bottles in hand. Small thanks to Groupon for all the emails as I probably wouldn’t have found it without their daily deals. Want to do the tour yourself? Check out Groupon or just head to Niagara Fun Tours’ website!