Wild Weekend: Day 4
Posted on June 19th, 2008 in Are You Gonna Eat That?, Does All Her Own Stunts, Life List, Made In Ontario, Photos
We were both exhausted, and it felt like I was moving in slow motion. We got cleaned up, packed our things, and I ran down to fetch our complementary coffee and breakfast from the lobby. The coffee wasn’t that great, but at that point we didn’t care. We got a little food down, and I wrote down the directions to where our wine tour was starting, and then we checked out and loaded our stuff into the truck.
For those of you who are not familiar, the Niagara region is home to some of the finest wineries in Canada. The peninsula is only 40 km long, and quite narrow, so the competition for vineyard space is fierce. Many of the wines produced here are not available in stores, you must actually visit the winery itself to taste and purchase. Niagara On The Lake, which is a tiny town in the heart of wine country, is steeped in history. When the Americans invaded during the war of 1812 they burned it to the ground, but it’s been rebuilt and restored to it’s original glory. Most of the buildings on the main street were constructed in the years immediately following the war, and they have been beautifully cared for and maintained ever since. Honestly, if you’ve never visited, and you get the opportunity, GO! It’s something to see.
After about an hour and a half of driving, we reached Niagara On The Lake well ahead of time for the tour. I showed Padme around the town some, and then we parked on main street and browsed through some of the fabulous little shops found there. We could have spent the day I am sure, but I wanted to take her by Peller Estates before the tour, since it wasn’t on the itinerary and I’ve been dying to get another bottle of their Ice Cuvée (one of the types you can’t get in stores).
The Peller Estates winery is absolutely gorgeous. We took some photos of the outside before we went in to the wine boutique.
We browsed the different wines they offered, and when I came across their 2002 Signature Series Cabernet Franc, I thought of Jack and decided to pick him up a bottle for Father’s Day. He’s more of a red wine drinker than I am, so we tend to have a lot of white wines at the house. I was sure he’d really enjoy this particular wine, and 2002 was a great year for us (we got married, bought our first place, and had our first child).
When I found a bottle of the Ice Cuvée I love, I discovered it comes in Rosé now as well. Even though I am generally not partial to those types of wine, I decided it would be worth a try anyway. Who knows, maybe I’ll love it as a sparkling wine.
In addition to the wine, I also got Jack a box of Ice Wine Chocolates. They are sooooooo rich, and such a nice treat really. He and I both have way too many ‘things’ which is why I wanted to get him some treats over the weekend for Father’s Day.
When we finished up at Peller, we drove to the appointed meeting place for our guided tour. We ended up being the only people on the wine tour that day, which was actually fabulous, because our director was fantastic and really made the afternoon so much more than we imagined. He’s a history buff, so he talked a lot about the region and shared so many facts about wine making and about the war and the American invasion. I wish I’d been taking notes, LOL, it was the best history/economy lesson I’ve ever had!
Our first stop was Jackson Triggs. That’s one impressive winery! They actually put together all of the wine making equipment, and then built the ‘modern barn’ around it.
We were shown around the outside of the winery, and the young woman who did the tour there was fantastic. I learned all sorts of interesting information about the process of wine making that I hadn’t known before.
She took us through the inside of the winery as well. We were shown the wine press, and the stainless steel tanks where white wines (and some reds) are aged. There were two levels of tanks, housing rows and rows of them. I was so glad that we were allowed to take photos inside, even if the lighting was terrible and difficult to work with.
Once we’d seen the processing and fermentation area, we got to go downstairs, underground, to their equally impressive barrel cellar, where the red wines are aged in French and American oak barrels.
Let me tell you, the smell down there is AMAZING! If you were down there long enough, believe it or not, you could get drunk off the fumes alone (apparently some of the enormous cellars in France restrict visiting times to 20 minutes or less for this reason).
Their barrel cellar features a dining area as well, which can be rented out for weddings, corporate events, or other special occasions. I think I want to have my birthday celebration there one year. Maybe when I turn 30, LOL.
When our official tour was over, we got to taste three varieties of their wine. We had a few very obnoxious people on our tour, so I’ll admit I was relieved when it was over. The wines we tried were quite excellent, and we both ended up picking up a bottle of their Delaine Vineyard 2005 Riesling.
Our driver/guide picked us up when our Jackson Triggs tour was finished, and off we went to the next stop, Strewn Winery.
It was neat to be going from a huge operation like Jackson Triggs, to a much smaller set up like Strewn. They also have a really neat program, which helps finance their barrels, and gives people an opportunity to invest in the winery in exchange for some fantastic returns. Basically, you purchase a barrel (between $400-$700) and then Strewn uses it in their cellar. You do not get the wine in the barrel, but each year for five years you get about $150 to spend in their wine boutique. It’s designed so that you actually get more back than you initially invested.
While we were doing a tasting in the cellar, we got to try a very young wine that hadn’t aged long enough, directly from one of the barrels. That was a very neat experience because most people never have the opportunity to taste a ‘new’ wine right out of the barrel.
I didn’t end up purchasing any wine there, although I intend to go back and buy some of their second press ice wine, which is more affordable than regular ice wine and not as intensely sweet. It’s essentially, a perfect wine for me. Sweet but not too sweet, and cheap enough that we could buy a case of it to keep in hand. Also I could justify cooking with it, which I am dying to try, and which I don’t think I could do with a regular $50 bottle of ice wine.
Outside of Strewn were several clumps of rose bushes. Did you know that wine growers plant rose bushes at the ends of grape vine rows, or near to their vineyards, to help check for disease? Roses are very susceptible to insects, parasites, and diseases that might affect the grapes. So, they check the roses every day to see if something is the matter with them, and if there is trouble, they can start walking the vines to find out if it’s spread to the vineyard.
Cattail Estate Wineryis a small, family run business. They have been growing grapes since 1957, but only recently have they established a wine making facility. They bottle their wines by hand, and you can tell that everyone who works there really cares a great deal about the wine they produce.
I loved the small, friendly feel of the place. Their wines were excellent, and we had a great time bantering with the young woman who took us on the tour and provided us with cheese, crackers, and fruit with our tasting. That was nice because Padme and I were both beginning to feel a little intoxicated, LOL.
I didn’t purchase any wine there either, although I cannot wait to take Jack there for a tasting!
Our last stop on the wine tour was Caroline Cellars, another smaller winery. I really loved the inside of their winery, and I’d like to go back to try some of their other fruit wines. As it was, I took home a bottle of their very sweet and delicious 2006 Winter Peach.
I was sad to see our tour come to an end, but the day wasn’t over yet! I still wanted to take Padme to see Niagara Falls, and grab a bite to eat before we headed home.
115. Take a wine tour
We bid our guide a good evening, he was so wonderful I think I’ll request him on future tours. Also, I highly recommend Crush Tours if you’re planning to be in the Niagara area. They were fantastic, totally accommodating, and very friendly. I intend to book tours with them down the road when our family comes out to visit.
It was crazy at the falls, of course. Being a Sunday, and Father’s Day no less, there were people everywhere! We walked along the wall that overlooks the river and the falls themselves. Padme was quite impressed it seemed, and she took a ton of pictures. I snapped a few close ups with my camera as well.
We strolled through a couple of souviner shops as well, so that Padme could pick up some momentos for her kids. Since there wasn’t much in the way of dining near the falls, and parking there is a nightmare, we just grabbed some sandwiches from Tim Hortons and ate them outside. There was a very stupid and persistent seagull who was intent on getting food from us. He kept creeping closer, then he’d squalk a few times and tilt his head to regard us with his beady eyes. Eventually I started throwing rocks at him, despite the fact that I was tempted to give him some food. I knew that if I did he’d just call 50 of his buddies over or become even more annoying.
It was getting late in the day, so we headed for home. Padme was able to nap some in the car, which I didn’t mind at all.
Back at my place, we relaxed in the living room and drank some ice wine, which I had purchased weeks before for just that occassion. It was nice to unwind after such a busy day, and I felt exhausted. I think I was out before my head even hit the pillow!
Make sure to check Padme’s blog for her posts about the weekend as well
Wild Weekend Posts: