Aug 3, 2014

Niagara-on-the-Lake: Wine Tour

Me and the the girls from grad school that I keep in touch with went on a wine tour at Niagara-on-the-Lake. This is becoming an annual event.

When I did the wine tour, I was a complete wine virgin. I couldn't really distinguish between wine tastes - I only knew that white wine was just a bit sweeter, red was more bitter than white wines, and dessert wines were very sweet. All red wines tasted the same too.

Since last year, I've had some wine on social occasions and have finally acquired the taste for it (beer.. is a different story). So I was excited to try the different types of wines on this trip!

My friend Melinda did research on each of the different wineries and selected ones that were in close vicinity and had good ratings. Each winery we went to had $2-3 wine tastings (sometimes $3 for three wines, or $2 for an ice wine tasting). Overall it was a very good deal! 

My approach to wine tastings: White wine first, red wine, then dessert wine. 

Bike Rentals: Zoom

This year we didn't buy a preset "package" which would have included bikes and pre-selected wineries. Instead we rented bikes from Zoom Leisure, and I choose the "Comfort Cruister" green which was such a smooth ride! For one full day, we had the bikes for $30.00! They came with convenient pouches that we were able to put waterbottles and sunglasses in as well. 

1st Winery: Strewn Vineyard

The wine tasting at Strewn: 3 wines 

Wine Tastings at Strewn Winery: 

  • Wine 1: Cottage Block 2013 (Sauvignon Blanc/Riesling) [white wine]: Aromas of tropical fruit and herban notes. Round, smooth palate with a refreshing finish.  ($12.75 / Semi-Dry 1)
  • Wine 2: Cabernet-Merlot 2010 [red wine]: Fully dry smooth red offers rich flavours of ripe fruit on a lovely smooth palate.  ($12.75 CDN /  Dry-0)
  • Wine 3:  Select Late Harvest Vidal 2011: [dessert wine] Vidal icewine grapes are pressed a second time, giving similar flavours of apricot orange, with one-third the sweetness, at one-third the price! ($16.00 CDN / Sweet-8)

My favourite: wine 3! What surprised me was that I found my favourite wine at the beginning of the trip - the "Select Late Harvest Vidal 2011" (description below). Essentially an icewine flavour at a third of the price!

2nd Winery: Hinterbrook Estate Winery

There was an Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Tasting Bar inside Hinterbrook Winery.

Hinterbrook Winery Wine Tastings 

  • Wine 1: 2013 Riesling [white wine]: Beautifully balanced, elegant flavours ($15.80 CDN / bottle)
  • Wine 2: 2012 Pinot Noir [red wine]: Classic flavours, sparking colour. ($24.80 CDN / bottle)
  • Wine 3: 2012 Merlot [red wine]: Yummy, plummy, cherry in a bottle ($19.80 CDN / bottle)
There was ice wine here, but it would cost an extra $2.00 in addition to the $3.00 tasting fee. 

My favourite wines here: I really enjoyed the riesling and pinot noir. Merlot was a bit stronger for me. 

I commented that if this was the "wine equivalent" of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this would be one of those rooms you weren't allowed to go into.
 My good friend Alisha took these lovely photos as we were relaxing on patio chairs out front :)

Lunch: Kurtz Orchard Markets

The Kurtz Orchard Marketplace in addition to specialty food preparations also served lunch. The sandwiches were massive ($10.95+ tax) but was more than enough for two people. 

Of all the samples in the store, this Asiago bread topper was the most delicious! It consists of herbs, spices, grapeseed oil and has been featured on the Food Network. I really could have eaten these straight out of the jar. 

Turkish Delights! Didn't have a chance to sample some. 

Parking our bikes at the Kurtz Orchard Market Place bike racks. 

3rd Winery: Lailey Vineyard

Wine tastings at Lailey: 

  • Wine 1: 2013 Sauvignon Blanc Niagara Peninsula VQA [white wine]: " Avery alluring, if not typical, nose of lemon pith and green grass along with hints or orange melon rind which leads to a palate that takes Savuginon Blanc to a different level. Sure there's a citrust zest and grassy/herbaceous notes but there's also tropicality: pineapple... Refreshing and very summary ($20 CDN/750 mL)
  • Wine 2: 2012 Vidal Select Late Harvest VQA [dessert wine]: Picked after the 15th of November but not while frozen aromas of caramelized pineapple and apple cider are predominant. Its mid-full weight with a silky smooth generous mouth feel ($20 CDN / 375 mL)
My favourite: Wine 2! Again I am a big fan of sweet dessert wines. These also had special wine glasses, so perhaps there was some placebo affect on the taste. 

4th Winery: Reif Estate Winery

Wine Tastings at Reifer Estate Winery:

  • Wine 1: Kerner [white wine] "this rare varietal is only grown in a a handful of vineyards in Ontario and is also known as a Trollinger x Riesling. With characteristic floral aromas and flavours, the bright acidity of this wine is complemented by the off-dry style in which it is made. ($14.95 CDN / 750 mL - Off Dry)
  • Wine 2: Pinot Shiraz - "The Magician" [red wine] : Aromas of raspberries, cherries, herbs, a touch of Niagara earth and a hint of black peper and cedar. On the palate, reaspberries, big bold cherries an dhints of pomegranate. ($29.95 / 750 mL)
  • Wine 3: Vidal Icewine: "Layered across aromas of tropical fruit, peach, apricot and honey follow through to the palate leading to an intense freshness highlighted by a crisp acidity." ($46.95 / 375 mL)
My favourite: Wine 3! Again the ice wine wins out. It was sweet and flavourful. I believe I have very expensive taste.  

5th Winery: Ice House Winery

At the ice house, we got to try "Ice wine Slushes".

How is ice wine harvested? "Icewine is a concentrated wine. Grapes left on the vine are netted when the leaves fall off and they go through a magicl transformation as temperature drop to develop nuances of exotic flavours. When it is -8 degrees Celsius, the frozen grapes are picked and pressed and the juice that flows from the press is naturally concentrated as some water remains behind in the press as ice." 

To make an icewine slushie: "Simply blend equal amounts of ice cubes with the Vidal or Cabarnet Slushies concentrated nectar."


A white flower, and what I thought was lavendar, but is actually "Butterfly Bush".

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