Posts Tagged ‘Ontario’

The day started with a passable breakfast at the new restaurant adjacent to the hotel and we were soon on the road this bright and sunny and WINDY day. Once on the picturesque Niagara Parkway, we ambled along the edge of the gorge stopping at a few outlooks for pictures.  The drive was splendid and relaxing and though our tour reservations were for 1pm, we left with plenty of time for sight-seeing. One particular stop was at the Whirlpool and its one-of-a-kind-on-the-planet Spanish AeroCar!  A marvel of modern early 20th century engineering!  You won’t catch me on it!

We arrived at the winery at lunch time and relaxed in the Welcome Center with a Mozzarella & Parmesan cheese board, dry Riesling and Chardonnay as our wines.  Watching as people explored the courtyard or enjoyed their own snacks was interesting. The couple that shared our little snack space and also in our tour group were visiting from Milwaukee on their honeymoon. We proudly announced this as our 7th anniversary.  A nice couple.

The tour started with a basic introduction to the founders and theirhistory leading up to today.  Rather than rewrite all that, please visit the Inniskillin website and explore.  As our guide was yammering on about this and that, a truck rumbled into the lot, and the workers proceeded to start emptying into the crusher/de-stemmer. Aha! These Chardonnay grapes were plump and firm and felt ready to burst!

The tour meandered through quite a bit of the place, stopping here and there at various points along the production line. The main fermentation tanks are massive vats two stories tall and gleaming stainless steel! Below ground in their conference room and ageing cellars, various barrels and rooms held some of their test-batches and premier reserves.  I think the guide mentioned that with the barrels lining the pictured chamber, the Cabernet Sauvignon they held would be for private stock or special presentation wine. Not sure that that means, but I’ll bet the bottles would be expensive!!

At the end of the tour, was the much anticipated tasting! A Chardonnay Reserve, a Meritage and a Vidal Icewine…

Chardonnay VQA Reserve 2009: Pineapple and mango, hints of spice and vanilla fill the nose of this fully-oaked Chard. Tropical and creamy on the palate with a mineral finish. (LCBO ~$15/btl)

Meritage 2009: Cranberry and spice dominate thru an alcohol-evident aroma. The texture is smooth with a juicy tannin that leads to a lingering spicy finish. Not the most sophisticated Meritage I’ve tried but fun in this setting. I’m unsure of its availability or pricing.

Icewine Vidal VQA 2007: Oh my! At first sip, I thought it was pure honey. The second sip was a fascinating experience filled with lychee, dried apricot and fig. A balanced sweetness, though with the alcohol caressing the back of the throat. Not entirely sure of this style of wine as this is only the second time I’ve chanced to taste an icewine. (LCBO ~$50/btl @372ml.)

In the boutique, I found a Montague Estate Pinot Noir VQA 2004! Made with select grapes from their Montague Estate (sub-appellation: Four Mile Creek) this already 7yo Pinot is said to be a passable vintage carrying ripe red fruit and spice… I’ve now stored the bottle safely away with the plan of uncorking it on our 14th anniversary on 10-Oct-2018. I hope the fellow at the counter was correct in his assertion that this Pinot can be safely aged for up to 20 years… (winery only ~$25/btl)

A wonderful outing! Now we’re heading back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner and a trip to Fallsview Casino Resort!




**image credit: ME!!  I took all these picture myself. Logos and facilities are obviously copyrighted to the winery and shared under personal use. Want to see more of the images from Inniskillin, drop me a note and i’ll see what i can dig up for you.

This is our 7th anniversary!!  My partner and I are traveling from Toronto to the Niagara Region – enjoying a long long weekend together with scenery, wineries of the Niagara Region, perfect weather, the fall colors drenching the escarpment in gorgeous reds and yellows, Lake Ontario sparkling to the north, and each other as we meander our way along Hwy 8  –  stopping whenever we chance upon something interesting.

I could not have asked for anything more perfect!

A few minutes east but MILES away with respect to meso-climate from our first stop is our second stop: Angels Gate Winery, situated on the upper boundaries of the Beamsville Bench and the high-ground of the Escarpment proper. With grapes supplied from roughly 200 acres of vineyards and a broad range of varieties being grown, the three wines we sampled at their tasting bar may well have been the best so far…

This is probably one of the youngest wineries in the area, first planted in the mid 1990’s, releasing their first vintage in 2002.  The main building resembles something kinda-sorta Mission-styled with clean, simple lines; calm exterior; thick wooden doors and an impressive view of Lake Ontario.  The left side of the tasting bar is filled with wines – each bottle proudly adorned with the medal it has won from the various competitions around the world.

Süssreserve Riesling 2008: This semi-dry VQA Niagara Peninsula Riesling is one of the more unique I have tried.  Once the vino is fully fermented and almost finished, sweet Riesling juice is added just before bottling. A nose of fresh lime zest and white lily is accented on the palate by a refreshingly clean minerality. The linger is short, but still a tad sweet.  Chinese or Thai food would be cool!  (LCBO ~$14/btl)

VQA Cabernet Franc 2008: Teasing hints of red licorice tickle the nose as ripe red fruits fill the palate.  Cab Franc is one of my favorite reds and this smooth vino only reaffirms with medium-weight, low tannins and a warm lingering finish.  This perfectly oaked vino is both integrated and tantalizing. (winery only @ $17/btl)

VQA Gewürztraminer 2008: I’m very accustomed to this type of wine presenting itself as sweet and full – I was surprised at how dry this wine its.  Unmistakably rich, this vino has more orange and pear aromas and less acidity on the palate than others. For a grape whose characteristics are mildly spicy, the melon flavors on the palate are quite refreshing. (LCBO @ ~$16/btl)

Next episode, we visit Inniskillin!  I’m very excited to be sharing this adventure.




**image credits – ME!!!  I took these picture myself! Visiting this winery was fun and the weather couldn’t’ve been move amazing.  Yay!

This is our 7th anniversary!!  My partner and I have traveled to all corners of North America, escaped to Hawaii and even wandered around Paris, France – but we’ve never really explored what lies close to my front door.  I wanted to do something we’ve never done before here in Ontario, so I planned a long long weekend together enjoying the scenery and wineries of the Niagara Region.  The weather was perfect, the fall colors drenched the escarpment in gorgeous reds and yellows, Lake Ontario sparkled to the north as we meandered our way along Hwy 8…  Couldn’t ask for anything more perfect.

The first winery we chanced upon would be Peninsula Ridge, situated on the the bench-lands in Beamsville. The mineral-rich terroir fills the grapes with a lively acidity and sparking sweetness that is totally unique to this appellation.

Established in 2000, this winery boasts a complex yet simple marriage of new-world harvesting and fermentation technology to old-world barrel-aging to give their wines class and quality.  The Kitchen House, a restored Queen Anne-styled manor built in the late 1800’s is their on-site restaurant – though we were there a little early to try it.

Their boutique was dressed in varnished wood and limestone accents; tasting bar was welcoming with black granite counter-tops. We were greeted with a smile and excitedly presented the tasting menu. Though most of this winery’s vinos are only sold AT the boutique, I made sure to try wines available at our LCBO stores so you can find them and try for yourself:

INOX Chardonnay 2008: The twangy notes of flint, limestone and oranges are immediately evident in the nose of this unoaked Chardonnay.  Flavors of oranges and ripe peaches open up on the palate and balance decently with a long finish.  This vino would be great with a breaded white-fleshed fish. (LCBO price is ~$13/btl)

Merlot 2008: Like most of this winery’s Merlots, this is an unfiltered* wine. My nose was greeted with ripe black cherries, plums and a hint of smoke.  A round palate of succulent hints of chocolate, cherry and firm tannins lingered loooooooooooooooong with lip-smacking notes of oak and cedar.  (LCBO price ~$13/btl)

Reserve Riesling 2008:  This turned out to be a semi-sweet Riesling (2) with a remarkable aroma of fresh pineapple!  The palate was brightly acidic with the pineapple flavor carrying straight through to the finish.   (winery only at ~$20/bottle)

This first stop on my three winery tour was most enlightening.  I can’t wait to see what more this area is hiding!! =D




*please refer to the Clarification paragraph in “Grape to Glass“. “Unfiltered” simply means that during ‘racking’, no devices were used to trap any free-flowing sediment. Decant this wine and pour slowly to mitigate any bits going into your glass. This is the most traditional Merlot vinting and produces a nicer more authentic essence to a Merlot so sip slower and savour the vino. Bits-and-pieces in the bottom of the glass are just fine!!!

** images credits: ME!!! I took these pictures MYSELF! The names and labels are owned by the winery. Thank you Peninsula Ridge for an awesome visit!

Its becoming incredibly difficult to find a barrel-aged Chardonnay these days.  I’m having to look more closely at a lot of Chardonnay labels to determine stainless steel or barrel finishing.  So when I spotted this last bottle of Strewn Winery’s Ontario Premium Barrel-Aged Chardonnay VQA 2008 on the shelf at my local LCBO, I snagged it not caring about its $13.95 price tag.

I made the mistake of putting the bottle in the fridge this morning – to make it good and cold for sipping after a hard day at the office. Huge mistake!  Far too cold and muted, the first impression on my nostrils was BACON!  Oh my! What have I done! *grumble   (who doesn’t like bacon, but really – wine?! No!)  I stoppered the bottle, saved the cork, (I was very pleased to see the wine maker chose to use a natural (if not lower grade) cork) and let the bottle rest on the counter.  Twenty or so minutes later as my honey and dijon marinated pork chop neared completion on the grill, I took up the wine again.

Much better!  A lightly spiced baked apple aroma confirms the barrel-aging was accomplished in a combination of American and French oak, lightly toasted. The lustrous golden color and 12.5% alc/vol offered a smooth flavor of cling-stone peaches and subtle flowery tickles.  Moderate acidity and medium-bodied in mouth feel with only a faint wisp of lingering wood; the finish carries a decently pleasing, fairly complex mineral twang.

I have no idea what supplies of this wine are like at various LCBO stores, so check their website.  If you’re not into fresh Ontario pork as much as I am to go with this basic barrel-aged Chardonnay, try it with a home-made Alfredo Linguine! The interaction of the rich sauce and assertive wine would be most pleasing!




*image credit – Strewn Winery – fair use provisions for review and critique.

For a little longer than I care to admit, I lived in Chatham, Ontario; which lies pretty much equidistant from London, Windsor, Lake St Clair and especially Lake Erie. It wasn’t until I had moved away that I discovered a good many wineries exist along this moderating influence’s northern shores.  One such winery is Colio Estates in the small town of Harrow. The meso-climate is much more conducive to thinner-skinned white varietals such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer hence my interest in this appellation.

The softly-pale yellow of this wine carried wisps of honey and baked apple to the nose. As its medium body was gently swirled in a small tasting glass, the balance of its 11.5% alcohol content is evident by a subtly legging. A mild acidity on the tongue with a pleasant hint of spritzich is complimented by lively lemon zest and a semi-dry honey finish.

I sipped this wine all by itself with no outside influences – unless you count the late hour and my watching BBC World News as an outside influence. My opinions lean toward cheese-stuffed ravioli in a simple marinara as a perfect food match. Grilled sausage might be a little too spicy for the wine, but a veal schnitzel would be great!

Colio Estates Vineyards Lake Erie Northshore VQA Reserve Riesling 2007. This wine is available at the estates’ boutiques found inside several major grocery stores from Windsor to Ottawa.




*image credit – Colio Estates – fair use provisions for review and critique.

I’ve held off reviewing some of my more favorite wines on purpose.  I tend to be more than a little biased when it comes to the spectacular wines of the Niagara Region. The purpose of any appellation is to preserve and authenticate the distinction and character of any ‘local’ vino.  There are several ‘layers’ to the appellations within the Vintners Quality Alliance of Ontario [VQAO] and all are strictly monitored. (I’ll be covering this in a future installment of my vino series – be sure to read ‘Ground to Grape” and “Grape to Glass”!)

I am entertaining guests for dinner tonight and have prepared a NY Strip roast; the very same hunk of beef from which NY Strip steaks are carved. The ample marbling of fat is full of tremendous flavors and melt-in-the-mouth succulence that is nothing short of perfection when roasted to a medium rare.

I normally chug Merlot, gulp Cab Sauv., and slosh about with a cheerful Cab Franc.  Rhyming with and pronounced just like heritage; Meritage is a skillfully blended Bordeaux-style wine from all three of these varietals- created in California’s Napa Valley in the late 1990s.  Why blend these otherwise distinctive varietals when they’re perfect on their own? Check out this concise entry on Wikipedia about Meritage. Very few wines earned VQA status in ’05 & ’06 owing to unfavorable meso-climate. 2007 turned out to be a bumper year for superb fruit quality and yield.

This bottle of Jackson-Triggs Proprietors’ Reserve VQA Meritage 2007 is pretty much an equal blend of Cabernet Franc (37%), Cabernet Sauvignon (36%), and Merlot (27%). Owing to my tendency to gulp Merlot or CS, I savor CF a bit more as its a brighter tasting Cab.  Cab Sauv can be stuffy and complex at times and Merlot can be downright stodgy.  The blend of all three is sublime.  I generally don’t decant red wine as a 750ml bottle doesn’t last long enough once uncorked to worry about it catching its breath. This time was a switch.  I just purchased a new decanter and needed an excuse for its maiden voyage. About 30 minutes before my guests arrived and approximately 45 minutes before food was served, I playfully and quickly glugged the whole bottle of this dense purple wine into the decanter and loosely stoppered it with a crystal ball.

Upon serving, the bouquet was of soft mulberry jam, and plum preserves with hints of black currant.  We toasted the table with uplifted glasses and graciously sipped to seal the meal.  A complex weave of subtle dried raspberry and a smooth medium body lingered wonderfully with the Meritage-blend of both French and American oak-aged finishing.  Other vinofolks with whom I have discussed this wine claim its overly ‘jammy’ or ‘gritty’ and give it a very low rating for its price-point.  I don’t see any of those qualities in this vino.

Though I served a medium-rare NY Strip roast,  you might also enjoy a Crown-Roast of pork or grilled lamb chops. Mmmm! Lamb chops…

A glorious example of a Niagara Peninsula vintner doing it right for $14/bottle.

One of my favorites.



There exists in southern Ontario’s Niagara Region a number of cooperatives of grape producers who are reasonably skilled at blending freshly-pressed juices together to produce modestly priced, finished wines for sale at kiosks within local grocery store chains. One such cooperative is the collection of vineyards known as Hillebrand Estates. These small boutiques are just beyond the checkouts and close to the exits. You can’t help but pass them on the way out to your car.

“Oh! Lets get a bottle of wine for dinner,” she exclaims as you both approach the shop.

“What a great idea, Sweetie!” you agree smartly. “What are we making tonight?”

“Well, dear,” she says studying the contents of the shopping cart. “We’ve got the makings of chicken a la king in here…”

“Darling, you’re a genius! Everyone knows white wine goes with white meat!! ” You reach for the first clear bottle you spy and read the label. Hillebrand Sauvignon Blanc

The astute clerk, trained in just this sort of situation, notices your random bottle snatching.

“You must be preparing a turkey dish, Sir,” the clerk opens the conversation.

“No, actually, chicken a la king!” the missus exclaims proudly.

The clerk glows at Mr Man. “You must know your wines then, Sir as that Hillebrand Sauv Blanc is perfect for white-meat dishes with creamy sauces!!”

He raises an eyebrow.  “How so?”

“Its flavors of fresh apple and pear and lively acidity match nicely to cleanse the palate between rich, creamy mouthfuls of pasta and chicken. You must be a fabulous cook!”

“Ahem!!” the missus interjects.  “He couldn’t boil an egg!! I think he just got lucky picking up that bottle.”

“Don’t be fooled by this wine’s modest $9.95 price tag, ma’am.  Chill the bottle for a couple hours and share a glass as you prepare dinner. Once the meal is set, pour two glasses and enjoy!”

“What if we don’t finish it with dinner?” Mr Man asks.

“Not to worry, a few of those fresh strawberries in a glass and a dash of that ginger ale will make wonderful spritzers later on when you watch the late-night movie.”

Mr and Mrs finally agree on something and nod in unison” “Niiiice!!”


Another white review? Yes and I have to share!!

I sampled Inniskillin’s Riesling Reserve 2003 five or so years ago and was blown away by its beauty. Back then, this wine was a trip back in time to when I first visited London England and bought a tin of Lemon Drop candy from Mark’s & Spencer for 45p.  The fragrant scent of sweet lemons and powdered sugar floods my nostrils even now! Until I regain my composure and…

…sling my palate onto this 2008 Riesling Reserve.  Though five years is small change in the life of good rootstock, the subtle changes in macro- and micro- climate, a late Indian Summer allowing for harvesting well into the late autumn, and a few months on lees has shifted the characteristics only slightly. Inniskillin is  known for using stainless steel barrels for most of their wines – the truest personality of the grape comes through with no confusion.

Delicate wafts of freshly zested limes hold hands with peach blossoms and dance a gossamer-light ballet on the tongue! A crisp acidity accompanies a slightly mineral finish.

For fun, try making your own sushi at home – this wine would be perfect with sushi-grade salmon, red snapper, surf clam and white tuna! Mmmm!!!