It's practically August which means it's time to ditch the poolside lounging in flip-flops and knock a few items off that summer bucket list, including a day trip to Niagara Peninsula for some wine tasting!
I've put together my personal, (hopefully soon to be certified Sommelier), favourite wineries to visit!
Leave Toronto with water, sunscreen, good walking shoes and morning bites with serious amounts of caffeine. Plan to be on the road by 8:30/9am which should put you at our first winery right when they open at 10am. Each winery has been planned with around a 1 hour stop to explore the grounds, taste, shop and soak up the unique vibe each winery offers. This trip will start you on the west side of wine country and have you end up all the way in Niagara on the Lake, on the far east side.
Winery 1 - Hidden Bench 10 am
Hidden Bench is an artisanal, terroir-focused winery producing excellent Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir. Utilizing Organic and Biodynamic principals they aim to produce world-class wine right in our own backyard. If you have never had what you or your friends have thought is "Good Canadian Wine" then this is it! I dare you to try and not pick up a few bottles for home!
Flights of wine start at $10 and go all the way up to $50 per person for the serious wine lover, just don't forget to spit as you have a long day ahead. If the group is more than 4, HB recommends you reserve your flight's in advance at 905.563.8700 ext. 24 or email email@example.com.
Would you believe the winemaker's name at Malivoire is Shiraz? Well, it is and trust me, his talent for wine goes well beyond just his name. Malivoire makes fabulous Rose, but my personal favourite, their Gamay. The Gamay grape, often overlooked and usually underappreciated, certainly shines through here in the terroir of Niagara. Think of this as Niagara "Beaujolais", the famed region in France that specializes in Gamay.
A flight of wine is only $10 but if you purchase more than $30 of wine, the fee is waived! #Fabulous
Lunch- Redstone Winery - Restaurant 12:30
Redstone Winery won Winery of the Year in 2017 by the National Wine Awards of Canada, need I say more? Grab a sunny seat on the patio (I would reserve in advance) and dine on artisinal pizza, fabulous salads or richer dishes such as Cornish Hen. Be sure to try some of their excellent Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc over lunch.
Make sure you grab a coffee before you leave, long afternoon ahead.
Winery 3- Tawse Winery 2pm
Tawse is an Organic and Biodynamic winery complete with a six-level, gravity-flow design, geothermal system and a wetland bio-filter...so don't pull up in a gas-guzzling hummer, ok? If you want to know what Biodynamic is, just ask them when you are there and they will be more than happy to share their passion for eco-friendly wine.
This winery is like a little slice of Burgundy in Ontario, Excellent Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sparkling. Sante!
A flight of wine of wine is only $8 but the fee is waived if you buy two or more bottles #StartTheCar
Winery 4- Southbrook Vineyards 3:30pm
What can I say about Southbrook other than, like Tawse, it's Organic, Biodynamic and LEED certified. Southbrook Vineyards has a legendary winemaker, Ann Sperling, who certainly knows her stuff. Ann thinks of herself more as a winegrower than a winemaker showcasing her firm belief that good wine is made in the vineyard, not the winery.
Their Poetica Chardonnay and Poetica Red (74% cabernet sauvignon, 23% cabernet franc and 3% Petit Verdot) are absolute musts to bring home, non-negotiable! I have a 2013 Poetica Chardonnay in Magnum format that I've been saving and will probably crack this summer.
Winery 5- Stratus 5pm
If there was a magazine titled "Winery Architectural Digest Canada" I assure you, Stratus would be on the front cover each month. I'm not sure what is more impressive, their state of the art modern facility, their insanely huge array of different varietals or the quality of the wine? I'm serious, I feel like I should be pulling up in a Porsche ready to taste around the globe while in an episode of some HGTV renovation show when they do the final review and the owners scream with glee.
Fancy some Tempranillo traditionally from Spain, they make one. How about Tannat? A rarer grape grown in the southwest of France near the Spanish border, guess what, they've got that too!
I personally think their Charles Baker Piccone Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay are certainly worth putting in the trunk for home! Truly impressive all around!
Dinner- Backhouse, Niagara-on-the-Lake 7pm
Executive Chef, Ryan Crawford will feed your soul with the chefs tasting menu for $99, other tasting menus are offered at $89 and $79 or simply a la carte. Focused on sourcing local ingredients, heck even Ryan was trained locally in Stratford, so it's sure to give you a slice of the Niagara life. Named in Air Canada's Enroute Magazine as a best new restaurant in 2016.
Hit the road after dinner by 9pm and be back in Toronto around 10:30pm.
The old days of having to fly to France for good wine and food are over! Get out there and see what our local talent has to offer.
We have outstanding wine, outstanding hospitality and outstanding cuisine right here, in Ontario.