Casual Wine Country Lunches

So, you guys know I spend a lot of time at the wineries.

I adore wine, and we make some damn fine stuff here in Niagara. But one of the things I love about the wineries, is how each one really is different. Some are big, some are small. Some have large, beautiful buildings, accompanied by elegant atmosphere. Some are built in renovated old farmhouses. Some have stunning views of Lake Ontario. Some have beautiful vineyards to gaze at. Some have gorgeous sheep who help out in those vineyards. And you know how much I love my sheep.

The thing that is incredibly special, though, is that each place has its own distinctive personality. This, most of all, is what draws me to a particular winery over and over again. For me, the experience is not so much about specific varietals or tasting profiles, points, or awards. Certainly, what attracts me to a winery is whether I like their products, but more importantly, it’s their vibe.

Lately, I’m drawn to the ones that seem to be more – well – relaxed.

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Now, that’s not to say that these wineries don’t take their wine very seriously. Of course they do. But the atmosphere at these spots seems to be one of relaxed enjoyment – encouraging you to take it easy, smell the flowers (literally, at some of them), absorb the view, savour your wine and food. Wine country living at its finest.

I’ve already told you about some of the laid-back events I’ve enjoyed at the wineries lately. But what we haven’t talked much about yet is the food.

So let’s start talking.

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It’s been a crazy, crazy summer for us. To spend some time together and unwind a bit, Ken and I have made a point to get out for some lunch dates. There were many interesting options at the wineries, so that’s where we’ve ended up for most of them. Our only criteria was that there be good food, a chill vibe, and for me, yummy wine.

Here’s where we ended up.

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Creekside makes many wines that I enjoy, and I had heard good things about the food they have on The Deck.

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Chef Nathan Young, of In the Smoke Cookery and Catering, works his BBQ magic there every Friday through Monday until October 10th.

I had the Buttermilk Marinated Fried Chicken on a Bun.

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The chicken was tender and flavourful. And oh my, perfect fries to go with it. I washed it down with a glass of Creekside Syrah. Ken had the Creekside Deck Burger, which was so tasty, we neglected to get a photo of it. Sometimes that happens when you’re too excited to eat. #BloggerProblems.

There’s such a peaceful view from The Deck.

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It’s a great spot to sip, eat, and forget your worries for awhile.

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When it’s time to finally leave your seat, stop in at the tasting bar. There are so many good choices at Creekside, but I recommend you try the Reserve Viognier if possible. It’s gorgeous. I’ll have more on that coming up very soon.

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Our next lunch date was at Westcott.

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I keep going back to Westcott, cause there’s a lot I love there. First, beautiful Sparkling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. You can’t go wrong with anything you pick here. And remember that vibe thing I talked about earlier? Well, Westcott’s got an awesome vibe. Any day you go, you’ll see the family there, working hard in the tasting room or the vineyard or somewhere else behind the scenes. Their philosophy of “Let our wines tell our story”, also speaks to my wine and story-loving heart.

If that’s not all, they also have the adorable Emma and Nellie there to welcome you too.

There’s a patio with tables for lunch, and these Muskoka chairs invite you to linger with a glass of wine.

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Zooma at Westcott provides the delicious food there. Their offerings even inspired my picky eater Ken to be more adventurous. He had their special that day, the Moroccan Chicken Pizza

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Some interesting flavour combinations here. Chicken, Mozzarella, Spiced Pecans, and Roasted Strawberry Barbecue Sauce. I would never have expected Ken to try a dish like this. But try it he did, and he really liked it.

I went for the Slow Braised Beef on a Bun, with Truffle Aioli and Smoked Cheddar, with a glass of Westcott’s Pinot Noir.

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I’ll tell you that I’ve also tried Zooma’s Lobster Grilled Cheese and it is the food of the gods. With a glass of Westcott’s Chardonnay you will have found perfection. The Estate Chard is my fave.

A week later, in the middle of a very busy weekend, we decided to squeeze in a few moments of quiet at Reif Estate Winery’s Sensory Garden

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We arrived around 2:00. There were musicians playing quietly, and the front part of the garden had lots of customers relaxing and enjoying the afternoon. Ken and I walked just past that area and stumbled upon this tranquil spot in the back.

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We placed our order for the Classic Pepperoni Pizza and the Sausage Sliders. Yeah, Ken and I are major pizza freaks, and we eat a lot of it. But at any of the places we ate at, there were more selections than pizza. Just so you know for your own planning purposes.

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I also had a glass of Reif’s Sauvignon Blanc. Perfect for a hot summer’s day.

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What totally surprised me  – pleasantly though – were these sausage sliders. Just look at the generous portion here.

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Tasty too, with a nice little bite of heat.

For the last lunch I’m going to tell you about, guess what we had. Mm-hmm. I swear we don’t eat pizza every day. The research for this post was conducted over several weeks. But this last spot had been particularly recommended to me for their pizza. When you see it, you’ll know why.

This was at Honsberger Estate Winery.

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Friends, this was one of the best, best pizzas I’ve had in a long time. The crust was absolutely perfect for me. The toppings were fresh and delicious –  Mozzarella, Soppressatta, Roasted Red Peppers, Sliced Tomato, Arugula and Garlic Basil Oil. It also had the perfect amount of sauce – not too much, not too little. I’m not a fan of tomato sauce overload, and there was no worries about that here.

So, so good.

Honsberger has a wood-burning oven to bake the pizzas in. They make their dough themselves every morning too.

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Ken tried Da Hons Berger as well. Isn’t that a perfect fit for a name? Made with Ontario Beef, it came with Ontario Old Cheddar, Sautéed Red Onions, Red Peppers, and Dijon Aioli on a fresh house made egg bun. At first, he wasn’t too sure about the Dijon Aioli. Then I reminded him of his adventurous spirit with that Moroccan Chicken Pizza a couple of weeks before. He threw caution to the wind at that point.

Oh and did I mention they make their own Kettle Chips?

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I wish they sold the Kettle Chips to take home. Normal potato chips will just not seem the same after these.

The patio is a great spot.

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They’ve got the Friday Feeling in spades here at Honsberger. The feeling just intensifies with a glass of their 2014 Rosé

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But the feeling’s not just available on Fridays. Check the hours for The Oven at Honsberger Estate here.

If you’re interested in going to any of these wineries yourself, please check their websites for exact times, hours, and menus. Most are doing this until October, so there’s still time to get your casual winery food fix!

There are lots more to choose from too. Have you been to any wineries for lunch this summer? If so, let me know which ones have been your favourites.