Graze the Bench

A couple of months ago, in this post, I suggested five events that you absolutely should attend this summer. In that same post, I made a prediction. I predicted that the weather would be beautiful for Graze the Bench.

Know what? It was.

Not only am I a B&B owner and blogger, I can now add “weather-predictor” to my resumé. I also believe I can add “event-recommender” to the list. If all of the events I listed are as good as Graze the Bench was, we’re in for one helluva summer.

Graze the Bench was awesome. Truly. I had such a good time.

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The event was so well-organized. All of the volunteers were cheerful, and helpful. The food was delicious. The wines, scrumptious and well-matched. Great music, beautiful weather, stunning scenery.

Really, who could ask for anything more?

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I had the foresight to purchase a weekend pass – I could take my time, and get to as many of the wineries as possible. Eight were participating, and we got to six of them over the two days. So when we arrived, I picked up my wine glass, ready to sample away. I have to say that this wine glass was pretty unique. It was one of those stemless ones, with a thumb impression. Much easier to hold, and a great idea.

So.

We started at Rosewood Estates Winery. They were offering a Smoked Meat sandwich on rye, created by Chef Patrick Engel. I had this with the 2013 Locked and Loaded, a red blend. Ken, being from Montreal, can never resist a smoked meat sandwich. I can never resist a good red. So it was a perfect match.

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The party was already under way, with great music from Tianna H & Jazz with a Twist.

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They had the crowd clapping, dancing, some were even singing along. Great music.

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Then it was time to wind our way through the vineyard to Angels Gate Winery.

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When we turned around, this was our view.

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I was very excited for this stop. The Smokin’ Buddha was here!

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With a glass of Angels Gate Gamay, I got ready to chow down on my Indonesian Beef Pocket.

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It was gorgeously spicy and tasty. I would expect nothing less from Kevin at The Smokin’ Buddha

Listening to music from Tuxedo Bluegrass, I indulged in one of my favourite pastimes, people-watching.

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Then it was time to cross the street, heading over to Thirty Bench

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But alas, we had run out of food and wine tokens by this time, so we needed some more. Here I am very sternly summoning Ken to buy said tickets – it was his turn. I take my tokens seriously, as seen in this photo.

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Then I got the most wonderful surprise, and bumped into Melissa, an old friend from high school

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We hugged and squealed, just like the old days. We had to catch up quickly, as she was on her way to another winery with friends. So good to see her!

Then it was time for the magnificent Surf & Turf Burger, from Tide & Vine, which I paired with the 2013 Winemaker’s Red from Thirty Bench. I really loved this burger.

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And did more people watching

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Seriously, aside from the food and the wine, one of the things I love about these events is the people. Everyone I saw was having a great time, and there was just such a happy vibe going on. Feeling pretty cheerful ourselves, we called it a day, saving the other three wineries for the next day.

Sunday, we decided to begin at Mike Weir Winery. And what did we see when we first arrived? Our friends from Niagara Culinary Tours, about to start some grazing with friends.

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So we tagged along for a bit.

But first we had to get some shots of the rolling vineyard around Mike Weir Winery. The last time I was here was for the Icewine Festival, and it was a grey, cold day. I knew the scenery would be beautiful in the warmer months. It did not disappoint.

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Then we had their featured pairing, the Pingue Prosciutto & Fennel Sausage with Niagara Summer Slaw, created by Chef Mark Hand. There was a nice spicy kick to this dish, and we loved it. I washed it down with the 2011 Unoaked Chardonnay. I’m typically an oaky-chard girl, but this was nice.

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Then we made our way to Fielding Winery.

Fielding was really rocking.

A group of fun-loving ladies were trying to get just about everybody up and dancing. They may or may not have enticed me to join them, which I will blame on the lovely Fielding 2014 Sauvignon Blanc. There are no pictures of this momentous occasion, for which I am truly grateful.

There are some pictures of others dancing, and having a great time.

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We didn’t get any food here, but I had a sample of the Sauvignon Blanc. We listened to the music, chatted, and of course, people-watched. I also made a point of picking up a bottle of the Fielding Viognier before I left. Viognier is my new thing, it seems.

Then we were off to the Organized Crime Winery.

They had wonderful music from Los Caballeros del Son. If I closed my eyes, I would almost think I was back in Cuba. Great memories.

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Their featured pairing was crispy prawn tacos from El Gastronomo Vagabundo, and the gorgeous 2014 Pinot Gris from Organized Crime.

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We saw our friends again.

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And enjoyed watching some more dancing.

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A lovely, relaxed way to end the weekend. What a great way to kick off the summer season in Niagara.

If you didn’t get there this year, start planning for next year. I promise the weather will co-operate again. I also promise that you will have an absolutely fantastic time.