I love wending my way through Niagara wine country.
I’ve been doing it for years, with my first visits dating back to the olden days of yore in the early ’90’s. Boy, how things have changed. In those olden days, there were no winery restaurants, grand winery buildings, or even tours. I have a lot of respect for those Niagara winery pioneers, and I’m sure they had a lot to contend with. I bet it was tough trying to win over folks who thought all Ontario wine was like Baby Duck .
We’ve come a long way, baby.
My leisurely olden days of winery touring are a thing of the past, however. These days, I’m focused, and have a specific purpose in mind when I go. Whether looking for a particular kind of wine, attending an event, or exploring a new winery that’s popped up, I know exactly where I’m going and why.
But for one day, I decided to let someone else do all the planning. For a control freak like me, that’s kind of a big deal.
I went on a wine tour – with Niagara Vintage Wine Tours.
Often, people assume that wine tours are only for those new to the world of wine. Sure, it can be a great introduction for wine newbies or visitors to a region, but as an “experienced” Niagara wine lover, I found many benefits to taking a tour.
It was actually a refreshing change to have my day planned for me. I could just relax, enjoy the day, and have someone else figure out the details. I almost felt like I did back in my “olden days” – exploring the region, seeing what pleasant surprises popped up. I also went to a couple of wineries I don’t get to very often, and tried some wines outside of what I normally taste. And though I always have my own personal designated driver, it was nice for Ken to have a break for the day. Well, a break from driving – he takes all the photos for the blog, so he still worked very hard at that.
Christopher, our tour guide, was excellent – very helpful, easy to talk to, extremely knowledgeable about wine and the wine scene in Niagara. He gave us lots of stories, wine facts and tips while taking us from place to place.
We were picked up at Highbrook promptly at the time we were told. The van was roomy and comfortable, and we were given a complimentary Tasting Guide and Journal. The book gives a concise overview of Niagara Wine Country, and its terroir. The wine tasting guide provides a brief, informative overview of tasting.
Everyone on the tour introduced themselves, and we were on our way for the day.
Our first stop was at PondView, where we were given a refresher on how to taste and what to look for in a wine. A stop at PondView is always a treat in my book.
I’m such a fan of PondView’s BellaTerra Chardonnay. If I’m really honest, I’d have to say it’s one of my favourite Chardonnays. Truly a beautiful wine.
One of the great things about Niagara Vintage Wine Tours, is that they leave you ample time for wine shopping at the end of each tasting. Of course, Christopher is ready and willing to help carry your cases.
After that informative start, we were off to Pillitteri Estates Winery.
Where we met our guide, Jacob, in front of Pillitteri’s impressive collection of wine awards.
I love how their history and family roots play such a large part in the winery.
We toured their impressive wine cellar.
I learned something new there. Did you know that Pillitteri is the maker of twenty percent of the world’s Icewine? I found that just amazing. Below is a picture of their Icewine Hall of Fame.
And that’s just part of it! We couldn’t fit the whole thing into one photo.
Just off the Icewine Hall of Fame, we found our tasting room. So we quickly got to tasting.
At this point, we were all getting a bit hungry. So we were happy to hear that our lunch destination was the restaurant at Peller Estates Winery.
Two of our fellow tour guests demonstrated how happy we were to be at Peller.
Of course, I had some bubbly. Had to celebrate, right?
Each couple or group travelling together in the tour was given their own table, which I thought was a nice touch. Though we all enjoyed each other’s company on the tour, a private lunch experience was lovely.
Ken and I both had the pasta with butternut squash sauce. Oh goodness, what an incredible dish. There was kale in it, and it was so good that Ken even ate the kale. Getting him to eat veggies – especially greens – is a daily struggle, my friends.
Guess I have to make a dish this delectable to get him to eat kale.
And, oh my, this dessert. I am a bad blogger and forgot to write down the name of the dish. I call it “Chocolate Heaven”.
I was feeling pretty full and happy. I love the restaurant at Peller, and it really was an unexpected treat to have it as our lunch spot. The food, ambiance, and service are spectacular every time I’ve been.
Though the atmosphere invites you to linger, it was time for us to move on. We still had two more wineries to get to!
Between the Lines was our next destination.
The story behind Between the Lines is also an interesting one. It’s run by two brothers, and to quote directly from their website:
“Some people assume we’re a couple of rich kids who inherited a winery. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Everything we built here we worked for. Really, we are just two wine fanatics who started a winery on their parents’ vineyard and have put everything they made back into it.”
We were lucky to have Yannick, the winemaker brother, pouring for us that day.
Another interesting rumour is that they just might make Schnapps someday. To quote Yannick from their website:
“I’ll tell you a secret… part of my studies was also distilling. I want to make schnapps someday. There’s so much fruit that’s wasted in the region and it’s perfect for schnapps.”
Wouldn’t that be incredible? I love good Schnapps. I would probably be their first customer.
Our last winery of the day was Southbrook Vineyards. Southbrook is very unique in that it is a fully biodynamic, organic and environmentally responsible winemaking operation.
They had such a stunning place for us to do our tasting in.
A gorgeous location where we could take our time, ask questions, and taste their wines. Our host gave us a brief outline of their environmental approach, and we were happy to sample the results.
I missed out on a sheep sighting though. Have you seen the sheep from Linc Farm at Southbrook? They are the most adorable creatures. Linc Farm’s Instagram is full of fabulous pictures and stories about life at the farm and the animals. Their photos always bring a smile to my face. I think they will to yours too, so check them out.
After that, our tour came to a close. What a great day it was, too.
Four fantastic wineries, all slightly different. A great overview for visitors to the area, people starting to explore wine, or old hands at the process like me. This isn’t the only offering from Niagara Vintage Wine Tours, though. They also have the Twenty Valley & Beamsville Bench Tour, Half Day or Evening Tours, and a variety of private or special event options. Personally, I’m eyeing their Ultimate Culinary, Beer & Wine Tour. We’ve had guests at Highbrook go on that tour, and they loved it.
We’ve got a lot to be proud of with how the wine industry has grown here, and Niagara Vintage Wine Tours showcases it beautifully.
So does anyone want to join me on the Ultimate Culinary, Beer & Wine Tour?
**My tour was generously provided by Niagara Vintage Wine Tours, but as always, all opinions are my own