Though the party was over, Cuvée festivities kept right on going after The Grand Tasting.
Fancy dress and high heels were exchanged for a comfy pair of jeans and boots, then I rolled up my sleeves and got ready for some serious work.
Here’s my “serious winetaster” face.
All joking aside, the rest of the weekend is really the educational and experiential side of Cuvée – known as Cuvée en Route. This is a tasting passport program that is included in the price of your Grand Tasting ticket, but can also be purchased separately on its own. You can spend your weekend touring Niagara wine country, stopping at participating wineries for their en Route experience. Each winery offers a special flight to participants, and you get to sample some real gems here. Back vintages, vertical tastings, flights from a particular vintage year, you get the idea. Each winery offers something different, and it was a bit tough for me to whittle my selections down.
It was a great way to spend the weekend, learn more about the wineries I visited, and the most important thing – refill my wine stash.
I sampled some truly wonderful wine. But you know what else? I also had some truly wonderful service.
This is something that is becoming more and more important to me as a wine lover, and it can be summed up in these four questions. First of all, do I feel welcome at the winery I’m visiting? Second, of course, am I enjoying what I’m sampling? Also, is the person who is helping me friendly and attentive? Are they passionate and knowledgeable about what they are pouring?
I have to say, quite a lot of the wineries I visit here are very good at this, but there seem to be some who go that little bit extra, and it makes the experience even more memorable.
So the special part of my Cuvée en Route weekend wasn’t just the incredible wine I was sampling. It most definitely was the people too.
I’m going to share with you some of the highlights.
The first highlight was meeting up with these two. Do you remember the Cuvée en Route contest I had here on the blog? Well, Kaley was the winner, and I arranged to meet up with her and Dana for a couple of winery stops.
We started at The Hare Wine Co. for a few reasons. First, it was her selection for the winery she most wanted to visit. She enjoys Riesling, and they were offering a Riesling Experience for the weekend. She also has a bunny, so the “hare” connection was a fun one.
She also came with me to my next highlight stop, which was Creekside.
Do you see that we are smiling already? That’s Creekside. Every single time I’ve been there, I’ve had fantastic, friendly, knowledgeable service. On top of that, they produce some of my favourite wines – including one of my beloved Viogniers. I’m afraid I have a bit of a reputation for my fervent Viognier evangelism. A couple of servers there have said “I know you love our Viognier, but would you like to try….”
Hell yeah. I’ll try anything at Creekside.
And this tasting flight did not disappoint.
They just might be winning me over to Sauvignon Blanc too. Especially the 2013 Reserve.
Josh helped us out on Saturday, and he was super. We had a great discussion about wine, and I appreciated his tolerance and co-operation with my Instagram storying too. He also opened up a bottle of the 2015 Viognier for me to taste, which was awfully nice, as my Viognier stash always needs replenishing. Of course, I bought some. I believe the 2015 has just been released, and it’s a beauty.
Cam also came over to say hello while we were sipping. He helped me and my family out on our last visit there – and it’s always so nice to be remembered.
Another one of my favourite stops this weekend was at Reif Estate Winery.
Before I went to Reif, I was chatting with someone at another winery. We were comparing notes about places we’d been over the Cuvée en Route weekend, and I said my next stop was Reif. She mentioned she had just been there, had enjoyed the flight, and then said “To be honest, I don’t think I’ve had a wine there that I haven’t liked”. Her particular favourite from that day was their 2013 ‘Magician’ Shiraz appassimento.
Shiraz + Appassimento = two of the most beautiful words I’ve ever heard together.
When I arrived, Sarah was pouring for me. She had helped me before and always provides friendly, informative service. Another bonus of the day is that they were offering a cheese pairing, and she explained which cheese to have with which wine and why.
I did enjoy the entire flight, but that Magician is definitely full of some special magic. If you love Appassimento like I do, get yourself over to Reif and try it.
And say hi to Sarah for me.
The next stop was a winery that is new to me.
I am not exaggerating when I say I was blown away at Icellars.
First, by their down-to-earth, extra welcoming approach. Every single person who entered that day was personally greeted by Adnan, the winemaker and owner, and Daniel, the gent who assists him. They made me feel like an honoured guest, and that already makes Icellars a pretty special place.
But the wine. Oh, the wine.
I’m excited about what’s to come too. After my tasting, they took us on a tour, and I was lucky to get a couple of barrel samples.
This will be spectacular stuff, my friends. Even at a young stage, in the barrel, you could tell these wines will be dynamite.
If you haven’t been to Icellars yet, you really must go.
And the final one I’ll mention here, is Westcott.
Since the very first time I visited, I have always felt extremely welcome there, and so does everyone else I know. In the winter, the fire is crackling, and Grant, Jessica and Victoria are always there with interesting stories, and a great glass of wine.
There’s definitely something special about the place. They have even got two of my friends – who were avid Anything-but-Chardonnay’ers – to like Chardonnay.
They must use a little bit of pixie dust.
As it was my final stop of the weekend, I took full advantage of the relaxing atmosphere while I enjoyed my wine.
And I was very excited to think, that on my next visit, I just might be able to sit here.
I’ll quickly mention a couple of other good stops here too. Konzelmann had a flight of Chardonnay, which is a flight that is close to my heart. Their 2012 Chardonnay Family Reserve is still one of my favourite Chardonnays, and Candice gave us a great tasting.
And, of course, I always enjoy a visit to Stratus. Though I always gravitate to their reds, this time I changed things up a little and did the offered vertical flight of their Stratus White. All were excellent, as expected, but I especially liked the 2006, which surprised me a little. I bought a bottle, and expect I’ll be opening it up very soon.
What a weekend!
From the Grand Tasting to Cuvée en Route, I enjoyed every moment – and pretty much every sample. But the celebration doesn’t stop here, my friends. We have so many good things happening in our wine industry, that I’m going to keep that Cuvée feeling going the whole year round.
Want to join me?
**I attended Cuvée as a media guest, but the opinion that this was a super weekend is entirely my own.