How to Drink Your Way Around NOTL

I visit the wineries here a lot.

There are 25 of them in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and I have made it a personal mission to get to each and every one of them. As you can imagine, this could be a time consuming task. It is one I am very willing to take on though – all in the name of blogging. And cellar-building, I must admit.

Our guests at Highbrook often ask me where to start. I have lots of recommendations for them, depending on price range, size of winery, types of wine they enjoy, and what exactly they want to do. There are many ways to have a great wine experience down here.

Lately, one of my recommendations has been to take a wine tour.

This has actually surprised me.

I have avoided organized wine tours in the past. Being herded onto a big bus and rushed in and out of wineries just has no appeal to me at all. I like to do my own thing, I hate being kept to a tight schedule, and I also hate waiting for people. You know the ones I mean. Really folks, if I can make it back to the bus on time so can you – It’s not that hard.

Because of all these factors, tours are not my usual thing. Then about a year ago, I met Dave Paget, who owns Niagara Wine Tour Guides.

girls tour 2b

Dave convinced me that I could enjoy a wine tour, and invited me to experience one of his.

IMG_8026

So why did I relent and give Niagara Wine Tour Guides a chance?

First of all, Dave’s wine tours are small. The maximum amount of guests he will take is eleven, and the minimum is one. He will never cancel on you.

Second, Dave is extremely knowledgeable about wine. He has completed Sommelier training and is a member of the Court of Master Sommeliers. Ask him anything about wine and the industry and you are in for a great discussion.

Third, in spite of all this knowledge, he is not a wine snob. Get him talking about his junk food pairings – he has a recommended wine for every junk food you could think of. Seriously. We tried one of his pairings on the tour, and it was yummy.

Fourth, he makes a friendly and fun atmosphere. He also thinks of the little things. He provides bottled water. He brings along an extra step to make it even easier to get in and out of the van. And he happily carries all your wine purchases.

Oh, and he drives. Super important when you are going to be wine tasting

On the tour I took, we started out at PondView Estate Winery. When we arrived, we were taken to a separate tasting area. We were given a structured tasting, and a fabulous cheese and chocolate pairing. We also had some Icewine in a dark chocolate shooter cup.

IMG_7826IMG_7825 IMG_7845 IMG_7868 IMG_7879 IMG_7898IMG_7907 IMG_7914

At the end of the structured tasting we had time to sample other wines if we wanted. No rushing, and we were all back at the van at the same time. No waiting for stragglers either, hallelujah.

Then we were off to our second stop, Konzelmann. I have been to Konzelmann many times, but I am always happy to go back.

IMG_7926 IMG_7942 IMG_7944IMG_7927

At Konzelmann, we were to be given a full tour. But first, we were handed a sample of the Cuveé Close Rosé to start us on our way. Now that’s a real welcome.

IMG_7932  IMG_7948 IMG_7958 IMG_7967 IMG_7973

Then it was time for our tasting. We were all curious for Dave’s junk food pairing – Konzelmann Pinot Noir and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. If you love peanut butter cups (and I do), you must try this.

IMG_7982IMG_7994

Of course, no visit to Konzelmann would be complete without some shopping time in the wine boutique.

IMG_8016 IMG_8010 IMG_8014

Then it was off to our final stop, Pillitteri Estates Winery. Believe it or not, I hadn’t been to Pillitteri, even though it is just up the street from Highbrook. I was especially glad we got to stop there.

IMG_8025

When we arrived, they whisked us down into their beautiful wine cellar.

IMG_8031 IMG_8039 IMG_8044 IMG_8046 IMG_8050 IMG_8053

Then for the tasting, we were free to sample whatever we wanted. I specifically have been looking for some more Chardonnays, so that is what I stuck with.

IMG_8076 IMG_8103

But then, luck was on my side, and a bottle of this beauty was open.

IMG_8118 IMG_8121 IMG_8111

However, I stuck with my Chardonnay, and selected some to take home. I was also excited to see that Pillitteri makes a Viognier. I’m all about Viognier, lately, which is something new for me. Previously, for white wine, I was totally a Chardonnay girl. But some good Viogniers have been making their way into my cellar.

Which brings me to my final point.

Just as I have opened my mind to Viognier (and Sauvignon Blanc, but that’s another story) I have now opened my mind to wine tours. Dave was right. I had a great time on his tour. Even though I have been to many Niagara wineries many times, I still learned some new things. We had a structured wine tasting with cheese and chocolate, a full wine tour, samples of beautiful wines, and I got to a winery that I still hadn’t been to. So whether you are new to the world of wine or a seasoned sipper, give a wine tour a try. Honestly, I will never want to do one of those big busloads, but small, unique, guided wine tours can be very well done. As Dave has shown me.

And in closing, a shameless plug. We have teamed up with Dave for some special overnight packages at Highbrook. If you’re from out of town, you can combine a stay with us and a tour with Dave for a great Niagara-on-the-Lake getaway. Check our website for all the details.