Winery life is fascinating to me.
I love it all. From how you grow the grapes to how you market the finished product, and everything in between. I’m interested in the stories of the people in the business – from the grape growers to the vineyard workers, to the winemakers and winery owners. I’m interested in what it’s really like to own or run or work in a winery – I’m interested in the ups and downs, the struggles and the victories. I think I’m way more interested in the people, the process and the story of making wine, than I actually am in the wine itself.
Hang on a second, did I just say that?
I love my nightly glass of wine. But I’ve realized that I love it even more when I know some of the story behind it.
From the outside looking in, winery life can sound a bit glamorous. But damn – it’s a helluva lot of work.
I’ve had a tiny, tiny glimpse of some of it over the last year, and it’s brought up a lot of questions for me. I have so many questions, I could go on and on and on. It’s probably a story for another day.
I’ll sum up my ramblings just by saying that I think my wine posts are going to change a bit this year.
Today’s post is a blend of the old and new Niagarafied wine posts. I’m going to tell you about a fun afternoon tasting and touring with some of my favourite people in the world. But this time we did different things, other than just sallying up to the tasting bar. We all enjoyed it it, and had a great time.
For this winery trip, I picked a few of my favourite spots to kick off the new the year with. Seeing as we were going to be a good sized group, I called ahead to the wineries earlier in the week to plan our visit. Then I rounded up my family and my special friends, The Wine Boys, and our cold January afternoon was made.
Speaking of cold, fellow winter haters, let’s take a brief moment and groan about how frigid it was on Sunday. As the picture below demonstrates.
It was over -20 degrees celsius with the windchill. I know we’ve had colder days than that, but I have blocked them out of my memory, bone-chillingly horrid as they were. But when it’s sooooooo cold, what better way to warm your heart than sipping wine with some of your favourite people?
Our first stop was Westcott Vineyards, where the welcome is always a warm one, no matter the weather.
Especially from Emma and Nellie.
The Westcotts should know they have a willing dog-sitter in me any time they want. These puppies are just beautiful, and are so good-natured.
The fire was blazing while we chatted with Grant Westcott, the owner, in front of it. With a glass of Brilliant in hand, and the wonderful company, we were off to a great start.
We were thrilled when Grant offered to take us down into the wine cellar.
First we sampled the 2016 Chardonnay right out of the barrel.
I am so excited about this one, friends. Westcott makes some of my absolute favourite Chardonnays, and this 2016 is pretty delicious already.
Then we sampled the differences between the Pinot Noir clones, comparing them from 2015 and 2016. I was particularly keen to try them, as I helped a bit with their Pinot Noir harvest last year.
This was such a learning experience for me, as I had never tasted the difference between the clones of a grape variety before. One was more fruity, one more earthy, one was just kind of right in the middle. The winemaker’s magic is to know what amount to use of each to get exactly what he is looking for in the wine.
After our sampling, we had to make our purchases and head out to our next stop. We didn’t feel quite ready to leave, as it is so, so, easy to linger at Westcott. They make you feel incredibly welcome. Every time I’ve been there, regulars drop by just to say hi, pick up a bottle or two, or have a glass and chat by the fire with Grant,Victoria, or Jessica.
It’s a special place.
With promises to return soon, we said our good-byes, and headed to Creekside Estate Winery.
I had purchased some wine from Creekside during their Black Friday sale in November, and there was a bonus treat packed in the case – a private cellar tour and tasting for up to ten people.
What a great deal, huh?
When we arrived we met Cameron, our tour guide. Just as we were about to remove our coats, he advised us to keep them on, as we were going out to the vineyard. At first we weren’t too sure about this. Poor Cameron then had to listen to us all whine and moan and complain about going back out in the arctic temperatures. He took it all in stride, assured us it would be a quick stop, and presented us with a glass of 2013 Backyard Bubbly. Our whining ended abruptly at that point.
It is absolutely scrumptious, by the way.
The stop was quick as promised, and we made our way down to the wine cellar.
I always feel like I’m entering Aladdin’s cave when I venture down into a wine cellar. Especially one that has atmosphere and touches of pretty lighting. I’m a sucker for a big candelabra.
The fact that there are barrels and barrels of wine there doesn’t hurt either. My brother-in-law, Tom, and I were joking that a wine cellar would be a perfect place to be if there ever was some type of emergency state. You’ve got lots of wine, and you just have to find cheese and bread to have with it, and you’re good to go for awhile. But hey, I don’t need an emergency. I’m happy in a wine cellar at any time.
There’s a story behind this barrel, I’m sure.
Then we made our way back to the tasting room to begin our sampling.
The Wine Boys and I are very attentive students.
Well, sometimes. We can be a bit unruly and talk too much.
But there’s a lot to talk about when you have a fine selection for sampling.
After that, my sister and her family had to head back to Toronto. The rest of us weren’t quite ready to wrap up the day, so we made a quick stop at Back 10 Cellars.
Plus, they are a delight to visit. The tasting room is inviting, with comfortable seating, contemporary lighting, and lots of artwork.
There was a fire in the fireplace, and Andrew – who is one of the owners of Back 10 – always has good stories to share.
Speaking of stories, the other owner, his wife Christina, has written a book all about the creation of Back 10 Cellars. It’s called To Build a Vineyard, and is full of interesting tales of “the hard work, laughter, tears, and dedication in every glass”.
By this time we were starting to get a bit hungry, so thought it was time to get some food. John and Denny have been introducing me to some great local food spots in St. Catharines, so we purchased our Back 10 supplies, and headed out into the cold.
Look at the gorgeous Niagara sky that greeted us.
A beautiful sight to end a good day with.
I’m really hoping to find some more interesting wine stories I can share with you this year. And I think 2017 got off to a good start last week.