Pick, Stomp & Taste at Flat Rock Cellars

I’ve been to some pretty fantastic winery events lately.

But the one I was at on Saturday? It definitely made the list of my very favourite ones.

Notice what’s happening in the opening pic above? That’s me. Stomping grapes in a barrel like I Love Lucy.

Well, not quite like Lucy. My stomping partner was quite lovely. There was no throwing of grapes happening here. Just a lot of laughing.

And if you’re a blogger, much photographing.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First of all, you probably are wondering which winery came up with such a fun idea? Well, let me tell you.

Flat Rock Cellars.

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I found out about Pick, Stomp & Taste at Flat Rock just over a month ago. Boy, is it a popular event. We called right away for tickets, and even then we got the last two spaces for Saturday’s 11am group. Since then, the entire event, which runs over two weekends, has completely sold out.

When we arrived on Saturday, we went out on the balcony to get some shots of the vineyard. They have some pretty spectacular vineyard views at Flat Rock.

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There is just something about these perfectly symmetrical rows of green that makes me feel peaceful. Not sure exactly why, but it does.

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We made our way upstairs to meet with the rest of the participants. Incredible wine country views as far as the eye could see.

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Especially when wine glasses, just waiting to be filled, are a part of it.

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Ed Madronich, Chief Wine Taster/Proprietor, welcomed us all to the Pick, Stomp & Taste. He gave us a brief overview of what goes on at Flat Rock, and told us why Niagara is the perfect spot to make great wine.

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As we were discussing all of this, we noticed a dark band of storm clouds approaching. We decided to head out into the vineyard, where we would get a chance to pick some grapes before the heavens opened. Hopefully.

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The dark clouds kept getting closer

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So Ed quickly showed us what to do

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And we were on our way.

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Then the rain started to fall. We tried to pick faster.

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But our baskets still weren’t full. Lots of hardy souls continued to pick as the rain fell harder and faster. Not me though. My excuse was that I was wearing a white shirt, and didn’t think it would be a good idea to have a clinging wet shirt in front of my fellow pick & stompers. That would make this a different type of blog all together. One you night not want to read.

Ahem.

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The valiant Flat Rock staff braved the downpour, and rolled the barrels into the winery for us.

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The grapes we picked were dumped into the barrels

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We removed our shoes, and in we climbed!

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Squishing away, feeling the juice from the grapes ooze between our toes.

In case someone out there is wondering, no, this is not how Flat Rock presses grapes to be used in their wine. This was just for fun!

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And the fun just multiplies when you are rewarded with some Flat Rock Cellars wine.

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From left to right, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling, followed by pure Riesling juice.

You may be surprised that we tasted them in exactly that order. Usually when you attend a wine tasting, you taste white wines before red. Ed explained that it’s more appropriate to taste from dry to sweet, even if that means you drink a red wine first. The Pinot was the driest wine, so we started with that, then progressed to the Chardonnay and the Nadja’s Riesling. It was so interesting to taste that way, and you could totally understand what he was talking about. We all did an experiment. After we tasted them in the recommended order, we went back and tried to taste the Pinot again. The taste was totally different…you couldn’t really appreciate the Pinot when having a sweeter wine before it.

Very interesting indeed.

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We also talked about a subject that is dear to my own heart – that of tasting notes, and what flavours you can pick up from a wine. Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of tasting notes. They certainly can have a useful role, but I think they can influence people in their own tasting experience. For example, if the tasting notes say “hints of melon and gooseberry”, you may be inclined to look for “hints of melon and gooseberry”, instead of recognizing what YOUR palate is sensing.

I have been at tastings with friends where we’ve been told by well-intentioned folks just exactly what we should be tasting. Now and then, one or all of us would get something different, so would pipe up and say exactly what flavours we were getting. Dead silence often follows, or sometimes we just get odd looks. Once a friend of mine was even told “No, you can’t possibly be tasting that in this wine”.

What?? I think we know what we taste.

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Ed finally explained the mystery. We DO all taste differently, and this has something to do with the number of taste buds that we have. Some people have way more taste buds than others, some have less. I’m pretty sure I have less, as I tend to like bold, strong, sometimes bitter flavours. This explains why we all prefer different foods, and yes, even different wines.

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But no matter what you taste, the best part of enjoying wine is when you share it with good company.

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Which I certainly did last Saturday at Flat Rock.

If you’re lucky enough to have tickets for this Saturday, I’d love to hear your experience of the event. If you don’t, then let’s hope Flat Rock Cellars runs this event again.

You can be my grape stomping partner. I promise, I won’t throw any grapes at you.

Maybe.