10.31.2007

drinking and driving

Yesterday we went to the Niagara wine region with our friends M@ and S for a day of tasting, buying, eating and relaxing. M@ and S's current employment situation allows them a midweek day off, and as we all appreciate good food and good wine, I knew it would be a fun time.

When Allan and I did this last year, we stayed at a B&B in Niagara on the Lake, and did some historical things the next day. That was fun, but NOTL was too touristy for us, and the overnight felt a bit unnecessary. An annual day trip seems perfect to me.

Yesterday we visited wineries in the Vineland and Beamsville area. Highlights included Kacaba, Vineland Estates and Tawse; the flat-out lowlight was Thirty Bench.

Kacaba is a tiny, family-run winery, where an enthusiastic and unpolished host told stories and poured with a loving hand. We had some of the best wines of the day here, including a Reisling with a butterscotch toffee finish and a knockout Meritage (a Bordeaux-like blend). Allan and I treated ourselves to that one for our anniversary - not for two months, but a good excuse to overspend.

Vineland Estates was notable both for the setting and the wine. The tasting room is a dark, church-like space with a beamed cathedral ceiling. Gorgeous pieces of blown glass and wrought-iron craft works are nestled among the bottles.

Our host there led us on a "wine journey," pouring several reserve wines clearly marked as "not available for tasting," offering a compare-and-contrast, encouraging us to drink, learn and enjoy. It was clear she loved her work - and her wine, which was generally excellent.

Vineland also has a restaurant, a B&B and a guest house. The restaurant menu looked terrific, and the setting is so beautiful, it seems like a perfect special-occasion spot.

At Tawse - not listed on the official Wines of Ontario map - we had an unexpected treat: a walk into the cave, where the casks ferment. Tawse uses a completely organic process; their farm is full of environmental-friendly innovations, including geothermal heating and cooling, and a gravity-fed processing system.

Thirty Bench wins the Bronx cheer of the day, for pretentious, condescending, pedantic hosting, amid truly mediocre wine. My advice: skip it!

The weather was beautiful, and the area is, too. Our friends - who grew up around there - tell us it's particularly beautiful in the spring, when all the fruit trees are in blossom. I'll put that on the list; maybe a scenic drive and a hike at Ball's Falls is in order for the spring.

An altogether lovely day off. And now back to work.

6 comments:

L-girl said...

By the way, regarding the title of this post, M@ volunteered for designated-driver duty. Maybe I'll bite the bullet and do it next year.

M@ said...

I was more than happy to act as DD. While I never had a full sample anywhere, at least I got a taste of many of them. SuMei was the main beneficiary, as she got to finish most of my wine!

By the way, I don't think you mentioned Stoney Ridge, where the sales people were pushy and the wine was just okay (except for the cranberry wine I believe), and Fielding Estates, where our host was at least extremely friendly and enthusiastic and the viognier (which I'm not sure you guys tried) was exceptional.

Thirty Bench -- I'll be avoiding their wines on principle from now on.

Great idea to head out for the day -- hope we can do it again next year!

L-girl said...

By the way, I don't think you mentioned Stoney Ridge, where the sales people were pushy and the wine was just okay (except for the cranberry wine I believe), and Fielding Estates, where our host was at least extremely friendly and enthusiastic and the viognier (which I'm not sure you guys tried) was exceptional.

Thanks for filling that in!

The cranberry wine at Stoney Ridge will make a fun gift for our annual trip to NJ for US Thanksgiving. Other than that, those wines were forgettable, and yes, their salespeople were annoying.

I was more than happy to act as DD.

It was most appreciated.

My problem is that I am not comfortable driving after drinking even small amounts of alcohol. I can't concentrate well enough. It might be age, or it might be my fibromyalgia, which impedes concentration. Or I could just be an uncoordinated dolt!

So for me to DD, it means not tasting at all, or hardly. And for Allan, well, better not to ask him. :)

M@ said...

Well as I say, I was taking very small tastes and leaving the rest to SuMei... when we got home I was jonesing for a real mouthful of wine! But I opened a thing of some Spanish wine, not wanting to tear into the new purchases right away... what a difference. A disappointing difference.

Ah well! Good times in wine country. See you at Kacaba next year. Maybe we'll rope in a teetotaller. :)

tim said...

Finally finished my Midterm Gongshow here at school (exam or assignment EVERY Friday and/or Saturday since September 29!) Basically my life was that and beisbol. So ever since the glorious night of October 28, I've basically been a phantom. Just catching up on some stuff now and came across this.

Good read L, and some good pointers to keep in mind when planning out my adventure next summer! Sounds like it was an enjoyable time.

L-girl said...

Hi Tim! Wow, that sounds grueling.

The wine was much better this year. I don't know if we just went to better places, or had better luck, or what, but we tried some really nice wine.

Don't miss Kacaba, it's a tiny little place, really nice.