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.