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My mom, my sister and my two nieces came to visit from June 29 to July 2nd. We spent one day at Canada’s Wonderland, a couple of days in Niagara Falls and had a fun pool day at home.

The trip started off with a streak of bad luck with some flight cancellations and delays and a late arrival, with an additional trip to the airport to retrieve the luggage (which was there, thank goodness) but the family finally made it safe and sound.

We went to Wonderland on Saturday. The forecast was calling for showers and we think that’s why it wasn’t busy at the park. It was a lot of fun – the girls are getting tall so they can go on a lot more rides now.

Sienna and Maddie at Victoria Falls at Wonderland!

Sienna and Maddie at Victoria Falls at Wonderland!

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Sue and the girls about to get drenched

Sue and the girls about to get drenched

SPLASH!!!

SPLASH!!!

It was funny seeing the girls going on a mix of rides (kiddie rides and adult rides) and they were bored on the kiddie rides. Hehehe Those days are over. We had a good day, ate some pizza before going home and had fun in the pool.

The next morning, we were planning to head to Niagara Falls for some sightseeing, fireworks and an overnight stay. The bad luck continued when we discovered our rear driver’s side tire had a slow leak. It was definitely not a good idea to go to Niagara Falls and back on that tire in case we got stranded. So, plan B kicked in: We put air in the tire and kept our car in the garage, rented an SUV (it was red for Canada Day!) and headed out on the highway – crisis averted! Traffic was horrible on the way there but we had some great music playing and checked into the hotel in early afternoon. Our first stop? One of my favourite places:

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Everything is better with a margarita. :)

Everything is better with a margarita. 🙂

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After a late lunch, we walked around to take our first peek at the Falls…

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The Maid of the Mist (we’re doing that tomorrow):

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Then we walked to Clifton Hill and hopped on the Sky Wheel to get a great view of the Falls and surrounding area:

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Pic of the golf course

Pic of the golf course

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Ice cream!

Ice cream!

We went on this 4D movie ride which was really fun, we did a glow in the dark ride and had to shoot a laser gun at monsters… Good times! At night, we watched the fireworks before returning to the hotel to rest up for the next day’s activities.

On Day 2 at the Falls, we did some souvenir shopping, did the Journey Behind the Falls, did the Maid of the Mist and played mini golf at a cool Dinosaur course.

View of the falls at the end of a tunnel

View of the falls at the end of a tunnel

Sue and the girls in the tunnel

Sue and the girls in the tunnel

Close o the falls!

Close o the falls!

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Chris and I at the Journey Behind the Falls

Chris and I at the Journey Behind the Falls

Chris and the girls on the Maid of the Mist boat ride

Chris and the girls on the Maid of the Mist boat ride

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Beautiful! 🙂

Day 3 was a relaxing pool day followed by our Louisiana Seafood Feast with jazz/blues music, feather boas, masks and yummy food (mussels, shrimp, salad, corn on the cob and cupcakes for dessert).

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Sienna doing somersaults

Sienna doing somersaults

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Sneak attack is imminent!

Sneak attack is imminent!

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Chris took a pic of all the girls :)  No, he was not wearing feathers.

Chris took a pic of all the girls 🙂 No, he was not wearing feathers.

 

Dance party conga line!

Dance party conga line!

 

Day 4 was another pool day in the morning then off to the airport for the fam’s return flight!

Phew!

Life List item crossed off:

– Updated “Drink a margarita in 5 different Margaritaville locations” – 2 to go!

 

 

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The pairings have been posted! Very excited. 🙂

The earlier they get posted, the longer I drool while I wait for November to get here. But it’s a good drool.

Here’s the list – seems like every year includes more and more wineries! I’ve highlighted the ones that have caught my eye at first glance….I had to hold back or I would have highlighted them all. 🙂

 

Pairings:

CATTAIL CREEK ESTATE WINERY

2007 Select Late Harvest Riesling
Gingerbread Cookie Sandwich filled with Lemon Creme

Niagara College Teaching Winery

2008 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay
Profiterole Filled with Roasted Butternut Squash & Quebec Cheddar Cheese
 

CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES

2007 Pinot Noir Estate Bottled
Roasted Mushroom Salad Crostini with Truffle Aioli & Pickled Onions
 

Palatine Hills Estate Winery

2007 Merlot
Original Buffalo-Style Chicken with Creamy Dip & Garden Celery

COLANERI Estate Winery

2009 Insieme Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah/Merlot
Spezzatino: Medley of Meat, Vegetables & Portobello Mushrooms in a Decadent Tomato Sauce
 

Peller Estates Winery

Andrew Peller Signature Series Ice Cuvée Rosé
Smoked Salmon Bisque

COYOTE’S RUN ESTATE WINERY

2009 Cabernet Merlot
Braised Beef Short Rib Taco with Pickled Pearl Onions, Grated Horseradishn & Coriander
 

Pillitteri Estates Winery

2007 Cabernet Franc
Vegetarian Chili

HILLEBRAND WINERY

2008 Showcase Wild Ferment Chardonnay
Truffle Mushoom Broth with Aged Cheddar Scone

PondView Estate Winery

2010 Gewürztraminer Riesling
Warm Pulled Pork on a Slice of Freshly Baked Baguette
 

THE ICE HOUSE WINERY

2009 Jamie’s New Signature Series Big Red Icewine
Poire Passion: Sliced Pear Rounds with Crisp Pancetta, Niagara Gold Cheese & Northern Ice Riesling Reduction
 

Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery

2010 Ravine Sand and Gravel Cabernet Franc
Lamb Confit with Caramelized Mushrooms & Shropshire Blue

INNISKILLIN WINEs

2007 Vidal Icewine
Icewine Sausage with Carmelized Onion Mustard

Reif Estate Winery

2008 Chardonnay Reserve
Mutsu Apple, Bacon, Cold Pack Cheddar & Walnut Sage Pesto Pizza
 

JACKSON-TRIGGS NIAGARA ESTATE WINERY

2009 Black Series Merlot 
Merlot Braised Shortrib with Fall Vegetables

Riverview Cellars Estate Winery

2009 Cabernet Franc
Crispy Skin Duck with Cherry Compote on Walnut Loaf
 

JOSEPH’S ESTATE WINES

2008 Portraits of Honour Red (Baco/Cabernet/Pinot Noir)
French Macaroon Filled with Red Pepper Jelly & Brie
 

Southbrook Vineyards

2008 Triomphe Chardonnay
Prosciutto & Pear Crostada with Smoked Comfort Cream
 

KONZELMANN ESTATE WINERY

2010 Method Cuvée Close Rosé 
Cranberry, Pear, Gorgonzola & Walnut Strudel Roll
 

Stonechurch Vineyards

2009 Riesling Reserve
Smoked Salmon Bisque

LAILEY VINEYARD

2009 Cabernet Merlot 
Coq au Vin

Stratus Vineyards

2007 Tollgate Red

Chef Stepen Treadwell’s Farm-to-Table Pulled Lamb Shoulder
 

MALETA ESTATE WINERY

2006 GRAPE BRAIN Cabernet Merlot
Italian Pecorino Cheese on French Baguette Topped with Shiitake Mushroom & a drizzle of Biodynamic Crete Extra Virgin Olive Oil
 

Strewn Winery

2008 or 2009 Riesling (Semi-Dry)
Winter Green Salad with Icewine Vinaigrette

MARYNISSEN ESTATES WINERY

2007 Merlot
Prosciutto Slathered with Fig Spread Served on a Garlic Stick

Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery

2010 Cherry Wine
Chocolate Cherry Cookie

 

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Lo and behold – the LCBO is holding a contest. About Ontario wine. And wine tasting. And blogs. Really, it was like they were speaking to ME!!

The challenge reads:

Share Your Ontario VQA Wine Country Experiences

Discover a special local VQA vineyard recently?

Partake in a unique tasting event?

Enjoy a particularly memorable meal featuring Ontario VQA wine?

Yes, yes, YES!!!

So I entered 2 of my most recent Ontario wine-related blog entries. And of course, I must beg kindly ask you all, dear readers, to please vote for both of my entries. 🙂  You can do so by clicking on each of the links below, scrolling down to the bottom and clicking on the red VOTE button!

I think you can only vote once, so probably best to all vote for the one entry:   🙂

http://blogchallenge.lcbogolocal.com/entry=awesome-weekend-in-wine-country/

The 5 blog postings with the most votes advance to the judging round. For those interested in learning more about the challenge, all the details are available here: http://www.lcbogolocal.com/blog-challenge

The available prizes are:

Cool Gear Package

  • Canon T3i DSLR Camera with 2 lenses
    (18–55mm & 55–250mm) & Accessory Pack
  • BlackBerry 16GB PlayBook with Wi-Fi
  • Wireless MiFi
  • Camera Backpack
  • Approx. retail value $2,500 CDN

Niagara Wine Country Getaway

  • 2 Night accommodation for two at the Niagara Fallsview Hilton
  • 2 Tickets to the Icewine Gala, January 13th, 2012
  • 2 Discovery Passes for Icewine Festival Winery Visits, January 2012
  • Approx. retail value $700 CDN

Prince Edward County
Wine Country Getaway

  • 2 night accommodation for two at Huff Estates Winery with breakfast
  • 3-course Dinner for two at a local restaurant
  • Lunch and VIP Tasting for two at The Grange of Prince Edward Vineyards and Estate Winery
  • VIP Winery Tasting for 2 at Rosehall Run Winery
  • Approx. retail value $500 CDN

Ten Honorable Mention Gift Baskets will also be awarded (approx. retail value $200 CDN each).

Thanks muchly!!

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We had booked the following wine dinner for Saturday night at Peller and decided to make a sleepover out of it and spent the day Sunday touring some wineries and ending with a guided tasting at Thirty Bench.

Chef’s Table Dinner Series

Come behind the scenes at Peller Estates Winery Restaurant and discover how Winery Chef and CityLine personality Jason Parsons approaches the art of pairing wine and food.  Your dining experience begins with a reception in Jason’s kitchen where he will discuss collaborating with winemaker Lawrence Buhler and his approach to developing innovative food and wine pairings.  You will then enjoy a seasonally inspired tasting menu presented by Jason and perfectly paired with wines selected by Lawrence.

Jason welcomed us and gave us a tour of the kitchen, explaining what happened at each station and the pass (his spot).  Our chef’s table was in a room adjacent to the kitchen and the doors were kept open all night. We were encouraged to walk around the kitchen anytime we liked throughout the evening, talk to the staff and ask questions. It was fantastic!

And the food and wine? Holy moly. We knew we were in for a special evening when we sat down to this (these were all mine):

Chef’s Signature Tasting Menu (Sept 3, 2011)

Pastrami Cured Salmon

Doughnut Peaches, Plums and Goat Feta

Ice Cuvee Rose “Signature Series”

Curried Cauliflower Velouté

Sautéed Swiss Chard, Saffron Arborio Croquette

Pinot Gris “Private Reserve” 2010

Ontario Beef Tartar

Horse Radish Cream and Panzanella Salad

Riesling “Private Reserve” 2010

I actually took a bite before I remembered to take a pic...

Seared Scallop and Foie Gras

Niagara Peach, Corn and Grey Owl Cheese Fricassee

Gamay Noir “Private Reserve” 2009

Frost (to cleanse the palate)

Seared Venison

Grape, Leek and Red Wine Bread Pudding, Grainy Mustard Plum Sauce

Merlot “Signature Series” 2004

I actually got to cross off a life list item (Eat venison) with this dish! Bonus 🙂

Peller Estates Signature “Blue Ice” Empanada

Sovereign Grape Jelly

Late Harvest Vidal 2010

Baked Milk Chocolate Mousse

Roasted Peach and Almond Brittle

Cabernet Franc Icewine “Signature Series” 2008

During the visits to the kitchen, we saw plates coming up to the pass, desserts being made and a fair amount of hustle and bustle:

View of the kitchen. That's Jason at the pass.

Dessert! Doughnuts being made

Venison entrees on the pass

Appetizers ready to be sent out

Chris, me and Jan at the start of our evening

This was one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve ever had. Everything was fantastic, the food, the wine, the staff – all superb. I would highly recommend it to anyone thinking of visiting Niagara on the Lake and looking for something to make it extra special. We’ve visited Peller many times including three of their dining experiences and they always deliver memorable, elegant and top of the line food, wine and service. Just fabulous.

Sunday:

We decided to visit some wineries, some new and some old favourites to stock up on wines. We stopped at Konzelmann, Hinterbook, Ravine (lunch) and Maleta. Then headed over to Beamsville and visited Fielding and Thirty Bench, where we enjoyed a guided tasting.

We bought lots of wine – that should hold us until our next visit. 🙂

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Chris and I spent the day in wine country (Beamsville) with some friends and it was an awesome day.

Our first stop was Peninsula Ridge where we tasted three wines and purchased two (2008 Merlot, 2009 Meritage).

Our second stop was Rosewood Estates where we got try mead for our first time – we tasted the Mon Cherie honey wine. We also tried the reserve Riesling (a bit sweet for me) and the Pinot Noir, which we bought.

Third stop was a guided tasting at Thirty Bench, which was truly the highlight of the day:

We each chose 4 wines to taste and the guide walked us through – she was fantastic, very knowledgeable and engaging. It was hard to believe we hadn’t been to Thirty Bench before but we’ll definitely make it a routine stop when we’re in the area. We ended up buying 3 bottles: the 2007 Merlot, the 2009 Winemaker’s Red and the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. All absolutely fantastic reds.

We also had a great view of downtown Toronto – such a clear day!

Next stop was Organized Crime where they had a 2008 Syrah made with Viognier, however, it would be their last due to issues with the unpredictable weather.

And finally our last stop was at Stoney Ridge (which is what kicked off this whole outing – we shared a Groupon for a tour/tasting/lunch).

Gorgeous weather, awesome wine, great company!

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What a treat this month!

Anytime we receive something from 2007, we’re happy. 🙂 But this month, it was even better:

Henry of Pelham Estate 2007 Cabernet Merlot Reserve

(by David Lawrason)

This has a soft, sweet and pretty nose of blackberry , vanilla/mocha, tobacco and herbs, in that order. It is medium-full bodied, quite rounded and polished with considerable but well integrated tannin. This has very good focus and excellent length, with some gritty tannin. Best 2011 to 2015, although some versions, like 1999, have surprised with their longevity.

(by Tony Aspler)

Colour: Deep ruby

Nose: Vanilla oak, cedar, red and black currant

Taste: Well extracted, sweet fruit, firmly structured with a firm tannic finish

Stratus Vineyard – 2007 Stratus Red

(by David Lawrason)

Those expecting a blockbuster from this iconic red in Niagara’s excellent red 2007 vintage may not be aware that winemaker J. L. Groux’s outlook is French-school finesse and poise, not power. The fruit – from seven grape varieties – is ripened to a perfect raspberry-cherry pitch then layered with dried herbs, background coffee, cedar and vanilla. It’s mid-weight, delicate yet firm etched with perfect acidity and dusty tannin. Excellent to outstanding length. Best 2013 to 2018, maybe longer.

(by Tony Aspler)

Colour: Ruby

Nose: Cedar, black currant, red currant

Taste: Well extracted fruit, firm structure, good length

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Mmmmmmm

Icewine is soooo goooood.

This was our loot for the day:

Some of our fave reds we picked up while we were in NOTL

Icewines and Late Harvests

Our first stop was at Angel’s Gate Winery where we got to enjoy their sweet and sour 2008 Select Late Harvest Riesling paired with a soft baked pretzel. Yum. That’s the 2nd bottle from the left in the pic. While we were there we also tried a light . We prefer our reds a bit bolder but it was still a nice sip.

Second stop was Fielding Estate Winery. We tasted their 2007 Late Harvest Gewürztraminer and 2008 Cabernet-Syrah paired with gourmet late-harvest baked beans. Everything was awesome although again, we prefer our reds with a bit more body. Probably some of the best baked beans I’ve had. The late harvest is the 2nd bottle from the right in the pic.

For our third stop, we stopped by Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery (to wish Wayne a happy 50th!) and had a nice treat: Shiraz icewine (1st bottle form the right) paired with a beaver tail with cinnamon and powdered sugar and drizzled with Shiraz icewine syrup. Yum.

Fourth stop was Flat Rock Cellars where they had the cutest pulled pork sliders you could  imagine (icewine-infused) paired with their 2007 Sweet Revenge Vidal Icewine. We enjoyed it but found the icewine a bit too sweet for our liking so decided to pass this time.

Fifth stop was Creekside Estate Winery. We sat outside and tasted roasted chestnuts with red pepper butter, paired with their 2007 Vidal Icewine. I had never had chestnuts before and didn’t really know what to expect…must be an acquired taste. 🙂  The icewine was great though (middle bottle in pic) and once we got back inside, we got to enjoy a glass of mulled wine to warm up – nice!

Our sixth stop was Colaneri Estate Winery and although the building was under construction, it was still a very nice setting and boy, they really put on a fantastic tasting (3 pairings!). First pairing was their Pinot Grigio “Profondo” paired with a mushroom risotto. Second pairing was an espresso flavoured panna cotta with their Vidal Icewine. Third pairing was a chocolate tart with their Cabernet Franc icewine. All very very good. We purchased the pinot griogio (1st bottle on left in pic).

Since we were ni the area, we also made two stops to pick up some of the wines we really enjoyed:

Maleta Estate Winery: We tasted the Cabernet Merlot as well as the 2003 Meritage (2 bottles of each). We were also very fortunate to taste some of their icewine paired with icewine truffles and they were both fantastic! Maleta is one of our favourite stops  – great wine, friendly staff. We’re so glad to keep seeing great things from this winery.

Lailey Vineyard: We had received their 2008 Meritage in our December wine of the month delivery and enjoyed it so much , we picked up 2 bottles while we were in town. Nice.

Our wine fridge has been replenished.

We finished the day off with a fabulous dinner at Colossus in Oakville. Now I can barely move I’m so full. 🙂

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