Posts Tagged ‘wine tour’

It’ll soon be February and that means – it’s time for the Days of Wine and Chocolate festival in Niagara on the Lake, which I love, love, love! We’re probably going to go down on two separate weekends to be able to try as many as possible.

We’ve already purchased our tickets and we’re looking forward to tasting some of the delicious pairings below. My husband and I have flagged a few particularly interesting ones (in pink) although they all look amazing!


2008 Select Late Harvest Meritage Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Crunch


2008 Solstice
Milk Chocolate Sugarplums


2008 Cabernet Franc, Estate Bottled
Dark Chocolate, Red Currant and Chili

Niagara College Teaching Winery

2008 Dean’s List Chardonnay
Milk Chocolate Cashew Brittle

COLANERI Estate Winery

2009 ‘Pensieri’ Merlot Tiramisu

Palatine Hills Estate Winery

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Proprietors’ Reserve
Dark Chocolate Almond Meringue


2008 Meritage
Dark Chocolate Wafer with Blueberries

Peller Estates Winery

2010 Private Reserve Gamay Noir
Dark Chocolate with Dried Cranberry & Sage

Diamond Estates

20 Bees Late Harvest Vidal and 20 Bees Buzz & Bubbles Sparkling Wine
White Chocolate with Pomegranate Filling

Pillitteri Estates Winery

2009 Straight Up Red
Dried Cherry & Pistachio White Chocolate Biscotti


2010 Trius Cabernet Sauvignon
Dark Chocolate Infused with Red Wine

PondView Estate Winery

2010 Cabernet Franc Rose
Chocolate Truffle with Dried Cranberry

HInterbrook WINERY

2009 Cabernet Franc Icewine
White Chocolate with Hickory Smoke

Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery

2010 Ravine Sand and Gravel Cabernet Franc
Salted Pretzels Dipped in Milk Chocolate


2009 Northern Ice Signature Series Red Dark Chocolate Espresso

Reif Estate Winery

2008 Pinot Noir
Caramalized Pine Nuts & Dark Chocolate Square


2009 WMS 3 Vineyard Cabernet Franc
Triple Chocolate Biscotti with Hazelnuts

Riverview Cellars Estate Winery

2009 Fontana Dolce Sangria
Milk Chocolate Candied Orange Peel


2007 Proprietors’ Grand Reserve Cabernet Franc Icewine 
Milk Chocolate Caramel Pecan Square

Southbrook Vineyards

2006 Cabernet Franc Icewine
Dark Chocolate Icewine Truffles


2007 Merlot Reserve
Dark Chocolate Mint

Stonechurch Vineyards

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
Dark Chocolate Paprika


2010 Vidal Special Late Harvest 
Milk Chocolate Orange

Stratus Vineyards

2008 Sauvignon Blanc

Chocolat au Herbes de Provence


2010 Pinot Noir 
Dark Chocolate with Juniper Berries

Strewn Winery

2009 Cabernet Select Late Harvest
Dark Chocolate Almond Raisin


2006 GRAPE BRAIN Cabernet-Merlot
Milk Chocolate Coconut Cream

Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery

Chocolate Embrace
Dark Chocolate Nutmeg

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Saturday: Niagara New Vintage Festival

We enjoyed breakfast at home, then drove out to Niagara (Vineland area and Niagara on the Lake) for a day of wine tasting and relaxation. The weather started out pretty gloomy but it turned out to be a gorgeous day. 

First stop: Wayne Gretzky Estates. 


We got to try two wines with two different appetizers. The first was a 2008 Unoaked Chardonnay paired with a crisped very thin slice of pear (or maybe apple) with a little scoop of blue cheese on it – although I’m not usually a fan of blue cheese it was really good and the fruit chip was awesome. The wine smelled like banana but didn’t taste  like it – that was really neat. The second was a Shiraz Cabernet paired with a beef spring roll with an awesome dipping sauce. The spice of the wine paired very well with the kick in the sauce. Nice! 


Next stop: Vineland Estates 

Gloomy weather but gorgeous property nonetheless. There was a wedding going on and the bride and groom were taking pics in the vineyards. Nice!

We tried the Rosé Pinot Meunier which was paired with sourdough bread and cheese fondue (one fondue had truffles and the other not). I tried the one with the truffles and it was awesome. The rosé was refreshing and fruity – perfect for summer patios! We purchased 2 bottles. 

Third stop: Flat Rock Cellars 

What a cool property this was. 


We got to enjoy the 2008 Twisted which was a blend of primarily Riesling with Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay and it was paired with a curried pork taco (with cucumber and cilantro). Yummy. In their boutique they had some really fun accessories and games for sale. The whole vibe was fun and hip – great place. We purchased a bottle of the Twisted. 

Next stop: Lunch at Ravine, weather cleared up so we sat outside on the rear patio with a view of the vineyards and the smell of the wood-burning oven. I love this place. It’s cozy and rustic with mismatched wooden chairs. They sell baked goods, preserves and cheeses – I could live here and be very content til the end of my days. 

Nicki and I ate the same thing - the St. David's cheese and charcuterie board.

The walnut bread (left in photo) was fantastic. The spiced pecans were heaven. The fruit compote was amazing. Prosciutto, cheese, pickled veggies… I loved it. 

Chris had the pulled chicken sandwich with cole slaw - he enjoyed it.

Chris and I on the patio. Off to the left is the building where they were baking stuff in the oven - smelled awesome!

Nicki and the vineyard 🙂

The second half of the day was in Niagara on the Lake. Next stop: Chateau des Charmes. 


We got to try 4 different Chardonnays which was actually a really neat experience. The 2007 Musqué was unoaked, very light. The 2008 Barrel Fermented was a bit too powerful for my liking but that’s just a personal preference. The 2006 St. David’s Bench and 2006 Paul Bosc estates were very similar: they were grown the same, from the same grapes and only difference was one was the vineyard. I preferred the Paul Bosc but the Musqué was a close second. 

Chris and I outside Chateau des Charmes

Nicki outside Chateau des Charmes

Pretty flowers 🙂

Next stop: Inniskillin 


Nicki with the barrels

We tasted the Pinot Noir Rosé paired with seared tuna and watermelon and cucumber ceviche and rosé reduction. Mmm. We bought a bottle of this – it was fruity and refreshing. “Luscious” is the word that comes to mind. 🙂 

Baby grapes!

Last stop: Niagara Teaching College 

We wanted to show Nicki the cool wine labels. 🙂 This stop actually turned out to be one of my favourites: Rosé wine (College Rosé) paired with a cantaloupe, wine and mint “mini salad” that was soooo good. I’m going to try to reproduce this at home – it was great. And I’ll serve it with the bottle we bought. 🙂 

Our loot for the day: 

4 rosé and 1 white blend - summer wines here we come!

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Vineyard at Chateau des Charmes

Happiness really does grow on trees. I saw it with my own eyes – in the form of the beautiful bounty of grapes growing on rows and rows of vines, ripe for the picking. That was but one of the highlights of our half day wine tour in Niagara on the Lake. And there was more!!

We began our drive down to NOTL (that’s what us cool “wine folk” call it) at 9am, planning to get there with plenty of time to spare for our 10:30am meeting time with our tour guide. The drive down was quite scenic – Lake Ontario and the rest of the scenery was really nice. The town itself was very quaint and charming, just like a postcard, with little shops (lots of them wine-themed) and flowers and everything was so clean.

We arrived at our meeting point, which was the info kiosk in the parking lot at Fort George, where strangely enough there was a re-enactment of the war of 1812 going on. We caught glimpses of it and it actually looked pretty cool – lots of guys in uniforms firing guns (firecrackers). The tour guide met up with us and informed us we were the only ones on the tour! So began our private tour in wine country. 🙂

Len (our tour guide) drove for a living for 30 years of his life and after a year of retirement and going nuts at home, he walked over to the wine tour place and asked if they needed any help. 🙂 Sounds like a great job. It’s official – Chris and I are retiring in NOTL. You can come visit. Bring a glass.

More yummy grapes

Anyhow, our first stop was the “big” winery called Chateaux des Charmes, which has quite a large facility, mostly underground. We walked out in the vineyards, guided by Bob (another tour guide from the same company we were with, but he worked at the winery), then toured the facility and learned how wine was made, which was pretty cool.

Wine barrels at Chateau des Charmes, red on othe left and white on the right

Wine barrels at Chateau des Charmes, red on othe left and white on the right

Since Bob knew we were with Crush Tours, he kept checking in with us and were telling people where we were going on our next stop. 🙂 We had followers. Then we went back outside for our course on how to taste wine: take a first sniff, then swirl, then take another sniff (you can really smell the difference after the swirling), take a sip to cleanse the palate, then take another “real” sip. It all made sense but I couldn’t help feeling a tad pretentious. It was great. 🙂 We tried 3 wines (white, rosee, red – can’t remember what kind). Then we popped over to the wine boutique on site, and picked up a Sauvignon Gris, which I had never tried before. This winery is the only one that makes it in Canada (I believe), so that was worth the try.

View from where we had our wine tasting at Chateau des Charmes

View from where we had our wine tasting at Chateau des Charmes

We met back up with Len in the boutique and then we were off to the next stop: Ravine Winery. Anna Olson (food network host of Sugar and Fresh) has her restaurant/bakery adjacent to the winery so this stop was a tasting, followed by lunch at Anna’s. There’s that pretension again. Funny how that keeps creeping in. 🙂 The tasting at Ravine was 3 wines: a chardonnay (“chard”), a merlot, and I can’t recall the other one. The merlot was fantastic so after lunch we swung by to pick up a bottle. 🙂

Chris and I having lunch at Ravine

Chris and I having lunch at Ravine

Lunch was out on the patio sitting at wooden tables with mismatched wooden chairs, all very charming and rustic. While we were doing our tasting, Len went over to organize our table and stuff (i.e. would we like to sit in the sun?). Lunch was awesome (see pics in my photo album), paired with a glass of merlot. Ah bliss. and there was more!

My lunch at Anna Olson's. Delicious.

My lunch at Anna Olson's. Delicious.

The third stop was at the Coyotes Run Winery where we had 4 tastings (a sanguine which was a rosee, a pinot noir, a shiraz and an ice wine). Good but none purchase-worthy. This was our least favourite stop. Still good, but the others were great.

The fourth and last stop was at Caroline Cellars – this was the most casual and fun (although this might be because of all the wine we had drunk thus far on the tour..hmm). We had the choice of 4 wines each or 8 and we share. To be honest, I can’t remember what we did. LOLOL I know we tried a bunch: boca (their most full-flavoured red), shiraz (their most full-bodied red), I tried a pinot-cherry which was quite nice for a novelty, and then compared a 2004 merlot (1 year older) and a 2005 merlot (prize winner) and the 2005 was better although it was younger. Then we ended with 2 ice wines (one white, one red), paired with 2 chocolates. omg. Heaven. We bought a bottle of the red ice wine.

We got back to the minivan (Chris walked, they had to roll me) and we drove back to Fort George. I must say that if anyone wants to take a wine tour, go with Crush Tours, choose the Sip & Savour tour and ask for Len. He was simply fantastic and thoughtful, helpful and really wanting to make our day special for our anniversary.

I had such a great time. The fresh air, the gorgeous scenery (everywhere you looked, there were vineyards, by the side of the road, rows after rows of vines and grapes)…the WINE! Just beautiful. We should have done this a long time ago and hope to make it a regular event. 🙂

Chateau des Charmes: http://www.chateaudescharmes.com/

Ravine: http://www.ravinevineyard.com/

Coyotes Run: http://www.coyotesrunwinery.com/

Caroline Cellars: http://www.carolinecellars.com/

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