About an hour and half away from Toronto, the Niagara region once only known for its magnificent waterfalls is now a prime destination for a wine lovers. With nearly 100 wineries spread across the area there is enough to keep you busy for days. If you get bored with wine-tasting which is very unlikely, there is always the distilleries, the craft beer breweries and of course the falls.
The winecountryontaria.ca has a wine route planner to custom your own wine tour itinerary. You can cycle the trails, Segway the vineyards or even fly over in an helicopter. At Pebble Soup, we only had to hop in the car with our designated a driver. We are very lucky to have friends who immigrated to the area and though we miss them a lot, while we were dithering about visiting Canada, it gave them years to conduct applied research which they did with a thorough dedication for which we are grateful.
Somehow, I'd like to start with our last stop in Beamsville and a holding belonging to friends of our friends. The reason I want to do so is that meeting the proprietors of these vineyards has been refreshing experience. Their openness, fresh marketing drive, uncomplicated approach and readiness to approach organic viniculture is in stark contraction with the French Vignerons' way imbued in the notion of "terroir".
But first, a tasting stop at the recently re-opened Kew vineyards with its incredibly beautiful mansion, its tasting patio, its crisp Riesling, soft Chardonnay, two of the original wines grown in the area and my favourite: a seductive sparking blanc de noir with tiny bubbles, hints of summer fruits and citrus.
Then, our party trotted next door where a South-African couple hires out their vines to a co-op. To my utter surprised I was told, "A few years back, "ceps de vignes" in Bordeaux suffered a plague which devastated the harvest. Beamsville sent vine replacements and saved the day".
By contrast, we visited a castle-like-winery with vineyards on epic proportions: 13th Street in St Catherines where their, "Very first vines were planted in 1976. In the years since, they' ve planted Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinot Gris and now have amassed more than 40 acres of estate vineyards in the VQA Creek Shores appellation of Niagara". It was interesting to see that here again, the first impression was, the hospitality, the openness.
13th Street is a well-oiled business. For $5 you get a flight of 3 tasting wine of your choosing. The wine is not pretentious, I rather liked the Riesling which has got such a bad reputation in Europe but somehow in Canada seems to have drop its "Nun habit" turned dryer and much much more robust.
More stops, a little tasting here, another there and we needed food which took us to a must visit the Brewery in Silversmith, set in a beautiful, restored, old church.
Ontario craft beer movement has certainly grown fast over the past decade or so: according to Beer Canada, the number of licensed breweries in rose almost by 50% between 2008 and 2013.
The craft beers got the thumb up from him. And the pickle watermelon rind had me lost for words for a little while, a rare occasion indeed.
We had only one last stop to make on our way back: Dillon's distillery who produces a number of gins, vodkas, white whiskies, absinth..... and bitters. Alcoholic ingredients mixed with herbal essences, with the renaissance of cocktails' recipes, bitters are growing in popularity.
In my opinion, Ontario wine is much more adapted to the modernity of our lives. Generally refined by technology, wines produced in the area are better drunk young. In general, they didn't wow me, the way some Californian wine did, but it was a very pleasant experience so bring it on, export.... but leave ice wine behind please.
Next we crossed Canada from East to West by train. Read all about it soon in Trip Reporter.