last year, I brought along with me a small group of wine lovers (enthusiasts?) to join me in the festivities. The weather on had called for rain pretty much the entire day, but that did not deter us or other groups as every stop was buzzing with folks.
We visited 4 wineries in total and began the afternoon at Flat Rock Cellars. Since it was raining, we were not able to head out into the vineyard, but the tour guide did tell us about their vineyards from the veranda overlooking the vineyards. I always find it quite calming and relaxing when overlooking vineyards. Flat Rock has about 80 acres of vineyards, growing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and a small patch of Gewürztraminer grapes. They were hosting a grape crush on this day, but our group was not too keen on this activity. We then headed towards their winemaking area, where grapes are fed through a state-of-the-art 5-level gravity flow system.
As part of the guided tour, we got to taste the 2011 Twisted (Riesling/Gewürztraminer/Chardonnay blend), followed by the 2012 version of their ever popular (and one of my favourites) Nadja's Vineyard Riesling (88 pts, $19.95). We ended the guided tour with a tasting of the 2011 Pinot Noir (87 pts, $19.95), that actually won a Bronze Medal at the recent 2013 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (NWAC13).
We also partook in the Discovery Pass Experience at Flat Rock, where we enjoyed a very generous serving of Memphis Fire verde chicken that was served in a soft taco with lettuce and fresh tomato salsa. A healthy amount of fruit flies also joined us, one of which I think I swallowed with my Pinot. The pairing was quite spicy all-around with the 2009 Chardonnay (88 pts, $17.15) that was partially-oaked. From here, we continued our tour into Niagara-on-the-Lake to visit 3 more wineries.
Our second stop was Marynissen Estates Winery, where we stopped in to "feast" on a Lamb Za'atar in a bite-sized pita topped with cumin yogurt. This was paired with the newly released 2009 Nanny's Blend. The tannins were still tight in this red wine, but worked well with the tiny food pairing.
Steve also took us into the back for a tasting a few of their current release wines, some of which were available for only $10. It's a shame that the LCBO doesn't carry much (if any) wines from Marynissen, because the wines here are quite good - and at unbelievably low price points.
Our third stop of the afternoon was PondView Estate Winery to enjoy savoury (and slightly spicy) skewered Tandoori chicken, served with a side of cold rice. We were served by one of the heads of this family-owned winery, Adriana Puglisi. This was paired with their 2011 Bella Terra Barrel Fermented Chardonnay (90 pts, $25). The pairing was good, nicely balanced, but I was wow-ed by this oaked Chardonnay that features buttered popcorn, apple, pear and hints of butterscotch aromas and nice aroma replays. It's full bodied with a creamy mouthfeel, good acidity and a smooth, long finish.
I also enjoyed the vegetarian option, which featured some brie on a baguette, the cold rice, and finished off with a chocolate praline. Yum! We also tasted at the bar and I rediscovered their delicious 2010 Vidal Icewine (92 pts, $25). This family-owned winery has over three generations of winemaking experience, and it shows!
Our fourth and final stop of this rainy afternoon was a unique experience at Strewn Winery. Here we tasted the winery's flagship red wine - the Strewn Three Terroir - from four different vintages to see how the wine developed over time. First up was the 2005, which was jammy and pruney with nicely integrated tannins and drinking great, but likely just past it's prime. The 2007 vintage had red fruits with oak, leather and tobacco aromas and flavours; it also had good structure with refined tannins and was my favourite of the four. The 2010 is from a great vintage and had fresh dark berries, currants, and blackberry aromas with dark fruits and oak on the palate; tannins still a bit tight, but drinkable now. And finally, the 2012 Futures has very fresh fruit and oak aromas, palate had lots of tannin and definitely needs time to settle down.
All in all, it was a great time. We sampled some good wine and eats. We had a good group and enjoyed each others company, and didn't let the rain affect us. If you're interested in joining me on a future tour, send me a quick note and I'll be sure to let you know!