Need a few reasons to hit the road this November? The Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake has twenty-seven of them with their annual Taste the Season event! Last weekend, we headed for NOTL wine country to see, sip and sample our way along the tour.
Taste the Season features 27 participating wineries, who are each serving up a seasonally inspired VQA wine and food pairing. A�Taste the Season passport holders are treated to said beverage and bite at each stop along the way, and can use the pass on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays (11am-5pm) all November long. A�Embarrassment of riches much?
In our opinion, the hardest part of Taste the Season is figuring out where to begin (and of course, when to stop!). A�We started our tour at the Niagara College Teaching Winery, where the warm and approachable Alwyn poured their 2010 Barrel-Fermented Chardonnay and served up an elegant amuse bouche – pork trotter with compressed fennel on toasted brioche. A�Crisp, bright and with a nice hit of acidity at the finish, we had no trouble finishing our first glass!
From their highly regarded viticulture program to their innovate brewmaster education (one of only a handful in the country) and superb student-run restaurant, Benchmark, this college is clearly honour roll material. A�Did we mention, they’ve also got a spa on the premises now?
After the Teaching Winery, we headed to Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery (a perennial OCTA favourite!) then wound our way along the Niagara River Parkway, flush with fall colours. A�It really is a beautiful time of year to explore Niagara wine country! We stopped at Riverview Cellars, Inniskillin, Reif Estate Winery and Peller Estates, where they were pouring their signature Ice CuvA�e Classic – a traditional champagne-method sparkling wine to which they add a Vidal Icewine dosage. A�We love our Ontario sparkling wine so this was a great new find.
Heading southwest, we visited Stratus Vineyards for their 2012 Special Select Late Harvest Cabernet Franc and chevre panna cotta, before heading to Diamond Estates, Hinterbrook WineryA�and Cattail Creek (be sure to ask for a taste of their 2008 Reserve Series Reisling) and finally, Southbrook Vineyards. A�At our final stop, we got a chance to chat with The Yellow Pear food truck proprietors, Nicole and Jay Sawatsky.
Their new gig at Southbrook means you can find The Yellow Pear stationed at the winery Friday-Sunday (12-4pm), where they’ll be serving up their popular eggs benny, farmers’ plate and more seasonal favourites among the vines. A�If the sirloin chili they dished out is any indication (perfect with Southbrook’s 2010 Triomphe Cabernet Franc), this is a match made in heaven!
It’s not just The Yellow Pear and Southbrook – the theme of collaboration is evident along the tour. A�At Riverview Cellars, their goat cheese tart is topped with vegetables sourced from Ravine Vineyard, at Reif Estates, their local blackberry brownie is sourced from The Pie Plate in Virgil and at Lailey Vineyard, their pork short ribs come courtesy of Chef Ryan Crawford’s awesome new venture, Gastrohomestead.
With all this delicious-ness, it’s hard to believe we didn’t even make it to half of the Taste the Season stops! With just a few weeks left in November, there’s no sense in waiting til the last minute to pick up a touring pass – better to clear a few weekends for this terrific tasting extravaganza.
Twenty-seven wineries nestled below the Escarpment amidst a landscape of vineyards and orchards stretching from the picturesque Niagara River Parkway (the drive Sir Winston Churchill called the prettiest in Canada) to the shores of Lake Ontario. A�They are a close-knit community, mere minutes from each other, and can be found throughout Niagara-on-the-Lake, the historic town ranked asA�Canada�s #1 Food & Wine Destination by TripAdvisor in 2011.