Sunday, July 29, 2007

Wining into NOTL

I spent Saturday afternoon with S winetasting in Niagara-on-the-Lake en route to see Somerset Maugham's The Circle at the Shaw Festival.

Thanks to stupid traffic, a drive that would normally take an hour dragged into a 2.5 hour stop-and-go joy ride along the QEW. It was all forgotten though as we approached our first stop, the charming Stonechurch Vineyards and were greeted by the delightful barman behind the tasting counter.

Here, we tried a flight of 3 whites - the Chardonnay, Dry Riesling, and the Medium Dry Riesling - and a flight of 3 reds - the Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz Reserve and Pinot Noir. Our barman, a lovely retired gentleman who had lived in Toronto and Mississauga before moving to nearby Virgil threw in a tasting of the Cabernet Franc. I enjoyed both rieslings but the latter was a little too sweet for my taste so I ended up bringing home a bottle of the dry riesling. My favourite of the reds was the cab sauv, which was surprisingly light considering I've always thought of this grape as one that yielded wines that lean towards the heavy and full-bodied.

Below is a view of their vines - there were various rosebushes planted at the end of the row of grapes...I have this vague memory of a winetasting lecture in class that roses are planted near grape vines so that pests that would otherwise attack the vines would be attracted to the flowers...

Our next stop was Strewn, where we sampled the Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurtztraminer-Riesling and Rose. I love the scent of gewurtraminer on the nose - it usually brings to mind roses and lichee. The gewurtztraminer grape figures rather prominiently in the white wines from Alsace, but I learned in my winetasting class that while Alsatian whites have a fantastic bouquet, they often disappoint upon sipping. The gewurtz-riesling blend here had the lovely scent of roses on the nose, but also tasted really good - dry, fruity, and perfectly easy to drink. I brought a bottle of this home with me.

Our final stop was Stratus where we had arranged to pick up our order of wines from Wildass, their secondary line. I'd first heard of Stratus about the time it was founded in 2000. They were notable at the time for creating blended wines while most other vineyards in the region focused on single grape varietals.

We tried a flight of red wines which included their signature Red blend, Shiraz, and (I think) Cabernet Franc. And perhaps I'm being nitpicky, but for a place that charges $10 for a flight when smaller wineries charge $2, they were really skimpy with the pours! I must say that of all the tasting rooms I've visited - and I've visited quite a few here and abroad - Stratus has no equal in my mind.

The outside looks industrial and modern, which I personally find rather boring.

But the inside totally wows if sleek and modern is your thing. Exhibit A below is the tasting bar:

And finally, Exhibit B below of the retail store, my favourite of all.

S and I mused about going back to wine country in the Fall. We've always sampled in Niagara-on-the-Lake as it's convenient given our patronage at the Shaw Festival but this next time, our grand plan is to stop for a hike and picnic in the Ball's Falls Conservation Area and visit a few of the vineyards in and around Grimsby/Beamsville and/or Jordan/Vineland. Something to look forward to!

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