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Views from the Ontario Vines


with Fred Couch

Winemakersí Selections Touring Pass

Planning a trip to Niagara’s wine country?  The Winemakers’ Selections Touring pass is an economical way to visit 24 wineries for a two ounce sample of a featured wine.  You can tour and taste all the wineries for the low cost of $25 (plus HST).  The good news is that you don’t have to visit all the wineries over one weekend or one month as with many other passport events.  The touring pass can be used any day the winery is open throughout the year.  This will give you plenty of time to explore, taste and speak to winery staff about the wine offered.  However, keep in mind that the larger wineries get quite busy on weekends especially during the summer and because they sometimes have summer help, they might not know about the pass.  We found out that this is quickly rectified once they speak with their supervisor.

With our pass and a list of participating wineries in hand, we toured the wineries over the month of July.  With the help of a map on the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake website, we were able to plan our route for the day:  http://www.wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com/visit-wine-country/maps-directions/.  We would suggest visiting about six wineries per day.  With a few breaks in between and possibly lunch at one of the winery restaurants, this makes a perfect day for touring Niagara’s wine country.

At some of the participating wineries, the featured wine was sold out.  In this case, a new vintage of the same wine will be poured if it’s available.  If not, we found that the winery would pour a substitute wine.  At the Hare Wine Company, their 2015 Chardonnay was sold out so they offered us a sample of their 2013 Frontier Cabernet Franc ($50).

Some of the highlights of our tour:

Ravine Vineyard – The tasting room is in the beautifully restored Wm. Woodruff House.  Be sure to ask one of the staff about the history of this house which dates back to the War of 1812.  The featured wine was the 2014 Merlot ($35).  We were also lucky enough to have a taste of their 2012 Stadtlander Reserve Red a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc ($65).

Coyote’s Run Estate Winery – The featured wine is the 2014 Red Paw Pinot Noir ($35).  For those who have not been to Coyote’s Run this may sound like a very strange name for a wine.  On the tasting room bar you will see two glass bowls, each containing two unique soils - one containing red soil and the other black soil.  The 60 acre vineyard is cut on a diagonal. On one side is dense black clay which forms the black paw vineyard. On the other side is a unique exposure of ancient bed rock with a bright red colour and gives the name to the red paw vineyard.  If the Black Paw Pinot Noir is available for tasting, try them side by side to see if you notice any difference in the “terroir”.

Château des Charmes – The winemaker’s selection was supposed to be the 2015 Gamay Noir ‘Droit”.  However, it seems this wine is so popular especially with visitors from Quebec, it is now sold out.  As a substitute, we were lucky enough to try the 2012 Equuleus ($43) which won Gold at the Ontario Wine Awards this year.  Equuleus is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc and 25% Merlot and made only in the best vintages.

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery – This was the only winery to serve a sparkling wine.  According to the list, the 2015 Grand Reserve Entourage sparkling Sauvignon Blanc ($30) is made in the traditional method with a not so traditional grape.  To quote the winemaker, “this bubbly is exciting and exuberant, bright, clean and fun with a fresh acidity.”  It is definitely worth trying if you get a chance to visit the winery on your tour.

Inniskillin Wines The featured wine is the 2015 Riesling Icewine ($80). 

Inniskillin was one of the first Canadian wineries to produce Icewine and the first to do so in commercially significant quantities. 

Icewine is perfect on its own as dessert or with cheeses such as blue veined, triple cream, goat cheese, washed rind cheeses, aged cheeses and salty parmesan.

Two Sisters Vineyards – Be sure to stop by one the newer wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It’s a beautiful château-like building amongst the vines of their estate.  Once you’ve tried the featured wine which is the 2012 Eleventh Post ($39) a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and  Merlot, be sure to drop by for lunch at Kitchen 76.  The restaurant features Italian inspired dishes including pizza, panini, pasta, etc. 

These are only a few examples of the gems you’ll find using your Winemakers’ Selections Touring Pass.  For more information and ordering your pass go to:   http://www.wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com/event/winemakers-selections-tasting-pass/

Photos by © F.G. Couch              

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