Friday, January 27, 2012

Niagara Ice Wine Festival 2012

I love LOVE wine. I’m a white wine girl, and can always go for a good glass of Reisling after a long day, or if I’m being totally honest, after most days! I host a wine tasting party with my girlfriends every year where each person brings a wine and we sample, play games, have lots of good food, and rate all the wines. Not to brag or anything, but my bottle of wine wins every year as favorite wine! I make it my mission to scour the area for a local winery to pick as my choice for the party. I typically go on a few wine tasting outings during the year and one of my favorite spots to tour is Niagara On The Lake in Canada.

Earlier this month, my boyfriend and I ventured up to the North to attend the Niagara Ice Wine Festival. During our Sunday excursion we stopped at eight different wineries (five new ones) and I continue to fall more in love with the region (and the best part, it's less than an hour drive!).

Here are some of my highlights from the day:

My absolute favorite stop when we get up there is Vineland Estates Winery, located at 3620 Moyer Road, Ontario L0R 2C0, CA. For the past two years we ended up tasting at the same spot, with the exact same man, Joe. He has an outstanding personality and is the person you need to ask for if you get up there. The previous year Joe told us about a sparkling Riesling they were going to be coming out with, but when we were there last it was not yet available for tasting. I was extremely excited to taste it this year, and it did not disappoint. Basically every wine we tried (both ice wine and an assortment of other wines) were great, and we left there with a few different bottles. The property itself is gorgeous, with a restaurant, chapel, tasting room, and small marketplace upstairs with cheeses and other products. If you are a white wine drinker like me, try the 2008 St. Urban Riesling, the 2009 Semi Dry Riesling, The Sparkling Riesling Methode Cuve Close, and the Cabernet Sauvignon Ice wine (although all the ice wines are delicious)!

Two other wineries we went back to for the second time were Tawse Winery and Flat Rock Cellars. Tawse has fantastic wines and I was excited to try the latest Riesling. The tasting specialists (for lack of a better term) and Tawse were friendly and fun, and we enjoyed the chit chat with them. They are surrounded by pretty scenery and I love the large glass room divider that shows off where the wine is made, behind the tasting room.

Flat Rock is one of the most fun places to hang out and enjoy the scenery. Their tasting room has huge windows that overlook their vineyard and on a clear day (which it was when we were there) you can see Toronto in the distance. They sell huge homemade marshmallows and have a big fire pit outside to roast them. We had to get them, and they were delicious. They have a good selection of wines and I'd suggest trying their "Twisted" wines mixing together a few different wines to make up this line.

As for the new places we tried we ventured out to Angel's Gate Winery, Organized Crime Winery, Crown Bench Estates Winery, Creekside Estate Winery and Stone Church Vineyards. I wasn't much of a fan of the last three. Crown Bench Estates is pegged the "most innovative" winery branching out and making flavored ice wines including hot ice (combining five different hot peppers), vanilla ice, and ambrosia chocolate ice, among others. We tried a few but weren't impressed with any. On the plus side, Crown Bench Estates sells these awesome ice wine glasses that I had to have, $7 each. Stone Church was our last stop of the day and I wasn't a huge fan of any wine, but they have pretty awesome spreads and dips for sale - try the caramelized onion and maple. As for Creekside, I just wasn't a fan of anything there.

Angel's Gate and Organized Crime were fun additions to our tour! While the tasting experience at Organized Crime wasn't my favorite; the tasting room is tiny and I mean TINY, and the owner's dog was in the room next door scratching on the door, they had my pick for favorite wine I tried of the day - their Reisling. Angel's Gate was our first stop of the day, and the winery is super cute. They had a pretty great patio and would be perfect for a summer night, overlooking gorgeous scenery.

The Niagara Ice Wine Festival offers a pass that includes food pairings at some of the wineries along with your tastings for $30. While it's a good deal, we've never purchased it. We typically purchase a bottle or two at most wineries we go to, and if you do that, in most cases, the winery will waive the tasting fees. During this trip we didn't end up paying for one tasting, but we did come home with 8 bottles of wine and a gorgeous set of ice wine glasses!

This weekend is the last weekend of the Ice Wine Festival, but if you can't make it up there soon, plan a day trip with your significant other or close friends, and explore all the great wineries just over the border! Red wine drinkers, don't worry, there's plenty of awesome red wines available for tasting too!

1 comment:

  1. It sure sounds like you had a lot of fun winery-hopping. I can only wish I could find some time to do that myself since I love wine just as much as you do.