Friday, July 23, 2010
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada - Wine Tour (Day 1)
On Wednesday, July 21st, Paul and I took a mini-vacation to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario for an overnight stay at a bed & breakfast and a wine tour. Even though the Niagara region is just a 45 minute drive from home, we had always been meaning to take a wine tour and visit Niagara-on-the-Lake. Paul and I had a couple of days off together in a row and just a week ago decided to book this trip last-minute, if we could. As it turns out, we were able to book a room for just one night at a bed & breakfast, and the wine tour happened to have some spaces available, so we were in luck!
We stayed at Copper Lane Bed & Breakfast, right in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake. This beautiful home is literally just steps from the main downtown shopping area! It was incredibly convenient for us, as we just parked our car at the home (parking spaces are available for all guests) and were able to walk down the street and be in the center of town.
We stayed in the Cocoa Bean room, a very warm and charming room that made you feel right at home. Each room is equipped with an LCD TV with all of the movie channels, if you feel like staying in and watching a movie at night. Each room also has air conditioning, so it was very comfortable to sleep at night during these hot summer days.
Our bathroom was just a quick step across the hall, which wasn't a problem at all. It was just our bathroom and it was incredibly close to the room. It was decorated in similar shades of chocolate and caramel, and the bathroom was beautiful, just like the room! The shower was quite large, and there was lots of room to get ready in the morning after having a shower.
After we arrived mid-afternoon and walked around town for a little while, we went back to Copper Lane to wait for our wine tour to pick us up. We sat out on the porch of Copper Lane and watched some of the horse drawn carriages pass by. Copper Lane is surrounded by many trees and has a beautiful front porch with plenty of places to sit. The home itself was built originally in 1871 and has been fully restored, retaining many original elements of the house. It is quite charming!
The wine tour company that we went with was Niagara Vintage Wine Tours. We were picked up and dropped off from our bed & breakfast and embarked on a tour of three different wineries, as well as dinner at a fancy restaurant! This tour was described on the website as the Evening Wine Tour: Tony de Luca's Wine and Country Restaurant - a Californian inspired 5 course dinner tour and wine pairing experience!
The first two wineries that we visited were Reif Estate Winery and Pondview Winery, respectively. At Reif, we tried their Vidal, Merlot, and Riesling Icewine. They were all fantastic! We ended up purchasing a bottle of Late Harvest Riesling, Late Harvest Vidal, and a small bottle of Vidal Icewine from them. Next, we visited Pondview Winery, which just opened up on June 1st, 2010! The family had been producing wine for decades and finally decided to open their own winery. At Pondview, we tried their Riesling, Gewürztraminer Riesling, and Cabernet Franc Rose. This was the very first Rose wine that Paul and I both really enjoyed, so we had to pick up a bottle of that one!
Next, we visited our third stop, Pillitteri Estates Winery. We went on an extensive tour of their property, including outside where they grow the grapes, and inside the production rooms and down to the barrel cellar. First, we were given a brief history of Pillitteri, their family and their wines. Their wines have won many awards, many of which are prominently displayed in the front foyer of the building. Their Sparkling Icewine Cabernet 2008 won the top gold medal prize for best Icewine! There was also a beautifully decorated wagon displayed in the front foyer, painted and decorated with family history and kept in the family for generations.
It was a beautiful day outside when we saw the grapes growing that go into Pillitteri wines.
There are separate barrels that produce icewine and regular white/red wine. These containers separate the skins from the grapes and press them down into wine. The room with the giant metal containers was freezing cold and store the wine at the perfect temperature until they are ready to be transferred to the barrels.
We went down into the barrel cellar, which was enormous! There were so many barrels stacked all around inside a huge concrete cellar. There was the longest concrete table in the world in the center of the room...well, apparently it is now the second largest concrete table. There were 23 chairs all bolted up high around the room that get brought down on rare occasions for the family and friends to sit at the table in the cellar. The number 23 is special to the family and the owner, so many instances of this number are represented around the room as it brings good luck to them.
After the tour, we tasted many wines at Pillitteri: a Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, a Gewürztraminer Icewine, and a rare Red Icewine! All of their wines were delicious and we ended up purchasing the Cabernet Franc and the Gewürztraminer Icewine. I would have purchased the Red Icewine, but it was a bit on the expensive side, understandably so!
After the wine tour, we went for our delicious dinner, which will be continued in the next blog post!