I am lucky that my family and I live not too far away from Ontario’s “wine country”, as I lovingly call it. We live on the Niagara escarpment (known to Hamiltonians as “the mountain”). It was an area formed roughly 450 million years ago, when this area was a shallow, warm sea. Rivers that flowed into this sea carried a lot of sand and clay, which formed sediment layers. These layers care still evident today in various areas of our city.
The geological area is referred to as the Michigan Basin. But it is widely known as the Golden Horseshoe, as it forms a horseshoe shape. Extending from Rochester, New York, up north to Tobermory and the Bruce Peninsula. It scoops under Lake Huron, coming up again on Manitoulin Island. From there, it travels down again in Lake Michigan and into the state of Wisconsin.
The breezes from the Great Lakes blow over the vineyards and bounce off of the escarpment and back again. This gives ample airflow and circulation. Because the lakes are warmer in the winter than they are in the summer, it provides an extended growing season. It keeps the grapes warm well into fall and winter.
I’m not sure if wine tours are still as popular as they once were. When our cousin came to visit with her fiance last weekend, wwe knew we wanted to celebrate my birthday at a winery. I was pushing for Jackson Triggs because it’s my favourite wine. I’m a fan of white, and my husband is a fan of red. I’ve never had a bad bottle of Jackson Triggs.
If you’ve never been on a wine tour, my husband and I both highly recommend them. We never used to appreciate wine when we were younger. One year, my sister-in-law gave us a gift certificate to choose from 5 area wineries, with a bonus free bottle of wine. We didn’t actually go until Valentine’s Day, and we thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience.
Wine tours are inexpensive and genuinely interesting. At the beginning, you’re given a glass, and you keep the same glass with you until the end. They will let you know how many wines you will be tasting on the tour. They talk about the entire process and give you a chance to ask plenty of questions.
A wine tour usually starts in the vineyard itself, and you can see the grapes growing on the vines. This depends on the time of year you go, and what climate you live in. The drier the season, the better for the vines, because the weather forces the roots to dig deep to find moisture. Too wet a season, and it will affect the flavours of the grapes.
After, take you through the facility and show you the machines and presses they use to crush the grapes. At this point, I ALWAYS think of Lucille Ball in the wine episode of I Love Lucy.
By this point, you might have had a tasting or two and if you’ve tried a red and a white, you probably know which one you prefer.
The next stop is likely going to be the cellar. I WISH I had a cellar like these. This part is also interesting because they explain the differences in the barrels. At Jackson Triggs, they use two main types of barrels, French oak and American oak. Barrels can cost between $800-$1200 each, and they explain simple differences between each. They discuss the smoothness of the wood and the flavours they infuse into the wine.
I just want ONE barrel… for now. I’m not being greedy!
The last wine we tasted was ice wine. We were not looking forward to this one.
Several years ago, a family member pulled a bottle of ice wine out after dinner. We hated it. Given, we weren’t big wine-drinkers back then, to begin with, so ice wine was pushing it. However, this ice wine tasted NOTHING like that. I was so impressed, we bought a bottle of it after the tour. The Niagara Estate had four types of ice wine for us to try. Riesling, Vidal, Cabernet Franc and the one I could never pronounce (lol), Gewurztraminer. All four were delicious, and I would definitely consider buying any of them.
I was interested in how they make ice wine, as they leave the grapes on the vines until December/January. By this point, the sugar within the grape is so concentrated (which is what makes ice wine so sweet). By the time the grapes are ready, only a drop or two can be extracted from each grape. I think this is why ice wines come in smaller bottles, and why they are pricier than some of their regular wines.
My husband explained to our tour guide what he had made for us for dinner (his version of Cordon Bleu). She made a couple of suggestions for white wine, and she was so right. White definitely made everything so much more enjoyable, flavour-wise.
After the tour finished, it was open season on the tasting bar! We ambled our way to the bar to try some of the other wines we didn’t get to try on the tour. I tried two more ice wines, and loved both. We stayed and enjoyed one glass of wine while catching up.
If you’ve been to a winery for a wine tour, I would love to hear what one and if you enjoyed your experience!