When we were in high school, teachers basically knew everyone by name (or at least had heard of them) but then university came and every time we had to interact it was “student number please.” I went from being Yvonne, the individual, to 165879.
When you waltz into some of the province’s bigger wineries, I can’t help but feel the same. The monstrosity of the retail shops makes you feel so small. That’s why I love Twenty Valley, which stretches from West St. Catharines to Beamsville, and on which 28 wineries call home. For the most part, it is home to boutique wineries doing small batch wines. You actually get to enjoy the tastings and share sentiments about the wines you’re drinking without feeling rushed. Whether you can only differentiate between white and red wine or whether or not you know your Chardonnay from your Sauvignon Blanc – you always feel welcome.
Here’s a list of some of our favourite adult grape juice producers in the region…
Megalomaniac… the word refers to a person who is obsessed with their own power. It is owned by entrepreneur John Howard, who knows a thing or two about coming out on top. The winery is subtitled the John Howard cellars of distinction. From his humble beginnings as a salesperson to founding his own company (which was later bought out by Canon), John has had a lot of fantastic wine in his lifetime.
The 110-acre site will awe you as you take winding roads through the impressive property to the top of the hill to the retail store and tasting room where you should definitely sip on the Narcissist Riesling or Homegrown Red (my two favorites). The last time I was there, construction was underway for a new retail and tasting room which is expected to be two-stories high. Howard must be a fan of “go big or go home.” Despite the grandeur of the property, it still feels cozy and intimate once you get inside.
Cave Spring Cellars
Jordan Village, a quaint strip that houses many local boutiques and is reminiscent of Unionville, is home to Cave Spring’s retail shop, spa, inn, and dining room. Make it a girl’s day in the country when you go to visit – I did! We went to the spa, sampled some wine, and then had dinner in Cave Spring’s beautiful dining room with French windows overlooking the valley. We like their NV Blanc de Blancs (a sparkling wine made with Chardonnay grapes) as well as the Estate Bottled Riesling.
Staff knows a thing or two about grapes. She even makes wine for neighbouring winery Megalomanic. She comes from a generation of grape growers, but decided to make a name for herself and established her own winery on her 200-year-old family estate. You can often find her Bernese Mountain Dog, Brix (I wonder if he’s named after the chocolate-for-wine company…?), roaming around. Staff also serves up some of the best pairings during Twenty Valley’s two annual tasting events: Wrapped Up in the Valley (fall) and Get Fresh in the Valley (spring). Her grilled cheese and chocolate “brownie” were to die for last year; luckily I held on to the recipe cards! Staff proves that winemaking isn’t just a man’s world and we love her for it. I really like her Loved by Lou Riesling. I wonder if it’s named after Lou Puglisi (aka the Grape King) over at Pondview Estates…?
Tawse Winery has been named by Wine Access as the Canadian Winery of the Year for three consecutive years since 2010. The gardens with wrought iron fences surrounding them are reminiscent of European gardens as you enter their retail store and tasting room. The tasting room’s in the back, decorated with wooden barrels, and makes you feel like you are in a wine cellar. I got to try their new release, the 2013 Riesling Icewine, this year – and if you like mango, you’re going to love it!
Rosewood Estates Winery
This winery was founded in 2000 by the Roman family. In addition to being a winery, Rosewood makes honey, and mead wine (aka honey wine, aka most likely the stuff that was in the gimlets of the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones). It is a beautiful winery with a picturesque gazebo and fountain that makes the perfect spot your next Kodak moment. I really like the Süssreserve Riesling, and the Mead Royale pairs well with salty, hard cheeses.
Honorable mentions go to Malivoire Wine Company which is a great place to taste wine and grab some cheese. They have a great selection for sale at the winery. If you haven’t tried the Château de Bourgogne (a triple crème cheese from Burgundy, France), you can get it here – and while you’re at it, grab a bottle of the Lady Bug Rosé.
For those who enjoy fruit wines, Hernder Estate Wine has everything from cranberry to peach wine. And with the popularity of tea-infused beverages, you should also have a taste of their green tea Gewürztraminer.
What are some of your favourite Ontario wines? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.