Coming to Niagara back in May might have been a mistake. I fear I’m hooked now.
Friday after work Nellie, T-Bone, The Sof and I drove to Niagara-on-the-Lake to begin a weekend of good food and flowing wine. After fighting off traffic we had a drink and some lobster poutine at the Shaw Club hotel’s bar, then left for our dinner reservations at Stone Road Grille. We’d enjoyed it so much last time that T-Bone wanted to try it too. Lucky for her, it was even better this time. All four starters — my scallops wrapped in duck breast bacon, The Sof’s poutine (he is from Montreal, after all) and the sweet corn, chantrelle and lobster risotto that Nellie and T-Bone each had — were fantastic. The mains — perfect flank steak frites for me, T-Bone’s shepherd’s pie with lamb, Nellie’s halibut with sea asparagus and The Sof’s duck confit — were also top-notch. We all took the easy way out and just did their suggested wine pairings, but they really did work perfectly. None of us had room for dessert; most of us had dessert wine, but then they brought out some cotton candy (!) for us to share, so…sweet overload. Quite a meal. We wisely decided to walk it off, but then foolishly decided to drink a bottle of Megalomaniac cab sauv when we got to the hotel. Ah well. When in Rome.
Saturday morning we again ate on the beautiful patio at the Shaw Club, then began the wine touring. We started with Stratus, whose wines were good and whose tasting room is gorgeous. Like, I want to live there gorgeous. Next was Southbrook, where our pouring needs were attended to by the most delightful Scottish lady. At this point we were getting hungry so we drove to Port Dalhousie where we had reservations at Treadwell. Our lunch there was excellent: a charcuterie plate to start, then fish & chips, soup, sandwiches and wine, all of it local. Oh, and our patio seats overlooked the water. So, yeah…pretty nice. But no time to rest, we had more wineries to visit.
We stopped at A Foreign Affair, then Alvento, then the beautiful cellar at Tawse, then the room at Megalomaniac tucked into a hill. By this time our trunk was full of wine and our energy levels flagging, so we checked in to our little inn, the Black Walnut Manor. The owners poured us another glass of wine (mercy!) and put out some brie and crackers and red pepper jelly and we sat and ate it on the deck under an enormous tree and felt sooooooooo relaxed. We sat by the pool and dipped our feet and played with dogs and wanted to stay forever or make them an offer to buy or maybe just have a nap or whatever. But we were happy.
A more casual dinner was in order, and luckily the proprietor was able to sneak us into About Thyme at the last minute. It didn’t look like much on the outside, but had good food and a great wine selection. Nothing about anyone’s meal was too remarkable, except Nellie’s steak with an atomic pile of mushroom poutine and my first experience tasting NYARAI‘s wines, but it was a very solid meal. It also provided a very relaxed atmosphere, conducive to us crashing immediately after dinner following the 2km walk home. I, for one, slept like the freaking dead.
The next morning was my happy place. I awoke at 8 to find juice, tea, nectarines and a newspaper outside our door. I adjourned to the balcony with laptop and wi-fi in tow, enjoying the fresh air. I luxuriated in my warm, quiet morning until it was time for breakfast, prepared by the owners. Sitting with the four other guests (two different couples, both from Cincinnati oddly enough) we were treated to pancetta & melon, chocolatines and broccoli + cheese frittatas. But enough dilly-dallying: we had wineries to visit.
Zipping west to Beamsville, we started at Rosewood. Next was Thirty Bench, just across the street, where we loaded up on the cab franc. Then quick visits to Fielding and Hidden Bench (where we didn’t buy anything, but T-Bone did) followed by an experience at Daniel Lenko. Actually, it’d be more accurate to say an experience with Daniel Lenko, as he was the one pouring the wines right at his kitchen table. Sadly he was sold out of his white Cabernet, which was Nellie’s one required purchase for this trip. Major sad face.
Food was next on the agenda, so we took our innkeeper’s advice and visited The Good Earth for lunch. What a recommendation it was: nestled in this beautiful space among the vines and fruit trees, they served us lunch outdoors at a harvest table next to a wood-fired oven. Yet another charcuterie plate to start, and then a pile of meat for T-Bone and pizzas for the rest of us. The tomato, bocconcini and basil pizza was good, but Nellie’s prosciutto, peach and blue cheese pizza kicked ass. The food, the wine, the setting, the people, the day…none of us wanted to leave. And yet, it was time to go. The trunk could hold no more anyway. An hour later we were back in Toronto, wondering where the hell to put all these bottles. Storage issues aside, though, it was just a fantastic weekend. And so, I present the spoils:
This is what we bought:
- Stratus 2006 White
- Stratus 2008 Ice Wine White
- Southbrook Whimsy 2007 Cabernet Franc
- Southbrook Whimsy 2007 Lot no. 20 Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Foreign Affair 2007 Chardonnay
- The Foreign Affair 2008 Riesling
- The Foreign Affair 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
- Alvento 2007 Viognier
- Tawse 2007 Meritage
- Tawse 2007 Chardonnay
- Megalomaniac 2007 Narcissist Riesling
- Rosewood 2008 Pinot Noir
- Rosewood 2008 Trois Femmes Rosé
- Thirty Bench Small Lot 2009 Triangle Riesling
- Thirty Bench Small Lot 2009 Gewurztraminer
- Thirty Bench Small Lot 2007 Cabernet Franc (x3)
- Fielding 2007 Sauvignon Blanc
- Fielding 2007 Chardonnay Musque
- Daniel Lenko 2005 Meritage
- Daniel Lenko 2007 Old Vines Chardonnay (French Oak)
- also: a Thirty Bench Merlot, which we intended to give away as a gift, because there will be no Merlot in this house
11 whites, 9 reds and 2 others. Probably a more even mix than I expected. I did not expect to come home with four chardonnays though.