Tawse, Five Rows, Hidden Bench, Stratus…and now Pearl-Morissette

It’s dangerous having a friend in Niagara. Especially when that friend is gracious enough  to invite you over (for the second time in as many months) to enjoy their pool and join them for dinner, as they did this past Saturday.

Joined this time by our friends CBJ+M, we planned to hit a few wineries on the way down. Our first and most anticipated stop was Pearl-Morissette, the one winery I’ve continually heard that we must visit. We were a little hesitant since I’d heard similar things about Marynissen which turned out to be an utter disappointment, but we had little reason to fear.

Once we actually found the place — there are no signs, no parking lots, no tour buses or bachelorette parties (thank heavens) — we realized we’d stumbled into something pretty special. It’s very much on a working farm, and not fancy…we gathered, in a barn, around a lone board perched atop some barrels. François, the winemaker, guided us through tastings of each of their wines (Riesling, Chardonnay, Cab Franc), starting with barrel samples of the 2012, then the 2011s still ageing in the bottles, and finally the bottled 2010s.  He took the time to explain his adventure with each wine, the struggles and victories and lessons. No tasting, this: we were listening to a craftsman guide us through his past four years’ work. We took twelve — four of each — home, and bought four more for our hosts. CBJ+M took a half dozen as well, and Pearl-Morissette became an instant favourite for all of us. Frankly, we could have called it a day there and been happy.

Nellie and I did have a purpose, though: to stock up on some summer wines. So we stopped at Creekside to pick up some bottles and eat lunch on their deck (the food? excellent), stopped again at 13th Street (which was incredibly busy), and made the day’s final winery stop at Southbrook. We made one final pickup at Oast House Brewers for some saison and country ale before arriving at our friends’ house. Some hellos and tours and cold beers later and we were into the pool, not to depart until it was nearly time for dinner.

Our friends stuffed us with enormous steaks, potatoes the size of footballs, garlic scapes, Penfolds Bin 389 Cab/Shiraz, and strawberry shortcake. Following some electronic competitiveness we all crashed upstairs.

Rain threatened the next day so we kept our return trip plans basic, stopping at Hidden Bench and Thirty Bench for some quick purchases and having a huge lunch at the local pub The Butcher and Banker. We arrived home, sorted our 24 new bottles into their proper homes, and immediately dispatched one of the new arrivals (a Thirty Bench rosé) to celebrate an enjoyable weekend.

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