This time we made sure the Gardiner would be open.
The last time we drove around the lake to see Matt & Kaylea it was an ordeal. When the main highway out of downtown Toronto is shut down, things get messy. Fortunately there were no such closures this time, so we made good time.
Too good, in fact…we were at their place in less than an hour, and arrived before they were still in the throes of morning. Anyway, we had plenty of time before the event which drew us down to Beamsville in the first place: a structured tasting at Thirty Bench. We knew we’d be tasting the 2008 cab franc and merlot alongside the 2011, but they also added the 1996 vintage of each to the lineup. The tasting began at 11am, but we did our stretches and got ready to taste.
I won’t go too far into the tasting notes, but suffice it to say both 1996s were past their primes. Still, it was fun to taste them alongside the new, more powerful vintages. We knew we’d be buying several bottles of the 2011 cab franc to add to our collection, but it was nice to taste the 2008 again as well. And we were surprised by the 08 merlot…surprised enough that we bought a bottle. Let’s see if it lives up to our memories when we finally crack it.
After Thirty Bench we drove east to Kacaba. Kacaba’s always good for a solid half (or full) case, but they happened to be running an open house so we just jumped into the tour. We tried some tank samples of the upcoming sauv blanc, pinot gris, and riesling (and pre-ordered the first two) as well as some syrah and cab sauv, and met the winemaker and the owners, and chatted a lot with the staff, and bought nearly a case of wine. Despite their absolutely atrocious website, Kacaba is always a wise stop along the wine trail.
Our last stop of the day was Green Lane, a new winery for us. It’s small, and the room was empty when we arrived, so we took our time. We liked the sur lie chardonnay and their cab blend well enough. Not sure it’ll be at the top of my list for future visits though.
After a quick stop for provisions we went back to Matt & Kaylea’s, where Matt began prepping his feast. He distracted our tummies with a board of kielbasa, a cheese ball, and some of his homemade bread. Which was incredible.
The ladies split a bottle of Jordan riesling we’d brought back from Stellenbosch, while Matt and I sampled some beers. We had some Railway City Iron Spike blonde ale (which was ok), and some Dead Elephant ale, also from Railway City (which was a little better), and some Midtfyns/De Molen X Porter (which was horrible…and I love porters), and finally some Deus Brut des Flandres (which was spectacular…I was actually angry at myself for never having tried it before).
And then came dinner. First: a roasted parsnip + celeriac soup with parsley oil, paired with a sur lie chardonnay we’d picked up that day at Green Lane. The main course was pork loin wrapped around apricot, onion, spinach, and rosemary, served with creamy potatoes and butternut squash. That was paired with an Old Third 2010 pinot.
We decided to take a little break, clean up a little, and go for a walk before dessert and the final bottle of wine. Unfortunately somewhere in there I developed one of the worst headaches of my life. As in, it hurt to look at light, or laugh. Eventually I just disappeared into the bedroom, turned off the light, and tried to make my head stop hurting. The rest of the gang drank a bottle of my beloved 2007 Thirty Bench cab franc and dug into the massive lemon square Matt had made especially for Nellie. I missed it all because it felt like a giant hot crab was attacking my temples.
The next morning the pain had lessened — it was like a normal headache now, which was comparatively easy — and I was able to partake of Matt’s excellent breakfast. We surveyed the previous evening’s damage and went out to investigate one more winery: Kew.
None of us had ever been to Kew (it’s new! Kew is new! New Kew!) so this was a bit of an adventure. And I gotta say, it is a beautiful spot up there. They’ve done well with the space, and we all made plans to come back in the summer and take advantage of the patio & fire. The wines didn’t quite blow us away, but many of them were solid, and blessedly there was some variety from the usual Bench wine offerings. They did a blanc de noir sparkling, and a marsanne/viognier mix, and a decent little cabernet blend, and I do believe we took a bottle of each along with a fumé blanc.
Since our Kew visit took a little longer than expected we decided to just call it and get some lunch before heading back. We retired to the Judge & Jester pub, which serves onion rings larger than a Roman legionnaire’s shield and ribs the size of a washboard. Needless to say that was our last food of the day.
Our drive home was uneventful, but our stomachs were full, as is our wine rack now (almost). Another successful trip in the books.