We spent some time up north this past weekend. Kevin’s godfather lives in Rochester, NY, and we wanted to see him. We took the opportunity to head up to Niagara Falls, Canada, and the Niagara wine peninsula.
We had previously visited several Canadian wineries in the spring of 2004. I fell in love with the Niagara Parkway in the spring, with the river and vistas on one side and gardens and grapes on the other.
We enjoy our icewine and discovered great icewine in Niagara, but were also thrilled with the wines offered other than icewine. Like everyone, we visited Inniskillin on that first trip. We really enjoyed Inniskillin, but they do have a rather powerful marketing arm in the United States. This trip we wanted to go to smaller wineries and wineries with less of a presence in the States, but I fully admit we were sidetracked. Read on to learn about each winery we visited on this trip, including Coyote’s Run, Chateau des Charmes, Joseph’s Estate, Jackson-Triggs, Peller Estates, and Lailey. A complete Flickr photo set is also available.
Our first stop was to Coyote’s Run. Coyote’s Run is a tiny winery, comprised of 58-acres. Approximately 25 acres of the property is planted with varieties such
as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot,
Syrah, Vidal and Pinot Gris. We tried several of their wines, including the ice wine. We purchased the 2005 Rosé and the 2004 Bob Izumi White.
Around the corner from Coyote’s Run is a larger winery, Chateau des Charmes. This was the icewine available at Disney’s Canada during the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival. I was curious about the winery, but I hadn’t expected to purchase anything. After all, I was fairly certain I could purchase their vidal icewine back home. The winery itself is housed in a newish-looking "chateau." Across the street from the winery is the winemaker’s house, also quite chateau-like in appearance. Both buildings are surrounded in grapevines. On Saturday, the hibernating vines were covered in snow. It really was a rather enchanting site.
Our wine room attendant was a real sweetheart. She was well-versed in Chateau des Charmes wine, but also recommended several other Ontario wines she thought we might enjoy. We purchased a 2005 Gamay "Droit" from their St. David’s Bench vineyard. I am always impressed with the Gamay wines I find in Canada. We also purchased their 2004 Riesling Icewine. This wine was amazing. A lot of icewine can be overwhelmed by the sugar – the honey flavor – so prevalent. Much to our surprise, this Riesling Icewine was incredibly complex, with layers of flavor and texture.
We left Chateau des Charmes slightly poorer in the pocketbook and headed to an old favorite, Joseph’s Estate. I had recently finished a bottle of cream sherry from this winery purchased on our last visit. We always enjoy this winery. It’s small, and the tasting room ladies start out rather gruff, but warm to you as you engage them in conversation about that which they enjoy most – the wine. I believe they only have about 20 acres, but purchase the rest of their grapes from neighboring vineyards. At Joseph, we purchased 5 bottles, including my Olde Cream Sherry. We also picked up the 2004 Caroline Rosé, 2001 Grand Reserve Chancellor (which reminded me of a bordeaux), the 2004 Chambourcin (which is fairly fruit forward, yet crying out for a pizza), and the 2000 Winter Harvest Icewine.
From Joseph’s, we went down the street a few blocks to Jackson-Triggs. I wanted to go to this winery, although it is large and ultra-modern, because I know that several Jackson-Triggs wines are available locally. I didn’t expect to leave with anything.
It was slightly past lunch time and we noticed that they offered a cheese & wine flight for two for only $20 CAD. We jumped on this. We each tried four wines, paired with several different cheeses and fruit. Much to our surprise, we really enjoyed the chardonnay, which was paired with Niagara Gold cheese. Following our wine and cheese snack, we visited the tasting bar where we enjoyed an icewine flight. In the end, we purchased the chardonnay, as well as the cabernet franc icewine.
By this point, I’m pretty sure we had purchased our allotted limit to cross back over into the US. However, we just kept on going. Peller Estates had previously offered an icewine jelly that is simply delicious. So we headed back, cutting through the rather picturesque town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Peller is a large estate, and I usually enjoy our visits. Their boutique literally sparkles from the multitudes of glassware available. At the tasting bar, we discovered an overpriced but delicate chardonnay icewine. We purchased a bottle, as well as a jar of icewine jelly and some new label lifters. At the duty free shop in Buffalo-Niagara, we also picked up a four-pack of Peller vidal blanc icewine (2) and late harvest (2) in 200 ml bottles.
It was time to head out to our final winery. I fell in love with Lailey on our last visit. They offered a brilliant unoaked chardonnay, as well as an enjoyable Gamay Noir. Unfortunately, Lailey was sold out of both of my favorites. However, I may have discovered new favorites – we purchased a bottle of Zweigelt (yes, it is a grape) and a bottle of Gamay Rosé.
The Canadian wine region seems underappreciated. I really enjoy visiting and discovering what more exists behind the icewine. I think the region has a great future and I can’t wait to go back for more. Maybe without the snow next time …
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