leave your inhibitions at the door
The Drunken Cyclist came up with the grand idea of a monthly challenge where wine bloggers can participate by writing about wine and a specific theme. For the inaugural month, the challenge was to write about “transportation” and so far the participants are –
For his post on the theme – The Drunken Cyclist himself wrote about how wine itself transported him back to time spent as an exchange student in Alsace. There are some rather hilarious tales of the host families, especially getting punched in the groin by a miniscule 14-year old. As the 23 years of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” proves, nothing beats a groin injury for a good laugh.
I was a little shocked that he didn’t mention anything about cycling. But, then again, I rarely write about wine and I’m The Food and WINE Hedonist. So I figure I’ll right two wrongs and post about our little trip to Niagara’s wine region a couple years back. Actually, this is great for me since I had a bunch of pictures from the trip that I’ve been meaning to share. Sorry, I couldn’t find the pic of me in my biking shorts.
I first heard of the Niagara region’s wine back in somm school. It’s Canada’s largest wine growing region and produces the highest volume of icewines in the world. Makes sense, right? Canada seems like a cold place. But, as we found out later, the area has some terrific red wines.
We took the kids to the Falls a few years ago and I was amazed by all the signs for wineries just beckoning for me to take a “bathroom break” while the kids waited in the car. We had a blast at the Falls, but couldn’t bear the thought of eating at one of the crappy tourist trap places so decided to take a flyer on Niagara-on-the-Lake. NOTL is about 45 minutes outside of Toronto, right before you hit Niagara Falls. It’s home to beautiful gardens, quaint bed & breakfasts, and the annual George Bernard Shaw Theater Festival.
Unfortunately, it was early evening and most of the tasting rooms were closed. I was able to sample some of the Pillitteri Estates Merlot at their tasting room and, while it wasn’t good enough to make me forget Napa, it was a pretty respectable showing. Definitely good enough to lure Boom Boom and I back for a trip, sans Pieholes.
Fast forward to the next year… We had just gotten into a cycling kick and was able to sucker her parents invited her parents up for some good bonding time with the kids. We loaded up the bikes and made the 4.5 hour drive.
Which brings me to an interesting post-July 4th -influenced point. Dear Canada, you wanna be like the USA, but you just keep coming up a little short. I remember going to Canada as a kid and the exchange rate was something like $1 Canadian to $0.65 US. On this trip, it was $1 Canadian to $0.96. Couldn’t you guys put in a little extra effort to get it up to even-stevens? Same same goes with driving. In Ontario, the speed limit was 85 kilometers per hour, which translates to a whopping 52.8 miles per hour. How the hell am I going to get anywhere going that slow on a highway?!?! If this was America, that 4.5 hour drive would be like 53 minutes or something like that. And I’m ASIAN!
OK, so we eventually get there and spend a terrific night with dinner and a stroll through the beautiful downtown.
The next morning, we got early and hopped on the bikes for a day of biking and wine tasting. It was really cool to be this close to the vineyards –
Right after that picture was taken, probably around 6 miles into the ride, Boom Boom got a flat tire. As I said, we were just getting into cycling so we didn’t know the importance of bringing a spare innertube. So that meant I had to ride back to the B&B, grab the car, and come pick her up. Thankfully for her we were right outside Southbrook Vineyards.
As you can tell, she was really heartbroken about the flat and was not looking forward to waiting for me. Unsupervised. In a winery. With my credit card.
We were able to get the flat fixed, but that was AFTER going to a few tasting rooms. So we figured we’d scrap the biking for the day and get a good ride in the next morning.
And that’s when it rained.
Oh well, at least we had some terrific wine. Here are some of our favorites.
Hillebrand – Their 2010 Trius Red was a well-structured Bordeaux blend, a decent value at around $20. They are known for their icewines and I picked up a bottle of their 2007 Vidal. Beautiful mouthfeel and great acidity to perfectly balance the sweetness. Although, it is a little steeply priced at $60 for a 375 mL bottle.
Lailey – Their icewines were the best we had – I gave it a 92 on Cellar Tracker. And you couldn’t beat the $30 price tag. I don’t recall if that was US or Canadian bucks, but it was worth it in either country.
Le Clos Jordanne – I picked up a bottle of their 2007 Claystone Terrace Pinot Noir. The previous year’s Pinot was named by Steve Spurrier as the Best New World Red Wine. Spurrier was the guy who held the industry-shaking Judgement of Paris in 1976 where US wines bested French ones in a blind tasting. I gave the 2007 a rating of 89. I don’t know if 2007 was on off year or Spurrier didn’t know what he was talking about. I’m going with the latter.
Tawse – They’re located in the hills just outside of NOTL and are making some of the best wines in the area. I had a bottle of their 2008 Cherry Ave Pinot Noir and rated it at a 93. It was very complex with layers upon layers of flavors. Great restraing by the winemakers by keeping it refined. I have a bottle of their 2007 Meritage that I’m dying to try.
Even though the biking part of the trip didn’t work out, it was a fantastic trip. Niagara-on-the-Lake is a beautiful place and the wine is fantastic. It’s not Napa Valley but it’s also not on the other side of the continent and definitely not as expensive. Throw in a couple days in nearby Toronto and you have a terrific romantic wine getaway. Even though the Canadian speed limits suck.
Thanks, Drunken Cyclist! Looking forward to the next challenge.