Niagara Escape Tour with Wine Enthusiasts from Oakville

A Sommelier's Perspective

Vieni Estates
Niagara Escape Tour with Wine Enthusiasts from Oakville

About the Author

Cynthia Silversides

Cynthia Silversides

Cynthia Silversides is an accredited Sommelier certified by both the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) and Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS). Passionate about great wine, food, and travel experiences, Cynthia is owner of Niagara Vino providing tutored wine tasting and tour services in the Niagara Peninsula wine region of Ontario, Canada. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

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The Oakville Wine Enthusiasts Club (OWEC) Niagara Escape Tour proved to be another superb vinous affair for the group of members and guests who attended! About 50 participants met in the Niagara Peninsula wine region to tour 6 wineries over the course of last weekend.

The first tour stop was at Vieni Estates located in the Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation. Upon arrival the group was warmly welcomed and treated to a sparkling wine reception with oysters on the half shell before touring the winery. A tasting of still wines in their barrel room was followed by Icewine and Graspa tastings. Graspa is a spirit produced from Ontario fruit in their custom-built small batch 5000 litre copper still, made in the same way as traditional Italian-style grappa. Their wines were exceptional and I especially enjoyed their Dolce Piccante Graspa which is infused with pure maple syrup and hot peppers!

Calamus Estate Winery

Calamus Estate Winery

Next stop was Calamus Estate Winery, also in the Vinemount Ridge, and what a wonderfully sunny afternoon to take a walk through their vineyards. One of the owners, Derek Saunders, shared details about the 20 acres of premium vinifera grapes on the property as we tasted their artisanal wines along the way. El Gastrónomo Vagabundo prepared a marvelous lunch for us with options of battered fish tacos, tostada with marinated bean salad or pickled octopus. The Calamus 2012 Reserve Riesling is a crisp, dry, citrusy and refreshing match for this al fresco meal.

El Gastrónomo Vagabundo

El Gastrónomo Vagabundo

Rockway Vineyards

Rockway Vineyards

Located in the Twenty Mile Bench sub-appellation, Rockway Vineyards gave the group an excellent tutoured wine tasting in their antique wine museum including small lot wines only available at their wine boutique: 2013 Wild Ferment Chardonnay, 2012 Wild Ferment Red, and 2012 Syrah were all delicious and are terrific values.

Creekside Estate Winery

Creekside Estate Winery

As Niagara weather can be unpredictable, rain caught up to us shortly after arriving at Creekside Estate Winery in the Creek Shores sub-appellation with the downpour subsiding as quickly as it came. Afterwards the group got to learn about Creekside vineyard-side with Matt Loney, sip sparkling wine (2012 Backyard Bubbly – Sauvignon Blanc) in their impressive underground barrel cellar – one of the oldest and largest in Niagara, then up to The Deck for an awesome evening with the friendly Creekside Crew. Wines were paired with food prepared by Chef Nathan of In The Smoke Cookery including fish and meat from his smoker, also sides made from locally sourced ingredients: Salmon with 2014 Marianne Hill Riesling, Chicken with 2014 Cabernet Rosé, and Pork with their 2012 Undercurrent Malbec.

Creekside Estate Winery

Creekside Estate Winery

Reif Estate Winery

Reif Estate Winery

The next day began with a fantastic blind tasting at Reif Estate Winery, one of Niagara’s founding-family wineries located in the Niagara River sub-appellation of Niagara-on-the-Lake. We entered a dimly lit room set-up with wine in black glasses tasting sheets to record notes for 2 white and 2 red single varietal wines. This group from Oakville is indeed enthusiastic about wine with most people naming at least 50% of the wines correctly!

Strewn Winery

Strewn Winery

Last stop, the barrel room at Strewn Winery in the Niagara Lakeshore sub-appellation, also in Niagara-on-the-Lake, to taste Chardonnay. There were 2 glasses with wines that had been aged in both French and American oak, one vintage finished and another unfinished. Their Assistant Winemaker Tyler Bartelds, and Estate Sommelier Graeme Dargavel gave a great talk on oak treatment referencing the wines aged in French oak that can impart toasty, nutty flavours which are usually more subtle than the coconut, vanilla, and spice flavours that can be imparted by American oak. This winery is also experimenting with Canadian oak and is 1 of 5 area wineries that do. Our last tasting before lunch was a fascinating vertical of Merlot from the 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 vintages exhibiting different styles from medium to full-bodied, delicate to complex.

OLiV Tapas Bar & Restaurant

OLiV Tapas Bar & Restaurant

A lovely light lunch was served by OLiV Tapas Bar & Restaurant at the Strewn Winery along with a refreshing non-alcohol aperitif made of soda water with their White Tropical Passion Balsamic Vinegar and a bit of cherry concentrate for colour. Our server suggested adding vodka and rocks at home! We tasted some of their olive oils as well. I recommend the Jalapeno flavour which was really good drizzled over the flatbread.

This Niagara tour is now one of fond memories because of the enthusiasm of the participants, and all of the wineries and caterers involved who served up such outstanding hospitality and experiences including several pre-release wine tastings and purchase opportunities for OWEC. I would recommend putting all of these wineries on your list to visit next time you are in the Niagara Peninsula wine region!

June 19th is the OWEC BBQ & Tasting in Oakville with Kacaba Vineyards Winery presenting. Guests are welcome and must pre-register by email: oakvillewine@gmail.com

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