My boyfriend and I recently went on our first wine tour. FIRST! Have we being living under a rock? We’ve been living in the Niagara region for our entire legal drinking-age lives and hadn’t been on a wine tour. Crazy.
To put it nicely, we’re a couple of wine noobs. When it comes to wine we DO NOT HAVE A CLUE. We literally buy the same wine every single time we go to the liquor store (Banrock Station Pink Moscato Rose – YUM!). Outside of that you could shove a $100 bottle of wine under my nose and I wouldn’t know the difference between that and a $10 bottle. So for our anniversary we decided to splurge and go all out on a Niagara wine tour.
Being the newbies that we are, we didn’t want to do one on our own accord because we wouldn’t even know where to begin. So, we trolled the web to find a company that would do it for us – this is when we came across Niagara Vintage Wine Tours.
First of all let me just say that this is not sponsored in any way, we paid for the tour ourselves. We just had such a good time that I thought I would share my experience. I probably don’t really need too because the company speaks for itself; they boast a Top Rating in Canada on tripadvisor for wine tours with over 1300 reviews. Wild..
What drew us to them (besides their high rating) is how many different packages they had. We ended up going with The “Epic” Culinary Wine & Beer Tour. We might not know a lot about wine but we sure as hell know that we LOVE food! So this seemed like the perfect choice for us even though this was one of the more expensive tours ($169.95 CAD ea.).
Here’s what it included:
- Pick up & drop off at hotel (aka – nobody has to be DD)
- 4 wineries
- 1 brewery
- Food pairings at 4 out of 5 destinations
- 1 grand tour of an upscale winery
Let me break down our day for you so you can see how worth the money this tour was:
We were picked up at our hotel by the company vehicle (a Mercedes might I add) by a lovely driver. We then went to pick up the last couple before heading to the first winery. There was only SEVEN people including my boyfriend and I on this tour – a perfect group size.
We arrived at our first winery – PondView. Here we were warmly greeted by the staff, and presented with a glass of their sparkling wine along with a cheese and meat board.
Here they showed us how to best pair 3 different types of wine with the items of food on our plate. Their Chardonnay was divine – especially with the brie cheese they had for us.
I am not a red wine drinker and I was delighted to find out that I LOVED their red wine as well. You know when you get that like… shiver when you drink something that doesn’t taste good? Me, everytime I drink red wine. Theirs didn’t give me the shivers!!
After the wine we also got to try the Icewine, and to my surprise and delight, I loved it. Now, you’re probably wondering why I was surprised? No? Ok well I’m going to tell you anyway. In grade 11 myself and a couple of friend were doing what many 16/17 year olds do and that is raid their parents liquor cabinet. We came across an opened bottle of Icewine which we proceeded to take a few big swigs of. If you know anything about Icewine it is 1. to be kept cold, and 2. drank soon after opening. This clearly was neither of those and it was NASTY. So basically for the past 6 or so years I have “hated” Icewine. Big regrats that I didn’t try it again sooner.
After our wine and cheese pairing, we were then driven to a micro brewery – Silversmith. Silversmith is a relatively new cute little micro brewery born in 2011. The building however is not so new – it is actually an old church that dates back to the 1890s. It’s lovely.
The serving sizes of the samples here were INSANE, especially after the amount of wine we had received at PondView!
They gave us 4 different beers to try (L to R in picture):
- Bavarian Breakfast Wheat
- Black Lager
- Hill 145 Golden Ale
- Dam Buster English Pale Ale
Along with those they gave us a grilled cheese sandwich, with a tomato chutney, and coleslaw on the side.
The tomato chutney was TO DIE FOR. If you’re a Niagara local reading this – they’re going to start selling it by the jar so get your butt in there and buy some. It’s so good I was eating it by the spoonful. Seriously. And when you take a nice glug of the Dam Buster English Pale Ale after a mouthful of it… YUMM.
Our next stop was Rancourt Winery. At this point we were all feeling a little tipsy after the monster beers at Silversmith.
The grounds we’re very pretty here, which were we able to view from a balcony at the top of the building while we were waiting for our food.
We were provided with a meal of Steak & Stilton pie, a cheese stick, and a little salad.
Now, I’m going to be honest for a moment here. The wine an Rancourt was not my favourite – I liked the white (not as much as Pondview’s) but not the red.
But the PIE. The pie was delicious and was exactly what I needed to soak up all the alcohol I had already consumed. To be honest I felt like a classier and more grown up version of my 18 year old self drunkenly eating McDonald’s while eating it. #noshame
When we got back to the hotel later in the evening I was telling my boyfriend how much I liked how each winery showed us how to pair all our beverages with our food. He turns around to tell me that he didn’t like it because the food and wine mixed together in his mouth was a sloppy mess. THIS MAN had been chewing his food up aND THEN taking a gulp of his wine… WHILE THE FOOD WAS STILL IN HIS MOUTH!! No wonder he didn’t particularly enjoy mixing them together because he did it LITERALLY.
They probably figured we could use a break from all the food around this time, so they took us to Jackson Triggs for a tour of their facility and cellar.
There were two things I liked about Jackson Triggs. Their sparkling wine, and their Icewine; according to our tour guide they taste even better when mixed together (I took pictures of the bottles but they’re awful so please forgive me – they’re shown below).
The tour was interesting, our tour guide was very peppy and knowledgeable enough for us who don’t speak “wine” to understand. I actually can say that I came out of there knowing more than I did before – that is a good sign, right?!
Their grounds were beautiful – they even had a pavilion for events and bands thrown into the mass of grape vines. Sadly, I cannot say the same about their wine (apart from the 2 I mentioned above). Maybe my taste buds aren’t evolved enough yet to appreciate what they were giving us but they all gave me that shiver I talked about earlier. Nonetheless, the tour was very informative and this visit was a perfect pre-dessert food break!
Our last stop was at Between The Lines. A big red barn greeted us when we arrived here. How Canadian.
It was dessert time and I was PUMPED – I love a good dessert.
First they talked us through the story of the winery (which you can read all about on their website). Then, more wine.
First they gave us their sparkling wine which came in a CAN. Such a perfect little sized drink – especially for those who want to lounge around the pool but also love drinking wine (no glass = pool friendly beverage). It was called Origin and they actually sell it in the LCBO (liquor store for those not from Ontario)!
I feel like it was every wineries mission to try and make me love red wine. Between The Lines gave me 3 or 4 different kinds of red to try – all not successful in turning me over to the red side.
They did however introduce me to another white wine that I absolutely LOVED. It was their Gewuerztrammer (see picture below) and it was amazing. It tasted like a less viscous/sweet version of the vidal Icewines we had been tasting throughout the day. That was a wine I could get behind.
For dessert we were given a panna cotta. This was something else I was trying for the first time. The yellow stuff that you see on top was a lemon kind of syrup, which when paired with their sweet Icewine was the perfect contrast.
They thought that dessert through well. They knew we wouldn’t want anything heavy after how much we had consumed throughout the day. It was sweet without being overpowering with the Icewine, and the perfect end to an amazing day.
Back in our hotel room, full on good wine and tasty food, we ended up passing out in a little alcohol induced food coma. I’d say that’s a sign of a successful day!
Hopefully this post gave you a little bit of insight into what a tour with Niagara Vintage looks like especially if you’re newbies like we were. I obviously don’t have a lot of experience with wine tours but given how much we enjoyed our time with NVWT, I would say this is honestly the best way to explore wine country in Niagara.
Until next time