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Niagara wine-ing

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We did an over-nighter in Niagara-on-the-Lake last weekend. We visited Flat Rock Cellars winery for the first time, and were left somewhat unimpressed. Our favorite of the four wines we tried was the 2010 white Twisted, which is very nice. (Might make a white wine convert of you.) But it’s widely available at LCBO. And you had to buy four bottles to dispense with the tasting fee. So, we just paid the tasting fee.

More successful was our second visit to Thirteenth Street Winery, though the first at its current location. Which is very nice, with an art gallery and a bakery also on site. And they were much more relaxed about the tastings, allowing us to try more than the prescribed five. And you only needed to get two bottles to dispense with the tasting fee.

In the end we bought five: one of their nice Cabernet Rosé, two of the character-ful 2009 Gamay Noir (an interesting contrast to the fruitier 2010), and two of the Below Zero Riesling, which is that ice wine and Riesling blend.

The weather wasn’t super-cooperative on Saturday, giving us a mostly rain when we arrived in Niagara-on-the-Lake proper. We did some walking around regardless. But it was only the next morning (early, so without me) that Jean got some photos.

Building in Niagara-on-the-Lake

We had dinner at Hillebrand Estates Winery. They offered a prix fixe menu of three, four, or five courses—same menu, you just picked how many parts of it you wanted. At first I picked three that, I was then informed, didn’t include the entree course. That wasn’t ideal, but neither of the two entree options: salmon (which I’d had plenty of at lunch) and beef. But it did mention a possible vegetarian entree, so that’s what I went with: a vegetable ravioli.

Our first course was a quite delicious pumpkin soup with lobster, served with a mix of Trius Brut and ice wine. Next we had a duck and ravioli appetizer, served with a red wine—though neither of us can quite remember which grape. It seemed to go well, though. And both the duck and ravioli were very good.

Duck course

With the mains (Jean had the beef), I believe we got the Trius Red, which was fine, but nothing outstanding. We did not take the wine pairings with dessert. I had the bittersweet chocolate pudding, while Jean went for the pear meringues.

All in all, a quality meal in a lovely room with a waiter who was kind of fun—commenting on Jean’s attempt to be surreptitious about taking photos, for example.

The next day, after a nice breakfast at our B&B, and a walk around a now not-rainy Niagara-on-the-Lake, we stopped in a Peller Estates, as we curious to try their 2010 reds. But we also tried their 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, which was interesting in being a little oaked, which is unusual for that type of grape. And their Private Reserve Rosé, which we really liked.

On to the reds. The Pinot Noir wasn’t bad, but was fairly light, and didn’t seem quite worth the price tag. The Merlot was really tannic. They then realized they needed to do some extra decanting on some of these reds. After that, the Cabernet Franc wasn’t overly tannic, but it didn’t seem super-interesting, either. But the Cabernet Sauvignon was really nice. So we bought a couple bottles of that, which we’ll probably let sit a bit, along with a couple roses and one Sauvignon.

On the way back, we stopped in for lunch at Borealis Grill and Bar, which we’ve been wanting to try. It’s nothing fancy—specials of the day were perogies and ribs, for example—but it focuses on local foods, well-prepared. And we were happy with what we had, which was a fish taco in my cases (with Lake Erie pickerel) and a vegetable fusili in Jean’s—featuring pickled asparagus, goat cheese, tomato, and double smoked bacon. It’s a little out of the way from where we live, but we would go there again.

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