Cultureguru's Weblog

Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy

Yet another Ontario vacation

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I had more vacation days left than I needed for Christmas time, and there seemed little point in carrying them forward into the first three months of next year. So we took the first week of November off, and visited Niagara-on-the-Lake and the north shore of Lake Erie.

Beautiful tree on a sunny day in Niagara
This is November?

Fortunately the weather proved cooperative. We had a warm late October in southern Ontario, and while it got cooler this first week of November, it was very sunny—and that warm October meant that a lot of trees still had their colourful leaves. So not a “dreary” November week at all.

In Niagara-on-the-Lake, we stayed at Harbour House, which is a pretty nice spot. It was not a huge room, but the space was very well organized, and it came with little perks like a bathrobe and a wine-and-cheese hour. I was a bit surprised that we had to show proof of vaccination upon checking in, but that was for the included indoor breakfast, which was quite good—granola, fruit, and yogourt, followed by a hot item such as quiche.

It was also on the lake, which meant some great walks were right there.

We visited a couple wineries in the area that were new to us: The Hare Wine Co., which didn’t blow us away (though we did pick up a couple bottles there) and Big Head Wines, which was a lot of fun. We were directed to Big Head after stopping in at Small Talk Vineyards and finding out that, contrary to what their website said, they were not doing tastings. Big Head was the opposite: though the website said tastings were only by appointment, since they were open and not busy, they just waved us in for that—after checking our vaccination status.

Big Head experiments with quite a few grape types, many of which aren’t common in Niagara, like Chenin Blanc and Savagnin, and use a lot of appassimento techniques. The person leading the tasting was very knowledgeable and guided us to some good options, like Big Red Select.

We also stopped in at Peller Estates, not for a wine tasting as such, but for dinner. High marks all around here, starting with the very careful check of vaccination proof. We had their five-course tasting menu with matching wine—though later concluded we should have shared the wine pairings; we’re too lightweight even for 3 oz servings. But the food was all quite magnificent, from pate (the amuse) to ahi tuna to squash soup, pan-seared scallop, roast duck, and dessert. All the wine pairings worked, and our favourite overall was the Riesling. (And, side note that our server had been to chef school in Paris.)

Lunch on Monday was at Masaki Sushi, which—wow, was some of the best sushi we’ve had in ages. Dinner was at Treadwell Cuisine. We declined the offer of sitting outside (seemed too cold! Though it was one of those enclosed patios with heaters) in favour of sitting at the bar. The only option here is a four-course meal. Though we didn’t have the same items for each course, we tried to make them similar enough to just get the one wine pairing that we could still share.

The food here was pretty fantabulous as well, and the sommelier quite knowledgeable. Jean’s favourite item of the meal was a particular creamy cheese on his dessert platter. I went with a more traditional dark chocolate dessert, which was served with a red wine… We’d a Sauternes with our earlier pate, so the sommelier thought this red might be preferred over another sweet wine, which was true.

Graveyard in Niagara
Spooky photo taken on the walk back to the hotel (it was just after Halloween…)

Before leaving the area Tuesday, we drove to Niagara Falls and hiked in the Niagara Glen, which was great.

Lady in red on Niagara forest trail

In the Lake Erie area, we stayed in Kingsville, at the Grove Hotel. It was not as upscale as Harbour House, but was also cheaper, and it did the trick. The room had some fun decor.

Moose in mask
Grove Hotel room adornment (I think we were in the “Canada” room)

It didn’t include breakfast, but the hotel did have suggestions that worked out. We had a fairly hardy breakfast the Beach House Grill (by the beach, would you believe); a lighter one at the Red Lantern Coffee Shop (terrific lattes!); and a warm welcome with perfectly fine breakfast food at Jim’s Sub Shop.

For walks, we visited Point Pelee National Park, a great place for bird watching.

Heron in Point Pelee Park
I’m not a bird watcher, but even I knew what type of bird this was…

And we visited a few conservation areas around Kingsville as well.

Red maple leafs on green
But this is another picture from Point Pelee

Our first dinner in Kingsville was at an old favourite, Mettawas Station. It was still fine (I had the rack of lamb), but probably suffered just by comparison to the Niagara restaurants. Our hotel recommended Italian restaurant O’ Sorracino, so we tried that as well on our last night, but we weren’t blown away by it. Food wasn’t bad, but the timing was weird. And they (the hotel staff) were dubious about our plan to dine at Wineology, but that ended up being our favourite dinner out in Kingsville. It is a more limited menu, and it took us ages to decide what to order. (Final verdict: Baked brie, pasta dish, and pizza.) But everything was quite good! And it was really fun trying everything with the two wine flights (that would be three 2-oz glasses) that we ordered, followed by a third flight.

And speaking of wineology… We of course stopped in at some wineries as well. Aleksander Estate Winery reported that they didn’t get a huge boon in online sales, partly due to dodgy Internet connectivity, but they’ve been around long enough that they were able to weather it out. They have a new (new to us, anyway) sit-down tasting room, but the same approach to wine-making, which is to produce wines that are often off-dry but not to the extent that they seem too sweet. They also age their wines longer than a lot of Ontario wineries. No limits of numbers you can taste, and we came away with quite a few we enjoyed.

We also stopped in at CREW Colechester Ridge Estates because we’d enjoyed their red at Mettawas, but they weren’t doing tastings. So we decided to pop over to North 42 Degrees to pick up some sparkling Sauvignon Blanc—thinking they would not be doing tastings, per their website—but they actually were. This was another nice experience in a pretty room (and here as at Aleksander, we were the only patrons!). We also found a lot of their wines to our liking.

In the past we’d enjoyed dinners at Oxley Estate Winery, but currently they seemed to only be offering lunch, so we went there for that meal instead. It was quite good and had the option of ordering flights to accompany the meal, which allowed for more tasting. We tried a few more afterwards. And yes, bought some here. (We really have too much wine now. Good thing the stuff keeps!)

The audiobook for this journey was You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism by Amber Ruffin (of Late Night with Seth Meyers—and her own show) and her sister Lacey Lamar, as read by the authors. A number of the stories are just absurd and kind of funny, but others are quite sad, even horrifying. And it’s quite the compendium! White ladies like me really have no idea what a privileged bubble we live in.

The cat reports from home were that, instead of being out and about as she usually is, Zoë had largely taken refuge in the spare bedroom—which, once our catsitter started delivering her food there, had everything Zoë needed, so probably wasn’t the worst choice. Occasionally Mac would go in there to pester her, which created some drama, but… Gus got over his shyness pretty quickly and became a our catsitter’s constant companion.

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