Weekend Getaway: Niagara’s Wineries

DSC01050This past weekend I had the pleasure of going to various wineries across Niagara to experience the harvest but also what makes their wine unique from the rest.

The Niagara region is home to over 80 wineries with its rich soil and wet cool conditions which allows wine makers to create beautiful wines. Every year there are three celebrations to support wine in Niagara; in June there is the Niagara New Vintage festival, in September the Grape and Wine festival (Niagara Wine Festival), and in January the Niagara Icewine festival.

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The first winery I toured was Cave Springs located on the main street in Jordan, ON. The Pannachetti family started the winery over three decades ago and helped to pioneer the cultivation of noble European grape varietals on the Niagara Peninsula. Unfortunately the vineyard isn’t located on site but is just a couple of miles down the road. Cave Springs is known for its eccentric Rieslings that are beautifully crafted with citrus and smokey flavours.

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“Great wines come from great vineyards. As winegrowers, our goal is to honor the rich, expressive character of our vineyards, and to craft wines that capture the essential essence—the terroir—that defines our land” – Cave Spring Cellars
Cave Spring Cellars have similar growing conditions to the great northern wine-growing regions of France and Germany which has proven exceptionally well for the cultivation of Riesling’s and Chardonnay. In addition to those standout varieties, they also grow superior Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Gamay
Private collection of Estate Wines that have been collected for over 50 years
Barrels are made out of Pennsylvania oak, French oak, and Hungarian oak. The different oaks provide uniqueness to the different wines. This room is the called the Cellar, where wine is stored at very humid temperatures.
Added decor for the winery located beside the parking lot

The Second Winery I toured was Flat Rock Cellars also located in Jordan, but along the Jordan bench (part of the Niagara Escarpment). The winery itself is perched over the Niagara Escarpment and is a glass-encased hexagon with spectacular views of the vineyard as well as on sunny views one can see the skyline of Toronto.

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The nets are to protect the grapes from birds and/or other small animals that may try to eat them
Panoramic view of the vineyard. At Flat Rock Cellar’s all of their grapes are cropped at extremely low levels to ensure quality and intensity of varietal character.

Collection of the grapes:

This machine goes over top of the row of grapes and vibrates the vines as all the grapes fall into a large container underneath
Following that, the grapes are then transferred to a large metal bin before being transferred to the truck

Winemaking process: The grapes are carefully sorted by hand before landing into the de-stemmer crusher. From there the grapes fall into 4.5 tonne temperature controlled stainless steal fermenters. The juice and skins are hand-plunged every six hours in order to extract colour and tannin (astringent, furry-tasting compounds found more commonly in red wine). Once finished the wine is stored directly in French Oak barrels until aged properly.

The machine used to sort the grapes by hand
4.5 tonne temperature controlled steamers, this is the process in which the wine becomes fermented
The beautiful view of the vineyard! Flat Rock Cellar’s vineyards are comprised of 80 acres of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and a small patch of Gewürztraminer. Gewürztraminer  is a white grape with pink undertones and is predominately grown in Australia, France, Germany, New Zealand, and the United States where climates are cooler and the flavours have an opportunity to concentrate. Gewürztraminer wines have a distinctive pronounced bouquet and flavour. They are produced as dry or sweet wines and are very easy on the palette. Aroma’s often include: honey, pumpkin spice, cinnamon, apricot, pear, lychee, and rose.

The third winery I toured was Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery also located along the Jordan Bench of the Niagara Escarpment. Her family’s Estate is one of the oldest in Canada being over 200 years old. She is an accredited fifth-generation wine maker who learned the pleasure of winemaking from her grandparents. Sue-Ann is has become one of Canada’s top winemakers, winning over 450 national and international awards. Few of Staff’s wines are sold in the LCBO, so all the more reason to visit the beautiful countryside of Jordan and step into her beautiful home where tastings of her beautiful rich wine, laughs, and celebrations are shared in her home kitchen.

Sue-Ann Staff’s beautiful home and store, in her gorgeous kitchen is where all the magic of wine tasting starts. Huddled around the island with plenty of choices, its hard to pick just one. My favourite was the Riesling Loved by Lu, which has crisp notes with the sweetness of melon. It is defiantly a crowd pleaser and worth checking out. Unfortunately most of Staff’s wines are exclusively available through the winery, so just another excuse to take a weekend and discover niagara through their love of wine.
Sue-Ann Staff and myself
White grapes ready to be harvested

The last winery I toured was Hernder Estate Wines nestled amongst the heart of Niagara’s wine trail. The winery is well into their third generation of grape growers, still remaining one of the largest family Estate Winery operations in Canada.

The road into the winery features a covered bridge, and beautiful lush grass with vineyards along the back. This picturesque winery is also known as the “wedding winery” for its beautiful gardens, stone patio, and rustic barn to hold weddings, parties, conferences, proms and also Niagara’s craft shows. Hernder’s has won many awards for their wines and the most popular seem to be Cabernet Sauvignon, Rieslings and Baco Noir.

The side view of Hernder Estate Wines. In the summer they have beautiful lush gardens and the rustic feel of the barn makes any  occasion  feel special. They also have a mouthwatering dinner menu with tastes from around the world with a beautiful view of the vineyards right outside.
The front view of Hernder Estate Wines. Inside Hernder, houses three rustic rooms complete with fireplaces for any function. They specialize in weddings but also hold banquets, conferences, craft shows, birthdays, anniversaries or special get-togethers!

This concluded my tour of area wineries, this was a great introduction for me as I just turned 19 at the beginning of September and haven’t developed an interest in wine until now.

It was a cloudy/rainy day unfortunately but what better way to spend a fall weekend then going on different tours and seeing how beautiful our wineries truly are and how fortunate we are to live so close. From my tour I can say I have developed a very expensive taste for Icewine and can’t wait for the Icewine festival in January.

Ontario is yours to discover, so why not discover Niagara’s finest wineries!

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