The great people of Niagara mark spring with many fantastic winery events – one being Get Fresh in Twenty Valley. During a few weekends in April and May the wineries of Twenty Valley welcome visitors from near and far to taste and tote on the newest wines of 2012.
And so, on a crisp and clear spring day in early May I slipped into my new spring shoes and headed into the Niagara vineyards to try some of the best new wines of 2012 along with their best compliment of flavours.
For those of you unsure about how events like Get Fresh happen, well, each participant purchases a wine passport from the Twenty Valley Tourism Association ($42.00) and you bring the passport with you as you travel the wineries listed. When you arrive at each you are treated to a small ounce or two of their featured wine and a bit of nosh delicately chosen to compliment the best features of the selected wine. These passport events, since the inception of Local Lux almost a year ago, have certainly been my cup of tea. As always, I want to share my favourites and have marked my favourites with a ✿.
I will never get sick of going to The Good Earth Food and Wine Co. in the spring (or at any time of year for that matter). The orchards are always brimming with new and colourful buds, flowers, fruits, vegetables and other signs of new life. During this visit I could hardly take my eyes off of the bright and bloomed apple blossoms. The bright pink and white petals against the azure blue sky was enough to take my breath away – and I hadn’t even taken a sip of wine yet.
- Fresh Wine: 2011 Rosé & 2010 Pinot Noir
- ✿ Fresh Food: Barbecued Kasundi Wings
Get Fresh was the second time that I’ve visited Peninsula Ridge Estate Winery – the first was during Wrapped Up in the Valley in late 2012. I remembered the modern wooden interior, tall floor-to-ceiling windows and especially that decadent onion soup they served alongside their 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This time around only reinforced my want to get to know this winery better. The food, again, was prepared by their resident chef whose delicacies you can try anytime at their on-site winery restaurant.
- Fresh Wine: 2012 Wismer Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc
- Fresh Food: Ontario Sweet Potato & Clam Chowder with Fennel Oil & Fleur de Sel Puff Pastry Cracker
What extrovert doesn’t love walking into a winery and being greeted with a wave and shout from their favourite “Ener-bee”? My second favourite thing about Rosewood Estates (after their wine) is that the staff at Rosewood are passionate about their wine, their estate and, most importantly, their customers. At Rosewood they recognize that wine is not just a delicious alcoholic beverage in a bottle but is also a chance to offer and experience to the people who walk through their grande doors.
Between Rosewood’s wine, mead, honey, events, dinners and other community involvement is a tight-knit group of passionate people wishing nothing less than for you to have a memorable experience.
- Fresh Wine: 2011 Gewürztraminer
- ✿ Fresh Food: Coconut Lime Chicken Stew with Rice
The estate-side patio at Angel’s Gate is perfectly placed to take advantage of the mid-morning sunshine. I cannot say that I know much about this winery and, in the two occasions I’ve visited, I really haven’t had the chance to learn much about it. Although, like all others I’m sure there is a valiant and somewhat romantic story about the winery’s beginnings. Maybe one day upcoming I’ll see the cellar and learn the story that always ends up endearing me to a winery.
- Fresh Wine: 2011 Gewürztraminer
- Fresh Food: Dashi-Poached Sea Scallop Salad with Wasabi Dressing on Greens
I cannot visit Thirty Bench without leaving with a bottle of their 2011 Riesling – yes, the one that took home the Lieutenant Governor’s Award in 2012. This visit was no different although they are certainly getting low on their supply and no wonder considering it’s one of my favourite Rieslings in all of Niagara. Wasn’t I pleased that it was on the menu for this year’s Get Fresh event!
- ✿ Fresh Wine: 2011 Riesling
- Fresh Food: Slammin’ Salmon
The way that this winery is literally nestled into the side of the escarpment is something that every local and tourist alike should experience. I especially love that at one point while ascending the winding driveway you lose site of the building altogether and wonder when it will reappear. Not to mention, if you climb over the rocks on the far side of the driveway and walk you way onto the grass roof atop the cellar itself you will see one of the most spectacular signs in all of Southern Ontario. You can turn a full 360 degrees and see Toronto, Hamilton, Grimsby, Beamsville, into St. Catharines, Niagara Falls all the way south to Fort Erie. It really is spectacular!
- Fresh Wine: 2009 Bravado Cabernet Sauvignon
- Fresh Food: Shrimp & Chorizo Sausage Risotto
For those of you who participated in Get Fresh and don’t remember Malivoire being on “the bill” – you are correct, they were not. However, you should know that anytime there is a passport event happening in Twenty Valley, Malivoire also does a free tasting a cheese pairing hosted by The Cheesy Guys. Who could resist? Not me! And, this time around I tried their Lady Bug Rosé their new white blend label called “Table Wine”. It’s cheap, delicious and meant to be that wine you pull out for guests who you don’t want to serve your best to. Deliciously devious and practical! I certainly left with a bottle.
Known for their bold and complex reds, stopping at Kacaba is a must. Small but mighty they continue to impress with their “above-and-beyond” customer service, intimate atmosphere and willingness to teach all that you could ever know about their wines. This time around I had the pleasure of tasting the 2012 Riesling that I was lucky enough to taste unfiltered just weeks after being pressed and then again after it was filtered. Talk about seeing a wine through from start to “finish”. I’m glad to have a bottle of this in my ever-growing collection of Niagara favourites.
- ✿ Fresh Wine: 2012 Dry Reserve Riesling
- Fresh Food: Bistro Roasted Date with Pancetta, Spiced Almond Compoté served over Baguette Crostini
One of my absolute favourite wineries by design and taste, I was happy to once again visit Vineland Estates. This time around the passport event was setup in the restaurant – a nice change from the hum-drum of their “out of the way” tank room. And, I had the pleasure for the first time of meeting Vineland Estates Function Chef, Chef David.
Chef David spoke with us as he prepared what was to be the absolute best pairing I’d have during the Get Fresh passport event.
- ✿ Fresh Wine: 2010 Semi Dry Riesling
- ✿ Fresh Food: Marinated Calamari, Grilled on the Wood Fire BBQ, Red Pepper Romesco, Toasted Almond Slaw
Although unfortunate that the atmosphere of this winery is somewhat interrupted by its location alongside the QEW, it boasts one of the best Riesling Icewines I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. And, for $25 a bottle I rarely leave without another. That said, when visiting GreenLane I’d suggest accessing the winery from Hwy 8, better known as The Wine Route. This will take you along GreenLane instead of along the highway service road. It will certainly make the experience much more enjoyable as you get a great view of the acres upon acres of vines. Inside the boutique, the decor is exactly to my taste and I enjoy their selection of preserves and wine trinkets among their very affordable wines.
- Fresh Wine: 2011 Riesling
- Fresh Food: Spicy Mango Salad
Seeing that Harbour Estates was participating in the Get Fresh event I thought it was about time that I visited this quaint, family-owned winery. Just a stones-throw from the Upper Canada Cheese Company in Jordan, you will likely find yourself parking right out-front of the owners’ home before making your way to the back where you will find the winery. When we got inside we noticed a pronounced family resemblance in the two ladies behind the wine bar. It turns out my suspicions were correct as we were introduced to mother and daughter. I did leave Harbour Estates with their very unique coloured Pinot Gris and a bottle of their ’10 Cab Sauv both of which disappeared very quickly afterwards.
- Fresh Wine: 2011 Pinot Gris
- ✿ Fresh Food: Gourmet White Pizza
Yes, there are some superb wines during the Get Fresh event each year but what I love most are the fresh spring flavours that often make their way into the food pairings. The Twenty Valley bench continues, with each sip, to capture my attention and some of the best wines that I’ve had to date are from this small but mighty strip of land between the Niagara escarpment and Lake Ontario.