Today I am going to make a special article, yes, I am going to travel to Canada to visit one of its wine regions, walk around one of its wineries, delight myself with one of its exquisite wines, the icewine and taste part of its gastronomy, will you join me in this trip?
CANADA AND NIAGARA PENINSULA (ONTARIO)
Canada is the second largest country in the world after Russia, wow! Yes, a vast expanse of varied territory: high mountains, green meadows like the color of a sour apple, heart-stopping rivers, turquoise blue lakes, cosmopolitan cities and also regions where wine is produced.
Spread across different areas of the country there are several wine producing regions, from the west in British Columbia to the east in the region of Ontario or up north in Nova Scotia.
This time I am going to visit one of the most famous areas of the country, the Niagara Peninsula (Ontario).
ICEWINE IN THE NIAGARA PENINSULA
Along the southwestern shore of Lake Ontario, between Niagara Falls and Toronto, lies an area, little known but with a privileged climate, which attracts winemakers and winemakers from all over the world. A strip of flat land, about 8 kilometers wide by just over 70 kilometers long, next to the steep Niagara escarpments, reproduces, during the brief Canadian summer, the optimal vine growing conditions found in the French region of Burgundy.
I come across different grape varieties responsible for some of its wines such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Sauvignon Blanc, Baco Noir and Vidal, (the latter one of those responsible for the exquisite Icewine with its own recognized appellation of origin) among others.
I glimpse imposing landscapes and while walking among the vineyards I still wonder how it is possible to make wine in a region with such an extreme climate if only 25 km from us the Niagara Falls freeze in the middle of winter reaching temperatures of up to -25 or -30 ºC… This is the magic of wine.
I visit what is the most famous town in the region, Niagara-on-the-Lake, a small village composed of almost only one main street, with Victorian-style houses and shops that take your breath away; pink, pastel, white tones are mixed between the windows with chocolates, wines and traditional sweets.
Winding through the village and on the way to the hotel where I am staying, I come across the pier, a charming place that in summer is full of locals who spend the day there; small boats, gardens, and why not barbecues where you can grill some meat or fish. One of the villagers tells me that in summer there is a race across Lake Ontario from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto!
With this information and perplexed I head to enter the Harbour House Hotel, another very cozy building also in Victorian style in which I feel very comforted.
The receptionist tells me that at 4 pm there is a tasting of local wines with cheeses and I think it is a great idea so I sign up without hesitation! It does not disappoint; I try a very good white wine based on Pinot Grigio while I warm up in the heat of the fireplace.
PELLER ESTATE WINERY
Today I have booked a visit to one of the wineries in the area, I have opted for Peller Estate Winery just 2km from the hotel. As it is so close and the scenery is worth seeing, I decide to walk to it.
Peller Estate Winery is a winery with family origins, specifically from Hungary; they started with a smaller winery in the region of British Columbia, also in Canada, to later settle in Ontario.
As soon as I enter, I am amazed at how well cared for all the details are, the atmosphere encourages you to sit on one of the sofas with a glass of wine and wait unhurriedly for the time to visit the winery, and so I do, but not before taking a tour of the store and getting my hands on a bottle of the precious Icewine.
I first visit the outdoor area where they have part of their vineyards and from where you can see a beautiful esplanade where I guess that in summer many social events are held: weddings, receptions, cocktails, no doubt, is a privileged place.
The guide is very friendly and explains different details about their wines, grape varieties, etc. Some of the wines I find in this winery are: Baco Noir 2015, Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Riesling 2015, Merlot 2012, some sparkling wines such as Ice Cuvée Rosé and, of course, the star of the winery Cabernet Franc Icewine 2013 or Vidal Icewine 2014.
We move on to the indoor area where I try some more wines, including one of their sparkling wines that is really delicious. I think we’ve had about 4 or 5 glasses already and the tour is a lot of fun.
Finally, we go down to a frozen area, yes, completely frozen because they call it the Icebar, we are at -10 ºC and it is here where I finally taste the Icewine in two of its varieties: Cabernet Franc and Vidal. Both are sublime, although I prefer the Vidal, it has been a long time since I tasted a sweet wine so good.
The guide explains or justifies -if it could be called that-, why the price of this wine is so high (about 55$ Canadian for 200ml of pleasure). It is a late harvest wine, usually in January or February, when frosts start to appear in the area.
The name Icewine does not come from the fact that the wine has to be consumed iced (it is cold) but because of the way the grapes are harvested. They have to wait for the ice to manually pick the grapes during the night; the guide explains that on numerous occasions students from a nearby university who are specializing in wine and want to see first-hand how the harvest is done volunteer to help them. I can feel how the people of this region feel and live the wine; it is fascinating.
As the grapes are almost frozen, the concentration of sugars is very high and for this reason we obtain a wine with these characteristics, sweet and dense, almost like a liqueur.
After the interesting explanation and tasting of several glasses of Icewine we finish the visit. I head back to the entrance and almost by chance I stumble upon one of the winery’s restaurants, in the hands of Chef Jason Parsons, a renowned chef who makes me unable to resist his dishes. I have been daring and ask for a surprise tasting menu, I do not know what they are going to bring me but I am sure it will be good and certainly not disappoint. Unbeatable views, excellent food and their own wines, what more could I ask for?
I end the day with this visit, it is time to return home and I carry in my mind all the flavors, contrasts, landscapes and knowledge that I have acquired. Without a doubt it has been a trip that has been very worthwhile.
I hope that with this article I have transported you at least a little bit to the Niagara Peninsula and that you feel like discovering something more. Have you already thought about when you will make your trip to Canada?