Sunday, July 09, 2006


I must have driven through Niagara wine country a million times on the way to the Falls or New York state, but thanks to my cousins from New Jersey, Jing and Uday, who came Niagara_wine_tour_july_2006_022up to Toronto for the Canada Day / Independence Day weekend, I finally got the chance to stop and take a wine-tasting tour of those was like a more mature and more refined version of bar hopping.....we really are getting old....though, it was fitting that I got to do it with Jing, seeing as how I taught her and her sister how to drink way back in our early teens....ya I was a bad what....we all turned out relatively normal....

I'm not really a wine connoisseur, Niagara_wine_tour_july_2006_026i_1I mean I'll have a glass of wine with dinner occasionally, but Tu Anh usually finishes it for me.....I know, there's a lot of research that points to all the cardiovascular and possibly anti-cancer benefits attributed to antioxidants found in red wines.....that's the main reason why I try to drink the stuff.....but I also know that I prefer the sweeter white wines..... heck just give me a coke with dinner.....

When I think of fine wines, I usually think of France, or Italy, or maybe even California.....but when I'm in the liquor store I find myself gravitating towards the Ontario wines, especially those of the Niagara region.... perhaps its a subconcious curiosity, since I've driven past those vineyards all my lifeNiagara_wine_tour_july_2006_029...... I guess we're not known internationally as a wine producing nation, except maybe for ice wines (which I would recommend to the sweet toothed people out there, like me), but I do know that I've picked up a bottle or two of Niagara wine that even I could appreciate......there are actually a lot of award winning Ontario wines out there.....

If you're like me and don't know Wineroutesigntoo much about wine, or if you're a connoisseur, and you happen to be on the Q.E.W. headed towards Niagara, I recommend taking the wine route..... the signs are everywhere......the first winery you'll hit is Puddicombe Estate in Winona, on exit 78.....they're all so very friendly and are more than eager to answer your questions and teach you a thing or two about wine..... like the differences in sugar ratings, and the flavour of wines that have sat in oak vs. Niagara_wine_tour_july_2006_016aluminum barrels, etc..... Most places will offer 3 or 4 complimentary tastings of their red and whites, or may charge $1 or so.....most places charge for ice wine tastings.....mmmmm ice here if you want to know exactly what Icewine is: ICEWINE

Here's the map of Niagara Wine Country which spans several towns from Winona to Niagara-on-the-Lake......I counted 52 in total.....we only hit 8 of them, which is not bad considering we did the whole tour in about 4 hours.....needless to say its easy to get a nice light buzz after all that alcohol......good thing my brother took the wheel so I was able to enjoy myself better....

Mapnr Here are the top TEN Touring Tips from the "Official Guide to the Wineries of Ontario":

  1. Designate a driver who will not consume alcohol or hire a driver for the day. (don't be that sucker)

  2. Don't rush. Plan to visit no more than four to five wineries in a day. (ya right!)

  3. Don't feel you have to drink every ounce that's poured. It's appropriate to spit out or dump a wine (there are buckets for just this purpose). Ontario law restricts you to four ounces per winery. (what?! ever hear of "waste not want not"?)

  4. Don't taste wine on an empty stomach. Food helps to metabolize alcohol.

  5. Avoid wearing anything with a strong scent. The sense of smell is fundamental to enjoying the taste of wine and appreciating its bouquet. And don't chew gum. It will affect the taste of the wine.

  6. While touring you'll get to taste wines that are available only at the winery. This is your opportunity to purchase the wines you like. Bring along a cooler or, better yet, have the wine shipped to your home. (We learned that Americans don't have a limit as to how much wine they can bring home with them!)

  7. Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you don't know the difference between Pinot Noir and Merlot, just ask. Winemakers and staff are only too happy to explain and odds are that you're not the only one who needs answers.

  8. Bring a pocket notebook to record wines you enjoyed.

  9. Stop the car! Take the time to enjoy other places of interest that catch your eye. (like Llama farms, fruit stands, and Tim Hortons)

  10. Have fun! (fo shizle ma nizzle) Niagara_wine_tour_july_2006_031_1

You can get a copy of the "Official Guide to the Wineries of Ontario" at any LCBO or download it from the Wines of Ontario website: Official Guide 2006 Their website is chock full of info if you want to plan a trip to Ontario Wine Country: Wines of Ontario

Niagara_wine_tour_july_2006_032 Well, as I write this, Tu Anh and I have finished our second bottle of Reisling, she's working on a red from Maison Domaine D'or and I'm finishing off the bottle of Reisling icewine from Fielding Estates....CHEERS and BON SANTE! Belated Happy Canada Day and Fourth of July!