As it already feels like summer is flying by, I have been making sure to take ahold of each day and make sure I am crossing things off my list. This seems like an impossible thing to do for me, as I usually end up adding more things to my list than there are days in a year, but there are just way too many things to do. Especially, what I have learned, in Southern Ontario. I have fallen in love with living in this province, everywhere I go is a new and fresh experience and adventure, and with all the small towns, vast countryside, beautiful forest, lakes, waterfalls, cities, culture, restaurants, (I could keep going) and of course the wonderful wine country.
More recently I have been spending more time in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area, I have been taken with its Stars Hollow-esque charm, and the proximity to so many beautiful wineries did not hurt the equation either. On occasion I will pop into a new winery for a quick tasting, but I have wanted to spend a full day exploring some beautiful vineyards, learning more about the winemaking process, and of course tasting Ontario’s finest wines.
For my friend Stefani’s 30th birthday we decided that we needed to make this happen, so we went on a Grape Escapes Wine Tour. Grape Escapes offers many packages, both in vehicle, and on bikes, and also ones that include cheese pairings, lunch, or dinner. Booking the tour was as simple as picking a date and letting them know where we wanted to be picked up in NOTL (they also pick up elsewhere in the Niagara region). On the day of the lovely tour guide David, came and picked us up and we were off in our chariot with a small band of wine tasters.
First up on our tour was Jackson Triggs, by far the biggest winery and operation we went to. We got a behind the scenes look from grape to glass, while tasting along the way. We also got a look at their Amphitheatre used for the Summer Concert Series, hosting incredible acts this summer like City and Colour, Dan Mangan, Bahamas, Gordon Lightfoot, + more.
The second stop was considerably a smaller winery, but with so much charm. Producing only 4000 cases of wine per year, the homestead style winery is able to focus on the quality of each grape that goes into each bottle of wine. At the stop we also had cheese pairings for each wine, which was a highlight of the tour, as they were such a lovely addition to the experience.
Next up was a concept winery which perfect brought together food and wine. Strewn is the home of a winery as well as a Cooking School.
The last stop, and one of the most fascinating wineries on our tours was Nomad at Hinterbrook. Focused on conserving energy, and minimizing their carbon footprint, their use of solar power keeps them almost entirely off the grid. The concept of the labels on each bottle is to keep it minimal, to allow to create your own story and message. The one wine that stood out at this winery was Franc Blanc, it is one of the clearest wines I have ever seen, looking actually closer to water. Nomad by Hinterbrook is one of the few wineries in the world that are licensed to make this wine, as it is extremely particular about the time that the grape skins can be apart of the process.
We had a wonderful time on our Grape Escapes Wine Tour, and I am not going to lie, a lot of that incredible wine that we tasted came home with me. Our incredible tour guide, David, went above and beyond. At each stop he made sure to provide added value by sharing his wealth of knowledge and beautiful stories along the way. The most touching moment was revealed at the end of the night when my friend found that he had went and got her a birthday card and slipped it in her wine bag with a birthday message.
This is something that I highly recommend if you are looking for a daytrip from Hamilton, or even a weekend getaway from Toronto. As I mentioned they offer free pickup from Niagara-on-the-Lake hotels, as well as Niagara Falls hotel for a small fee. We had such an amazing time on the tour, and we cannot wait to go on another one, at some of the other wineries Grape Escapes visits.
The wine tour was provided complimentary by Grape Escapes Wine Tours, however all opinions are my own.