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Time For A Get Away – Wednesday November 21st, 2007

July 26, 2008

I hate moving! Simply said but it is a drag and I get really grumpy. As this is a slow move which is even worse, Terry and I decided that we should bag the moving for a weekend and take a little trip. A team building exercise.

Well then, is it Chicago….no, too cold…..Cleveland…no, there’s a reason why it’s known as the mistake by the lake…..New York… problem…expensive though and I’m cheap and that would mean flying and we only had 3 days so is that enough time to get through security??

So we decided to head to Niagara and get some wine….gee who would have guessed that. We went to our favourite cheapie hotel in Niagara on the Lake….yup we found one for $55 a night. No bugs, clean, no hookers either.

My suggestion is to take 401 only to London then catch hwy 3. This avoids all the traffic and you get to go through Delhi (I didn’t see one curry house…rather strange) and Simcoe, which are cool old towns. Hwy 3 gets you to the south of the wineries so its back roads from there, but if I managed, you can, and besides we were able to go straight to RidgePoint … closed….. Tawse (didn’t really want to go there but it was across the street..closed) then we made it to Kacaba who stayed open for us.

First impressions were that Niagara is still way ahead of us down here. But after contemplation, there are reasons and many advantages are easily overcome with time. Erie Shores is celebrating they’re 5th birthday(congratulation to you two) , but Marynessan has 35 year old vines. That is an incredible advantage. They’ve got a good head start, but again they had to start somewhere and there seems to be no shortages of new wineries.  Niagara does make wonderful Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Absolutely lovely and should be at $30/bottle. Kacaba makes heavenly wine, but again, I tasted one which is $150 and bought a $60 wine. By all rights it should be better and yes, many are.

By and large, they are miles ahead in the area of Riesling, but this is their thing and they have the perfect climate for it. Now if you don’t like round ones you may not agree with me, but this is my blog and I make the rules here. Everyone seems to make one and I really didn’t have any stinkers. I was even surprised by Cave Springs as they made a really nice one.

Now move to Sauvignon Blanc and I will take ours hands down. I really think it’s the heat here. I didn’t have any that were equal.

Chardonnay is chardonnay but we had some really nice ones. The oaked chardonnay from the Teaching College was quite nice and reminded us of Muscedere’s; and that is a good thing. Overall they we nice but not better than down here.

Now Pinot Noir….well here was the surprise. I was truly underwhelmed with a lot of what I found. Even some really expensive product was just ok. I bought some( I can’t lie..a lot), but most were pedestrian and just not as good or maybe just not better than down here. Here I was really surprised. I was led to believe that Niagara was a Pinot belt, but it maybe wasn’t a great vintage. Kacaba’s was good, along with Malivoire’s(great). Legends was a pleasant surprise along with Niagara Teaching College. Funny, but up there they complained that Pinot likes the heat and they really don’t get enough which is opposite of what I hear here.

What really got me were the Bordeaux varietals. The ones I had were not big in the usual way. These were fine wines which tasted old(many were) and just were there. Now again they were not cheap and I wonder how they would stack up against our best. But overall, I will take our reds over theirs. I will not pretend that we can justify $150 but really who can. At a price point, I think our Bordeaux’s can beat theirs.

So if you go up there I will suggest that you avoid the chain and corporate wineries. Go to places with funny names (Kacaba…well actually its his surname) and don’t be put off if the winery isn’t in a castle. Beauty seems to be inversely proportional to the quality of the wine. Look for wineries which look like they make wine and not image.

So here are my must see’s:

1) Kacaba  wonderful wine and nice people
2) Malivoire  great building, great wine and wonderful staff. If the wine was as good as the service it would be great, but it was better. They remembered us and treated us like old friend’s…if I go to Niagara I must go there
3) Marynessan  once they saw we liked real wine they treated us like royalty. Old style wine…wonderful simply wonderful. I am just pissed that it took me 3 tries to find it
4) Niagara Teaching College- the idea of students making the wine(thus financing their own program) and look of sheer pride on their faces was just worth it. They make really  good wine and makes me wonder about  some of the “name” wineries who could use their help. But the restaurant was closed( students from culinary) so we went away  hungry and me wondering if they would take me as a student (I could get a real degree).

Now other than the college, the above make expensive wine. They are excellent, but you pay for it. I cannot see myself buying $150/bottle wine, but hey someone might. And besides these are all independents who are doing it for love not a paycheck. You can taste it.

Other people of note are:  RidgePoint -because they are who they are: their kids running around… Mauro who came in after doing his chores, all dirty… their good cheer and Nebbiolo….yes you heard it here. I bought 4 bottles on a taste. It seems like he hit it good too!!.

    Stoney Ridge- Val did a wonderful job as host and the cheese was wonderful
    Legends- great service- and it’s not Mike Weir’s(inside joke as I thought it was his…it isn’t…they have a fishin guy…oh well she didn’t get mad)    

Terry and I had a great time and now have to sort the wine. Some now, some layed down and some well, whenever. I think that Niagara has some natural advantages but we have our own. They have a large head start and Toronto money. But our land is cheaper, weather may be better and we are just getting going so we may avoid some of their mistakes. I f we can keep the “Big Boys” at bay for a while we may just do fine.

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