Sunday, September 19, 2010

Children of the Grape; Niagara-on-the-Lake

At about 10:55pm on a Monday night after returning from my boat it was decided that I would leave the next day for Niagara-on-the Lake or how the locals refer to it, Notl. I had always wanted to go to the picturesque wine region of Ontario famous for its ice wine but had been too busy exploring other parts of the world. I realized how unprepared I was when my friend who is from the area told me he had lined up wine tastings and dinner at a winery. He had forewarned the people at the wineries that I am a writer and will have questions to ask. Questions? Between returning from my boat and leaving for Niagara I barely had enough time to throw clean underwear into my backpack let alone find questions I wanted to ask the wineries. They are going to see right through the complete unprofessional fraud that I am! Really, am I at the point to call myself a writer? I write a blog. I don’t know anything about wine other than the fact that I love to drink it. I barely even know the names of the various reds and whites. Thankfully my friend had worked in the industry and lived there his whole life. He is a 23 year wine connoisseur. I had always been highly impressed by his wine knowledge but he always just brushed it off saying he was from Niagara-on-the-Lake. I didn’t quite understand what he mean't until I spend a few days there.
I got introduced to the Children of the Grape. From one vineyard to another I met guys and girls my age and younger who knew way more about wines and vineyards than anyone else I know. It was like a different world. This was the culture they grew up on. It’s normal for youth in their early twenties to gather at a fancy wine bar on a Tuesday night and split bottles of the best the area has to offer. They know from which vineyard, which year and which wine will be the best. I even joined in on a game of bocce ball while the sun set behind a friend’s family vineyard. Had I mistakenly drove over the Burlington Skyway into Italy?

I guess I can’t really say Italy because I learned from my new friends and guides that the area and the vineyards are owned by numerous different nationalities and they all make their wine differently. This is what makes Niagara so unique. You can’t say you don’t like Niagara wine because each wine and each winery is very distinctive. There is no consistency with the wine making it is so varied from one side of the Escarpment to the other is different wine.

We arrived in the beautiful town surrounded by Lake Erie, the Welland canal and the Niagara River a bit late so lunch at a winery was scraped for lunch with my friend’s mom. Just as good in my opinion I thoroughly enjoy her company. We snacked on items she had handpicked from the markets nearby. Various kinds of cheese, garlic stuffed olives, crackers, tomatoes, chilli peanuts. The whole table was full of little plates.

My friend had arranged the meetings with the wineries for us the first being Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery and the second Coyotes Run Estate Winery. We were going to fit in more but decided to meet up with his friends instead. Although I was unprepared I got inspired by listening to them discuss the wine. It was so amusing to me. I quickly jotted down quotes as they commented on the different years and the various wine makers. “There was a lot of bad wine in 2008 to get a good wine that year separated the men from the boys,” was one quote that made my hand race. The next two blog postings will be about the two wineries we visited and what makes them unique. It has been a few weeks since I visited Niagara-on-the-lake and in the meantime since I has been busy to finsih these pieces the Toronto Star actually picked one of my wineries to do a piece on as well as they are now having their wine and grape festival in Niagara. So I guess my friend was onto something when he decided on that winery if a Toronto paper agrees.

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