Last Sunday I spent the day in Niagara’s wine country on an iYellow Wine Tour. iYellow Wine Club is a social wine club based in Toronto with over 8,000 members that hosts regular wine events, wine tours, and wine school classes to help members build wine confidence.
I have never been to a winery or vineyard and have always imagined the experience to be stuffy and snobby because people that drink wine are stuffy and snobby, right? Wrong! The iYellow tour was a great group of folks with a wide range of experience and knowledge when it came to wine. We were encouraged to taste lots and determine what we did and didn’t like in order to learn a bit more about wine making and most importantly, wine drinking.
We have arrived in Niagara!
We were a few glasses deep before noon. No complaints here.
Our first stop was at Vinelands Winery where we tried a delicious sparkling wine, an unoaked chardonnay (one of my personal favourites), a Pinot Blanc, a Riesling (everyone else’s favourite at Vinelands), and a Cabernet Merlot (another favourite).
We weren’t told what these things were in between the 10+ glasses of wine we had here, but we stood in front of them and I assume they play a part in wine making 😉
This is the photo we’ll show everyone that says we just get trashed at home on cheap beer and hang out in dive bars. See, one day we did classy stuff. At a VINEYARD. Hmpfh.
Kegs! Just kidding. These are called casks and they’ve got wine all fermentating in ’em.
Don’t worry: we learned fermenting is good for wine.
Even the vineyard boxed lunch was great and all of the ingredients were grown locally!
In terms of volume of wine consumption, Vinelands was probably our favourite (which you can probably tell from this photo). I wasn’t a big fan of the Riesling or the Cab Merlot like everyone else, but I had my own fair share of the unoaked chardonnay and pinot blanc. Jordan loved the Cab Merlot and Riesling.
Next top: Chateau des Charmes. This winery is actually a gorgeous castle-like building with a water fountain in front, but I’m not a photographer so this is the photo I got. Jordan got a great photo in front of the water fountain and it looks like he’s chugging his bottle of wine. Well, you can take the boy out of Oshawa but you can’t take the Oshawa out of the boy, right?
Welcoming committee at Chateau des Charmes! A little something bubbly to get us started for the long walk across the foyer to meet Michele Bosc.
I told you – we’re a classy couple. Cheers!
This is Michele Bosc. Her family owns Chateau des Charmes and she heads up all of the marketing and social media initiatives for the winery. Chateau des Charmes has a monthly wine club and hosts virtual wine tastings on their Facebook page
, which I think is pretty awesome!
Okay, I’m about to impart some wine wisdom from last weekend on you. Take notes:
– Every year is a different “vintage”
– The taste of each wine is mostly out of the wine maker’s control; they are at Mother Nature’s mercy
– 2010 was a great year weather-wise for Niagara wineries so 2010 vintages are delicious (FACT)
– While it’s still a few weeks too early to say, it looks like 2012 will also be a great year for Niagara wines
– The soil in the Niagara region is perfect for growing grapes, but because of our climate we don’t make good full-bodied reds (those come from warmer climates in the South)
– In the event of a zombie apocalypse, I’ll be at Chateau des Charmes in their cellar. There are casks and casks of wine, a lot of cheese, and the cellar is impenetrable.
I would love to tell you which wines we tasted at Chateau des Charmes but I wasn’t even able to keep up at this point. We tried some delicious ice wines, a Chardonnay, a Riesling, an Equuleus, and a few more that I can’t remember.
Our last stop of the day was at my Southbrook Wineries which quickly became my favourite. The building was designed by a famous architect and while I loved the older feelings of both Vinelands and Chateau des Charmes, there was just such great energy at Southbrook – it was an infectiously positive feeling.
At Southbrook we learned a lot about organic and biodynamic wine making.
Organic means using natural resources in farming in order to use less water, less energy and avoid the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizer. Biodynamic certification relies on balancing the vineyard’s soil, plants, and animals to grow grapes using natural composts, herbal teas, and strangely enough, farming following the lunar cycles.I generally don’t care if my wine is organic, biodynamic, radioactive, or whatever, but the wine at Southbrooks tasted so clean. Jordan fell in love with the Cabernet Merlot and myself with the “Whimsy” Chardonnay.
We left with a few bottles of wine, some new favourites, increased knowledge about what to look for at the LCBO, an appreciation for Ontario wines, and a killer buzz.
All in all, we really enjoyed our tour with iYellow and I would happily recommend it to any of my friends and family.
The founder Angela and her team made sure we were all taken care of and having fun on our tour. They were able to answer any questions we had and their passion for wines and the Niagara region in particular was obvious.
iYellow Wine Club
hosts wine school and special events like this one regularly and best of all: membership is free!
More information and upcoming events can be found here
Photo cred: iYellow Flickr