Unexpected Wine Country - A Canadian Wonderland: Day 2.5

Friday, August 30th.  Still.

Today was enough of a day to warrant two posts for one reason.  Who the hell knew there was a massive wine region in Canada??  Not us.  Well...not until a few days ago.  And we didn't really comprehend how much of a region we were driving through.  Not until we were on the road.  And then the magnitude of the region hit us.  Thank god it did.  This was seriously the best day.

We decided to completely go with the recommendations of April, our Sommelier from last night.  With one added stop to try to find the wine we had for dinner last night.  Let's do this.

Hello, Grapes!!

Stop #1 - Upper Canadian Cheese Company

It isn't quite fitting that the first stop on our journey was a cheese place.  But really, what goes better with wine than cheese??  As we walked in, it was like a small town convenience store.  Three aisles of foodstuff.  Jams and jellies and chutneys.  Cheese knives of many styles (I do kind of regret not getting a knife with a mouse on it.  But lord knows I didn't need it...).  Fresh baked breads in a basket.  And several fridges filled with cheese.  Because OF COURSE there would be!!

Adele and I were standing near a window looking at cheese plates or something, and on the other side of the window were the folks making the cheese.  I didn't look too hard at the process, really.  Just saw it was happening.  And a guy came next to us and started talking about the area.  His wife was at the register, buying cheese.  He said they come to the area to buy wine, so we asked if there was a place we should go.  "Cave Spring.  They make a great Riesling."  Yep...that was the next stop on our journey.  Sounds like we're on the right track.  When the man's wife grabbed him to stop him talking to strangers, the woman behind the counter asked if we wanted to try some samples.  Sure do.  Load us up with cheese here.

The UCCC is known for their Niagara Gold cheese.  This was where they started on the tasting.  The cheese was tasty, but I can't remember if it was Cheddar-y or Gouda-y.  Maybe something in-between.  Niagara Gold was the cheese that the makers on the other side of the window were making.  The woman behind the counter brought us over to the window to watch.  The workers were turning the cheese as we watched and the woman behind the counter mentioned that the people who work the cheese all end up losing weight because of the manual labor.  We walked back to the counter and continued along the tasting options.  Cheese curds.  A smoked blue cheese (very interesting).  I think there was a goat cheese in there somewhere.  

After a while, we ran out of cheese to sample, so we decided we needed a plan for making a purchase.  We didn't go with the Niagara Gold, but a goat cheese.  And cheese curds.  Plus a wild cranberry terrine.  The theory was we could eat the curds in the car and we could have the other cheese and terrine for a snack/dinner in a few days.  Genius plan.

Stop #2 - Cave Spring

Down the road a bit from the UCCC was our first wine stop.  We turned a corner (probably slightly unmarked) and drove into a very cute little shopping area.  I was a little disappointed at first, because I thought we were going to a vineyard.  I didn't expect a storefront.  But I didn't think too hard about this, cause wine.  We walked in and did a loop.  The first thing we noticed was the price of the wines.  They were...reasonable.  Really, really reasonable.  Mostly under $20.  Adele and I both had said we'd like to pick up a bottle of wine at each place, but neither of us knew the price points for this area.  If wine was expensive, this could have been a very different day.


As we talked to the woman behind the tasting bar, we learned Cave Spring was known for their Riesling.  Which was great, cause Riesling is my favorite of the white wines.  We tried two of the Rieslings and they were both nice.  One was a bit more acidic and I didn't go with that one, but the surprising part was the lack of sugar/sweetness than what I'm normally used to in Rieslings.  We both picked up a bottle and went along on our merry way.

Stop #3 - Featherstone 

Now this is what I was expecting in a winery.  We drove through nature to a cute little farm house.  Vines were all over the place and they had sheep and chickens in an area near the grapes.  We walked around the farm house to the back, where the tastings were held and went to pound a bit more grape.  Featherstone was the addition to our plans as we saw they were the only vineyard that sold the wine we had last night.  We bellied up to the bar and had to make a decision.  Four tastings for $5.  Why, we'll take two and share the tastings so we can try more wine.  YES!!


Sadly, the wine from last night wasn't able to taste.  They sold it.  For $35.  Awww...man.  The thing is, I'll drink wine with a vengeance, but I don't want to spend a ton of money on wine.  Probably because I do drink wine with a vengeance.  $35 is well out of the price I'd like to pay for wine.  Especially since most of the wine I consume is by myself on the couch.  But...I really liked the wine from last night.  As we talked to the wine lady, we realized the wine in the vineyard was a 2011.  The wine we had last night was 2010.  Apparently, 2010 was an amazing year.  2011 was less so, but as we talked to the wine guy who showed up for a few minutes, we'd need to let the wine store for "about 5 years."  And...I'm not really willing to do that.  I'm pretty sure I'd forget what year I was supposed to open the wine and would grab it in a frenzy.  So I decided against grabbing this one.  This was the only place I grabbed a Pinot Noir, so it was almost like I ended up the wine from last night.  Almost.

Stop #4 - Vineland Estates 

By now, it was time for some kind of food.  Not that we were drunk or anything.  I mean, at this point, we only had consumed about 4-6 ounces of wine.  This is not a lot.  So there's no grief to be given.  Still...food was needed.  So we did a loop of the estate and went to the guy behind the counter and said we wanted a cheese plate with some wine.  He took us to an upstairs area where they threw a glorious cheese plate together.  We asked him to surprise us with the wine.


Now, we've had cheese plates before.  Had one last night.  This cheese was so good.  Just...so good.  And the wines he gave us paired so nicely with the cheese.  Obviously, they know what they're doing at this point.  On the cheese plate, there was a jelly provided.  Cabernet Jelly.  Cabernet from the wine from their vineyard.  You hear this and think...really??  Yes.  Really.  Adele and I both brought a jar of it home.  WIth a bottle of Riesling.  If you're keeping track, just stop.  There's no need to keep track of anything.

Stop #5 - Dillon's Distillery

And now for something completely different.  We'd had wine.  At several places.  So it was about time to hit a distillery.  This one was Adele's idea.  I'm not a gin/vodka/hard alcohol kind of person.  But I'm all for trying a new place.  It took a few tries to find the distillery.  There were signs, but not actually where the distillery was.  We made a few u-turns and finally found the place.

Now I didn't care for the booze, but the place itself was ADORABLE!!  It's the kind of place you'd want to spend time.  Sparse decor.  Clean, almost old-timey labels.  And I'm a huge fan of companies that have only a few products, but make the best products imaginable.  It's not their fault I'm no fan of gin.  But I am a fan of theirs.  Sadly though, I don't think that's going to make them sleep better at night.

Stop #6 (The Final Stop) - The Good Earth

Without fail, when we would tell people on our journey today where we were planning to eat dinner, they all sighed and said "Yes!!"  One guy celebrated his birthday here.  Others take friends from out of town here.  So we were jazzed by the time we made it for dinner.  Our stop at Dillon's took less time than expected (today's tip - make sure to know when places close.  We walked into Dillon's around closing time), so we weren't as hungry as we could have been.  Didn't matter.  It was going to be awesome no matter what.

We walked into another farm house and it looked like what I'm trying to turn my house into. Yellow walls.  White molding.  Everything was crisp and clean and beautiful.  And then we were escorted on the patio.  And seriously.  Seriously.  It was quiet and green and there was a nice breeze.  It was perfect to sit outside and have a lovely meal.

In the distance, I kept hearing popping noises.  I started hearing them at Vineland, but I thought it was a crazy guy in the parking lot.  As we sat on the patio looking at the menu, I kept hearing this sound.  And then I thought about it.  About a week ago, I listened to the Peter Greenberg Podcast (yes, I'm a podcast person, I don't need to hear any shit about this) and he was in wine country in Oregon.  He talked to someone who said they use cannons to keep birds from eating all of the grapes.  I asked the waitress about the sound and she said it was cannons to keep the birds from eating all of the grapes.  Woo Hoo!!  I am so smrt!!

We had one last glass of wine and two excellent meals.  I had a shrimp and lobster "burger" with sweet potato fries.  Adele went with the global hot pot which was a pineapple curry situation (something I am totally going to remember when I get home).  They were pretty darn tasty.  We didn't go with dessert, because we were just stuffed from the day.  



I picked up one last bottle of wine for the road (my favorite part is the label read "The Good Wine."  Best. Label. Ever.) along with some Cherry Pie Jam (*swoon*) and we began the short drive to Toronto.

I'm not sure.  Can we eat here??

It didn't take long to get to Toronto.  Adele was driving and I didn't have to worry about figuring out a new city.  Our hotel was in the middle of the "Times Square" area, which made me go a little crazy as we were navigating traffic and trying to find the hotel.  Luckily, Nigel the GPS works in Canada, so while he did get confused a few times, he got us to where we needed to be.  

Full disclosure, I took this picture.  Adele was driving.

The Eaton Chelsea hotel is definitely centrally located.  And the price was right.  We had free WiFi, but had to pay a huge amount for parking (every hotel had a huge amount for parking).  Unfortunately, because the price was right, everyone in Toronto was staying her.  Mostly teenagers.  But once we checked in and found the right elevator (they are color coded), the volume began to subside and it didn't feel as claustrophobic.  We dropped our crap and made ourselves at home.  Adele pulled out the curds and I named the movie that started up on one of the channels in approximately two seconds (Movie: Grease).  I fell asleep pretty quickly tonight knowing we were going to spend a full day of sightseeing in Toronto in the morning.  It was such a good day.  Such a good day...


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