This past weekend I made my annual springtime pilgrimage to Niagara for Cuvée en Route, a passport style event with about 30 participating wineries each offering a tasting menu. This year I made the trip with my friend Andrew – a fellow wino, so it wasn’t very difficult to twist his arm and get him to join me.
I’m always interested in the chance to take a drive and experience wines in the place they’re made. There’s something special about tasting a wine while looking at the vines that gave it life.
Except for one stop this year’s Cuvée adventure consisted of wineries I’d never been to before. I apologize in advance if I’m a broken record about all the newness! My game plan going in was to use this year’s Cuvée as an excuse to finally get to some places I’ve been meaning to go for years.
So let’s get on with it, shall we?
Our first stop was Stratus, a vineyard I’ve been meaning to check out for a few years at least. I’m so glad I finally got there!
First of all, the folks at Stratus treated us so well. Our server poured our flight and talked to us a lot about each wine, answering all my questions and generally helping me nerd out. He also gave us ample time to just sit and taste and write my tasting notes. I tend to be a little shy about making notes so I really appreciated the time to just do my own thing.
The four wines we tasted (a flight of Semillons) were all delicious and showed the range of both the grape and Stratus’ winemaking capabilities.
As if that wasn’t enough of a treat, our server then offered us three bonus wines. An older version of a white blend we tried in the initial flight plus two of their icewines. They were just as interesting and delicious as the wines chosen for the flight, and I walked away feeling like we’d just gotten a great deal.
I’m so glad I finally visited and will definitely be going back.
Peller Estates Winery
Oh, Peller. Why do I keep returning to you? Your wine is good but so expensive! And your building feels a little Disneyland-esque, which just isn’t my jam.
The tasting they offered was a cab franc vertical, which I was excited about. I always love doing verticals, it’s a great chance to understand a specific grape and also a chance to see how the differences from year to year affect a wine. The 2013 was my favourite by far. It was softer a silkier than the 2014 and 2012 and more in line with what I love and expect from a cab franc.
To be honest it felt like we were tasting cabernet franc made in the style of cabernet sauvignon. It was kind of odd, as though Peller keeps trying to make cab franc into something it’s not. Cab franc is such a lovely grape, and cab sauv already exists! Why would you try to do that? I have no idea.
I think it’s time to pause my Peller visits unless it’s for the restaurant or an event.
Reif Estates Winery
Another new-to-me winery, I’ve been curious about Reif for a while. So that combined with the fact that they were offering a kiln-dried tasting menu meant it was a easy choice to add them to my list.
Most of my curiosity stemmed from the fact that I had no idea what kiln-dried wines were about. Mostly I wondered how similar (or not) they are to appassimento style wines, where the grapes are laid out on straw mats to dry out before fermentation.
We tasted three wines, a chardonnay and two cab sauvs, each paired with its own cheese. I was slightly disappointed that they didn’t have the intensity of flavour I love and look for in appassimento style wines, but I was pleasantly surprised by the port-like quality on the older cab sauv. It had lots of fruit characteristics that are calling cards of age – fig, date, prune. I loved it. I’m now regretting not buying some, actually. I guess I’ll drink some of the port I have as consolation.
Our fourth and final stop was yet another winery I’ve wanted to visit for a while. I’ve been intrigued by Southbrook since discovering that they ascribe to biodynamic winemaking – possibly the most woo-woo you can get in the wine world.
We tasted two chardonnays and two merlots and I felt like I got a solid impression of what they’re all about. Both chards has lovely butter, toast, biscuit, and yogurt things going on, which made me wonder if they’d gotten the ol’ MLF treatment. The two merlots were 18 years apart in age (18!!) so it became a great chance to practice identifying age side by side. The older merlot has a surprising amount of tannin for both a 20 year old wine and a merlot, so that was a nice surprise. Unfortunately it also had a hefty amount of green pepper, which I’m not so much a fan of. Oh well. Can’t win ‘em all. At least it’s still good palate practice!
And that’s Cuvée en Route done and dusted for another year! Did you make it out?
PS – In case you’re interested, I wrote out my full tasting notes.