Saturday: We go on a wine tour
Last weekend, out of the blue, Ken said, “Hey, why don’t I take you and your dad on a wine tour?” And I was like, “Hells to the yeah!” because Ken doesn’t really like wine, so he’s happy to just drive and take cool photographs like the one I’m using today. Dad was down for it, because who wouldn’t want to spend an entire day drinking wine? Well, maybe some people, but not us. We set off for the Beamsville Bench with a plan to hit at least 5 different wineries. Now, if you’re unaware of this, Ontario is a great wine-producing province, but the vast majority of the really good stuff cannot be found in the LCBO, the super-controlling entity which is the only place in town to buy alcohol, and where small wineries have to pay a lot of money and produce a lot of wine to get on the shelves. I shouldn’t say “the only place in town” though, because there’s also the corporate “wine shoppes” in some big grocery store chains that only sell Vincor wines, or what I like to call “Vincorps”. Vincor is the eighth largest wine producer in the world and trades on the stock market, unlike the independent wineries, who just hope that people will come to their tasting bars and maybe buy a bottle or two. This isn’t to say that corporate wine isn’t good, but there’s just no sense of adventure like there is on a tour of independent wineries—as you will soon see.
First stop: Peninsula Ridge.
Don’t be put off by the seemingly oxymoronic name—the main house IS on a bit of a hill, and the Niagara Peninsula is around SOMEWHERE. Peninsula Ridge is one of our favourites, mostly because they’re generous with their samples. 4 tastings for $5, which sounds like a bit of a cheek, but if you buy a bottle, they waive the tasting fee. Dad and I were in our element, while Ken wandered the property taking pictures. We’d been there before, and Dad and I started reminiscing:
Dad: Remember that Meritage from a couple of years ago?
Me: The one where the tasting notes said the flavour on the palate was “leather and pipe tobacco”?
Dad: And it tasted like someone had strained it through an old wallet?
Girl Behind Counter: ?
She didn’t seem to know a lot about wine, but she kept offering to let us try other stuff, and by the fourth sample, we were pretty much old friends, as so often happens on these outings. We left with four bottles (I’m drinking the Sauvignon Blanc as I write this) and a decidedly warm glow.
Second stop: Angel’s Gate
Another strange name, as you won’t see any angels hovering about, but there ARE very large gates. Angel’s Gate is another tried and true place, but the serving sizes are somewhat less than generous, and the tasting fee is only waived if you spend $50, which IS a bit of a cheek. It was harder to tell if the wines were good, since we were only given a scant mouthful, but the server was friendly and knowledgeable, and conceded that, if we spent $50 combined, which seemed pretty likely, she’d waive the $5 apiece tasting fee. At one point, I looked up and realized that high above the bar, there was a door leading to a balcony which had no railings—it was just a plinth sticking out into the air. I asked the woman about it, and she said, “Oh, we’ve been doing some renovating—the offices are up there, but the door’s locked from the inside.” I was like, “Thank god, because I can’t think of a worse combination than a balcony without railings in a place where people can get drunk.” Which is maybe why they only give you a splash rather than a slosh. We each bought a couple of bottles, while Ken wandered around taking pictures, and I realized that after she rang mine in, she quickly scanned a bar code on the counter next to the cash register. I’d been to the eye doctor last week, and was happy to hear that my post-laser surgery eyes were better than 20/20, so I could clearly see that under the bar code, it said “Tasting Fee”. I called her on it, and she quickly took it off my bill. Thanks, laser beams. Besides, that was never $5 worth of wine—maybe $2.25 tops.
Third stop: Mountain Road Wine Company
It wasn’t quite noon yet, and Ken was insisting that we go somewhere that we’d never been before, which was tricky because we’ve been to most of the wineries in that area over the years. Then we passed a sign outside a small, red tarpaper barn that said, “Mountain Road Wine Company”.
Ken: Let’s go there.
Me: It’s a broken down lawn mower shed!
Dad: It looks like there’s a dirt road leading somewhere. Maybe the winery’s down that way.
We drove down a laneway that was littered on either side with old cars, appliances and heavy machinery. A couple of weeks ago, I saw a T-shirt that said “Paddle faster. I hear banjos,” and that’s how I was feeling. Now, maybe you’re thinking, “Oh—they got to the end of the lane, and it was a magical, wonderful place with amazing wine!” And you would be sadly wrong. The “winery” was in the walkout basement area of a bungalow. The proprietor was watching Netflix on his computer when we walked in, and he looked totally shocked to see us.
Owner: Oh. Do you want to sample the wine? I have a 2005 Chardonnay. Or a 2006 Chardonnay.
Me: Uh…I’ll take the 2006?
When I related this to T, he said, “But isn’t old wine even better than new wine?” and I was like, “Well, you’d think.” But this isn’t necessarily true of white wine anyway. The guy who owns the place where Dad and I make our own wine keeps saying, “Fill it all the way up the neck! It’ll oxidize if you don’t drink it after a couple of months, and then it won’t taste as good!” A couple of months? Oh, silly wine man—you don’t know me at all.
There was literally nothing for Ken to take pictures of, outside of an old cement mixer, so he hung out while we tried Mountain Road’s wares. It seemed like maybe the sampling bottle had been open for a loonngg time, because the aftertaste was “squirrel rubbing its ass on an oak tree”. But I felt bad, mostly because the guy’s hands seemed a little shaky when he was pouring the samples, like we made him nervous or something, so I bought a bottle, hoping that ‘fresher might be better’. Later that night, I opened it, thinking that I might as well drink it myself because I sure wouldn’t serve it to friends. After the first three sips, I poured it down the sink. Ken was like, “Why did it take you THREE sips?” Well, maybe I was hoping it would mellow out, but it just kept getting nastier. When I looked Mountain Road Wine Company up on Trip Advisor, there was a similar review to mine, so I’m not the only one who heard banjos. (Just so we’re clear—I’m not saying “Don’t go there yourself.” Maybe squirrel ass oak tree is an acquired taste that I’ve yet to acquire, like beets.)
Fourth stop: Ridgepoint Wines
I love this place, mostly because the owner, a huge jolly Italian guy, always seems to recognize me. I don’t know if he really does, but it’s either a great vibe or I’m a memorable lush. Also, the restaurant there is excellent. We were hungry for lunch by this point, so we postponed the tasting for something to soak up the alcohol. Dad had a pasta soup kind of thing, we shared a charcuterie, and Ken had pizza, which he swooned over and said it was the best pizza he’d had in ages, which is saying something because Ken had pizza three times last week. The wine we had with lunch was wonderful as usual, and we came away ready to face at least two more places…
Fifth stop: Calamus Estates
It was dimly lit. There was wine and it was tasty. I bought some.
Sixth stop: Sue Ann Staff Wines
I think there was a dog. Also, wine…yum…bought…
Last stop: Home
Me: How the hell did we get here so fast?
Ken: You both fell asleep the minute we hit the highway.
Dad: Yawn…are we back already?
Wine tours, and my husband, are the best.
Titus and I discuss films
Me: So have you heard all the controversy about that movie “A Dog’s Purpose?
Titus: What does that mean?
Me: “Prolonged public dispute, debate or—“
Titus: I know what “controversy” is. I meant a dog’s purpose. Is it a looping GIF of a dog eating, sleeping, and pooping? Because I’d pay good money to watch that.
Me: No, it’s about a dog who brings joy to its owners—
Titus: We aim to please. You’re welcome.
Me: —by being reincarnated over the course of 50 years.
Titus: Reincarnated as a dog EVERY TIME?! That sucks. After 50 years, I’m hoping to reach at least naked mole rat level.
Raven: Naked mole rat? WTF?
Titus: Naked mole rats are like superheroes. They can’t feel pain, they’re immune to cancer, they live for the equivalent of 600 human years and they look like scrot–
Me: No! Stop. Anyway, back to the movie. Apparently, someone leaked footage of a handler trying to force a German Shepherd into rushing water, even though the dog was obviously terrified.
Titus: But why not just get another German Shepherd who LIKES the water? No one would know the difference—they all look the same anyway.
Raven: That’s so racist.
Titus: No it’s not! All dogs of a certain breed look alike. Whenever I walk by Skippy from down the block, even I’M not sure which one is me. Lemme see the video….ooh, that’s not nice.
Raven: Dogs are such big babies. It’s only a little water.
Titus: Says the one who’d rather use her own spit than take an actual bath.
Me: Anyway, PETA’s condemned it.
Titus: I didn’t know pitas could do that. I thought they were just luscious snacks.
Me: Not the bread—People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Titus: Really? That’s a thing? Ok, I want steak for dinner or I’m calling them.
Me: Here’s the phone. Knock yourself out, Mr. Slappy Paws.
Titus: How about we compromise, and you share a little of that wine you just bought?
Me: Stop drooling! Gawd! You’re getting the cat wet!
Titus: And THAT’S my purpose.