Breakfast at the next morning came in really cute picnic baskets, delivered right to your door!
Juices, freshly baked muffins and cakes from the local bakery, fruits and local jams – all of which was just a brilliant start to the day in this amazing town!
After breakfast, our morning started with a lazy amble through the town…
Prior to the tour, we’d only really been on the main High Street in town so it was nice to get to see other parts of Niagara-on-the-Lake (lazily too) and further re-affirm how utterly charming this whole town was.
Those beautiful houses don’t come cheap though! A decent home here can set you back a cool million dollars. (The cheapest I saw on sale here was over half a million with the highest being 10 million).
The best part of the tour was getting to find out more about its history, it’s famous past residents and even little details about its houses.
Speaking of which, here’s a bit of a strange fact for you. Niagara-on-the-Lake proved to be the scene of many a battle and as such has lots of graves underneath the city. In Niagara-on-the-Lake, most houses have modern sources of water which comes from typical government approved and installed pipes and water sources same as you’d have in a city. Some older buildings, however, still have access to the well water that was instilled ages ago at these houses.
Although the well water isn’t drunk these days (why would you when there’s clean water flowing through the houses), analysis of the well water showed much higher than normal concentrations of calcium in the water across the board. Turns out, the bones from the graveyard had filtered into the well water and once upon a time, when well water was in use – people would have been drinking that – old bones! Brrr!!!
Back in town, we headed back to our hotel, picked up the car and went off in search of the very reason why many people tend to visit Niagara-on-the-Lake – wine!
Prior to this trip, I had no idea how big wine production was in Canada. Naively, and especially because we’re really spoilt for choice back in Europe, my mind tend to go to obvious places when I think of wine and Canada never even came to mind.
Thing is though, when you sit down to really think about it, wine in this part of Canada makes totally sense. It’s one of the lower points in the country (at a latitude that even lower than Burgundy or the Loire Valley in France, The Veneto region – home to Prosecco in Italy and certainly much lower than most of the wine producing regions of Germany), it gets pretty decent sunshine and pretty hot summers. Essentially most of the key ingredients you’d need for vineyards are right here – all that was needed was to select the best kind of grapes to thrive here.
People, of course, figured all of this out and now, this part of Canada is home to some pretty amazing wines which in turn has turned Niagara-on-the-Lake into a much sought after holiday destination.
The signature wine here though is the sweet ice wine which left me with furrowed brows when I first heard about it but turns out is actually fairly common, not just in Canada, but across Europe.
Essentially, ice wine is wine that’s left to dehydrate in the frost which results in some rather concentrated sweet juice (normally, grapes are usually harvested in Sept/October whereas ice wine grapes are left on the vines till about January when the temperatures really dip). This is also why ice wines are more expensive, prized wines to buy.
The same kind of procedure for icewines is done in Bordeaux, France with the famous Sauternes wine.
The grapes for the Sauternes wine are dehydrated using a fungus called Botrytis cinerea otherwise known as noble rot which results in concentrated sweeter juice extracted from the grapes. In Italy, this is done by freezing the grapes (suffice it say, it doesn’t get nearly as cold in Italy as it can in the winter in Canada).
Long story short, the idea behind the dehydrated grapes to make sweet wines is something that has existed for centuries – Niagara-on-the-Lake just happens to be lucky enough to have the perfect mix of blisteringly hot summers and freezing cold winters to make the wines naturally (sans fungus 😄).
Anyway, enough of wine rambling from my end, on to the important thing – the tasting of the wine!
For this, we went to the Peller Estates where we proceeded to have a wine pairing menu for lunch, kicked off with rather delicious cocktails
Peller Estates, as do many other vineyards in the area, make more than just ice wines – in fact, ice wine probably counts for a relatively smaller part of the wines produces (volume-wise; and it would have to be considering how each grape for ice wine is equivalent to one drop of wine).
I started off with the salmon terrine – paired with the Private Reserve Pinot Gris, while Lloyd went for the Pistachio crusted goat cheese – paired with the Private Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.
Mains for me were the Merlot Lamb Sirloin – paired with, you guessed it – Merlot! Lloyd went for the Friend Duck Egg – paired with the Private Reserve Gamay Noir.
By the way, just in case you hadn’t gleaned by now, the meals (and the wine pairings) were absolutely brilliant! Immediately I took my first bite, followed by my first sip of the wine, I already mentally started planning a return to this very spot in summer for peak wine season. It was just such a fantastic way to spend an afternoon here.
Dessert for me was the Black Cherry Bread Pudding (*licks lips*) – paired with a Cabernet Franc Icewine (probably a good time to note that ice wine is typically used as a dessert wine though I’d happily – and indeed, I did – drink it well outside that remit).
Lloyd went for the Cabernet Chocolate Ganache Bar – paired with Private Reserve Baco Noir. (I wasn’t allowed to taste any of his! Stingy much? Hehehe!)
Done with lunch (after finishing off the rest of our wines and cocktails), we headed out for a tour of Peller Estates, starting as every good wine tour should, with a glass of bubbly.
The vineyards understandably weren’t much to look at seeing as it was winter and all but the real magic was down in the ice room aptly called the 10 Below Lounge to try some delicious ice wines!
I’ve got something of a sweet tooth (understatement of the year) and so I was in my element with all these ice wines! There’s more choice of ice wines than I’d realised and the lounge is a pretty great place to get acquainted with them.
Oh, and as you probably guessed from the name (even before seeing what it looks like inside), it’s freezing in here… 😀 Ergo the thick down coats you get given before you go in.
There’s also ice wines frozen inside the ice with one particularly expensive bottle set deep inside the wall of ice. (I was told if I could get it out, I could take it home! Haha! )
We eventually bade Peller Estates farewell and headed back to Niagara-on-the-Lake to chill with some wine by the fireplace (and catch up on some light reading) pre-dinner.
Dinner was fine (not particularly great but not bad either) and was eaten in something of a hurry as I planned on doing something I’d wanted to the night before and didn’t get round to doing – seeing Niagara Falls at night!
^Lloyd trying to hide the fact that he always gets chips at every given opportunity!
See, at night, the falls are lit up and the display is absolutely brilliant!
There’s also no one around (except for a few other keen beans like us) so you have that view almost all to yourself. 😀
It might have seemed like a bit of a task, heading 20 minutes up the road to check it out but it was totally worth it and such a brilliant way to finish up and nice and relaxed day in such a beautiful place. 😀