A Sparkling Birthday Weekend in Niagara

Last weekend we fuelled up our new Mini Cooper (…the jury is still out on her name!) and headed out to Wine Country Ontario for a little road trip to celebrate my (Jeff’s) birthday. Mike was kind enough to be the DD, as I tasted through an assortment of beautiful bubbles at some of our favourite local wineries. Here’s a little re-cap of our sparkling weekend!

Day 1: Niagara Escarpment & Twenty Valley

The Niagara Escarpment & Twenty Valley is Niagara’s hidden gem of sparkling wine! It’s charming and unforgettable, with gorgeous landscapes, a bustling culinary scene, and of course… an ever growing number of boutique wineries producing amazing VQA wines. Some people liken this area to Sonoma Valley in California, as it takes a very laid-back and friendly approach to its wine-making. For more on the Niagara Escarpment & Twenty Valley, visit Wine Country Ontario!

1st Stop – Rosewood Estates Winery

Rosewood Estates Winery was founded by a 3rd generation beekeeping family who fell in love with wine. So it should come as no surprise that they produce mead as well! Pretty cool, right?! Well, they have another new product to add to their shelves – 2016 Nebulous – their first sparkling wine. And of course we had to see what all the buzz was about! 🐝😜 Nebulous is a Pét-Nat (more on that in a forthcoming blog post) meaning that the wine is bottled before the first fermentation is complete. It results in a unique (and somewhat unpredictable) style of wine that is being dubbed as “Champagne’s cool kid sister”!

The lovely Judith tried to convince us to put on the beekeeper suit and check out the hives, but… we were just fine checking out the cellars and sipping on some bubbles! 😜

2nd Stop – Kew Vineyards Estate Winery

Kew Vineyards is truly a winery after our sparkling hearts! 💖 They specialize in bubbles, producing 5 sparkling wines using traditional Champagne varieties from their 40+ year old vines – among the oldest in the region! I opted for a flight of the full suite of sparkling wines (duh!) and loved every single one of them. We concluded that picking a favourite sparkling wine at Kew is like picking a favourite Spice Girl… impossible! But the 2011 Barrel Aged Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay) and 2010 Rosalie (100% Pinot Noir) definitely stood out. Perhaps they’re the Posh and Ginger of the group? 😜

The tasting room at Kew is like a glorious Instagram feed come to life. You almost don’t want to touch anything… but of course we did! 😋

At Kew they’re all about stopping to smell the roses… and sip the bubbles! So next time you’re in the Beamsville area make sure to stop by and take a moment to enjoy the beautiful wines and picture perfect vistas. And try to pick a favourite bubbly from the lot… you’ll probably be there all day. Which certainly ain’t a bad thing!

3rd Stop – Redstone Winery

Our next stop was Redstone Winery, just 2 minutes down the road. Redstone is the latest venture by Moray Tawse and his award-winning winemaking team. And it was love at first sight when we sat down and were greeted with a glass of their delicious Redstone Sparkling! A traditional method Chardonnay, Pinot Gris & Pinot Noir blend.

And it was love at first bite when these stone oven Hawaiian pizzas with fresh pepperoncini showed up! 😍 I may have ordered a 2nd glass of bubbles, because bubbly and pizza are the original #couplegoals! Sorry Jay-Z and Beyoncé!

Redstone’s shop and tasting bar is bright and approachable – I loved the riddling rack! We grabbed a couple bottles of the  Redstone Sparkling to take home with us, along with a bottle of their Syrah – one of our fave Charcuterie wines. After all, we don’t drink bubbly allll the time! 😜

4th Stop – Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery is one of the oldest wineries in the region, producing their first vintage in the 1980’s! It’s also the first Ontario winery that we had ever visited… and the first Ontario bubbles we had ever tried! They produce a traditional method Brut and Rosé Brut from a blend of Chardonnay & Pinot Noir, as well as a special vintage Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay) that sees extended ageing on lees. The bubbles are all named after Catharine Smith, the widow of Henry of Pelham, and matriarch of the family!

Ever since we first tried the Cuvée Catharine Rosé Brut, it’s been hard to top – it remains on our shortlist of favourite Ontario sparkling wines! Wonderfully complex, it has a glorious deep colour that sets it apart from other rosé sparkings.

A highlight of our visit to Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery was the tour of the cellar by the lovely Olivia! She took us down to “where the magic happens” and showed us a future batch of the Cuvée Catherine ageing on its lees! Had we just not devoured an entire pizza, I’d totally have jumped over to their Coach House Café for another glass and a bacon grilled cheese! 😋

Day 2: Niagara-on-the-Lake

Niagara-on-the-Lake is the birthplace and heart of Ontario’s modern wine industry. It’s all here – dining, entertainment, historic sites, shopping, relaxation, and of course… world class VQA wines from amazing producers! For more on Niagara-on-the-Lake, visit Wine Country Ontario.

1st Stop – Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery have an exciting portfolio of sparkling wines spanning from traditional Chardonnay & Pinot Noir based bubbles, to… sparkling reds! While we love the traditional examples, we found the 2014 Grand Reserve Entourage Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc to be a really great example of sparkling Sauv Blanc done right!

Oh, and did we mention they have the most AWESOME outdoor concert venue? We saw our pal Jann Arden play there a couple years back – she even signed a bottle of bubbly for us! 😊

2nd Stop – Trius Winery

Now this was a REALLY special experience! I know how hard Mike had been working to plan this sparkling wine focused birthday weekend for me, but I wasn’t expecting what he had in store at Trius! Trius Winery has been producing premium VQA wines for over 30 years, and were among the first to see the potential in Ontario’s terroir and climate for the production of sparkling wine. The winery’s investment in the industry and focus on sparkling wine production is commendable. It’s safe to say they’re masters of the craft at this point!

We had the pleasure of meeting the winemaker, Craig McDonald, at an Experts Tasting at CCOVI a few weeks earlier. Craig was awarded Ontario Winemaker of the Year in 2008 and 2016, and has been creating award winning wines in Niagara for the last 20 vintages! So basically he’s as familiar with the Niagara’s terroir as the vines themselves are! We toured through the winemaking facility where Craig shared his uniquely-Ontario expertise and experiences with sparkling wine making. And best part…

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…I got to saber a bottle of Trius’ special “5” 2009 Blanc de Noirs in the cellar! A stunning Pinot Noir/Pinot Meunier blend, aged 5 years on its lees, with an unbelievably beautiful nose. #bucketlistgoals

If you are visiting the winery, definitely opt for the cellar tour! It’s beautiful, informative and includes a really amazing immersive video experience with super cool lighting – hence why we look like holograms in the photo above! 😂 And nothing beats learning about sparkling wine while surrounded by it! 😉

And one more thing – do not miss the chance to dine in their restaurant. By far the best meal we’ve ever had in wine country. The duck fat fries and the Trius Brut or Brut Rosé = #FOODGASM! 😍

3rd Stop – Château des Charmes

Last but certainly not least, we paid a visit to Château des Charmes for a cellar tour and tasting. Château des Charmes was founded in 1978 by Paul Bosc, a fifth generation French winegrower. He believed that growing your own grapes is the best way to make a fine wine, and all wines at Château des Charmes are produced using estate grown fruit. Among those wines, one of our personal favourites… their Pinot Noir & Chardonnay based Brut Sparkling!

After an informative tour of the Château des Charmes cellar, we were treated to a delightful tasting showcasing the broad range of VQA wines produced here! After the tour, while Mike was the patient DD, I had the chance to try the Brut Sparkling, Brut Rosé and Brut Blanc de Blanc. Oh, and did I mention they make MAGNUMS?! 🙊 Not a common sight in Ontario wine country, so we of course had to have one and, given how delicious the Brut Sparkling is, you absolutely must pick one up on your next visit! 😉

Whew! What a weekend! To visit all the wineries mentioned in this post, check out our Ontario Sparkling Wine Map and plan a sparkling road trip of your own!