The Booze Hounds finally tried a guided vineyard tour in the Beamsville Bench and Jordan Valley area, operated by Crush on Niagara Wine Tours. We’ve been a bit quiet over the last month (uncharacteristically quiet!) since we were busy getting married over the Victoria Day long weekend. To celebrate becoming Mr. & Mrs. Toronto Booze Hound, we took a private wine tasting tour with Crush on Niagara and 7 of our closest out-of-town friends. Crush on Niagara knew that we were celebrating our upcoming wedding (but didn’t know it was the next day!), however they did not know that we write about Ontario Booze.
Our best men were left with the task of putting together a low-key bachelor and bachelorette party for our out-of-town friends, with the added challenge of living out of province. They came to the logical conclusion that wine tasting would be a great way to reunite a group of friends that haven’t all been in the same room at the same time in at least 6 years, and sourced out tour options. I asked how the decided on Crush on Niagara. “They were responsive, friendly, and were able to work out a private option for us at a good price point,” replied our best man Ossie.
Group tours pick up from Bed and Breakfasts in Niagara on the Lake and
hotels in Niagara Falls, and start at $89+ tax per person for group tours. For our custom tour, we took the GO Train to Burlington in the morning, and we were greeted by our private van, who patiently waited for us to caffeinate. We had individual copies of our day’s agenda, personalized with mine and Kole’s names on it. We were off to a good start as we headed to Flat Rock Cellars, our first stop of the morning.
This was our first time visiting Flat Rock Cellars, and we had only been to one vineyard on our list for the day, despite our numerous day trips to Beamsville and Jordan Valley. Flat Rock hand picks their grapes, and they specialize in cool climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. They also have a gorgeous view over Lake Ontario, and on a clear day, you can make out the Toronto skyline in the distance. A bottle of award winning 2014 Pinot Noir followed us home, the first of several bottles to do so.
Our next stop was for an early lunch at Inn on the Twenty in Jordan Village, featuring a 3 course lunch with an included wine selection from Cave Spring. They accommodated us with a semi-private dining area, and easily worked with the vegetarians in our party. Our driver went on a stealth mission for cake while we dined, and patiently waited for us while we drunkenly tried on hats at Frankie Sez and bought out the lavender supplies at Mary Rose’s Lavender Boutique.
After lunch, we went visited Back 10 Cellars, a tiny 10 acre property where we sampled 1% of their annual production. Their flight came with tasting notes, and this was the only vineyard that provided tasting notes. They included a surprise sample of their sparkling wine, as word got out that we were there celebrating a wedding. The staff here were particularly lovely, and helped us surprise one of our guests with a birthday cake, thanks to our driver. It was important to us that we didn’t forget an out-of-town guest’s birthday in the midst of us celebrating our nuptials. Props to the driver for helping us keep that secret and helping us organize a cake! A bottle of 2015 Big Reach Riesling followed us home.
Our next stop was at Vineland Estates, the only vineyard we’d been to before. Our last visit to this vineyard was on New Year’s Eve, and we were the only clients at the vineyard. On this visit they were a lot busier, but we still got fantastic treatment. We started off with more bubbly, as word had made the rounds of the vineyards that we were celebrating both an upcoming wedding and a birthday.
This vineyard had the distinction of leading our party through a proper guided tasting, focusing on the sensory perception of wine. For many of our friends, this was the first time someone had walked them through how to properly observe, smell and taste wine, and it was a novel concept. It was also here that we started getting pretty rowdy, as we had not been spitting out our wines. Sorry, Crush on Niagara and Vineland. I hope we were entertaining for the driver.
By now we were running a tad behind schedule, which I’m told is common with private tours operated by Crush on Niagara. We were supposed to have a stop at Upper Canada Cheese Company for a snack. This is an exclusive stop on Crush on Niagara’s tour. Somewhere in the middle of us singing sea shanties, we vetoed the cheese stop in favour of reaching the next vineyard on the list, Kacaba Vineyards and Winery. Kacaba was the real winner of the day when it came to the quality of their wines. The vineyard was not overly impressed with our tardiness, however.
Here we wandered around the barrel room, enjoying the only Syrah sample of the day. The Rebecca Rosé and the award winning 2013 Proprietor’s Block Syrah were particularly popular with our party. Impressed with the meaty characteristics of the Syrah, a bottle followed us home here as well. By now our bags were heavy with wine, lavender and hats, and we were thoroughly annoying as a group.
The final stop of the day was Di Profio Wines, specializing in more Italian-style wines then French-style.
A cheese and charcuterie plate was laid out in anticipation of our party, and we sampled a house-blend that featured a particularly aromatic Sauvignon Blanc. The well-thought out spread of snacks was much appreciated, as we were nearing dinner time and had largely reverted to Québecois French slang. We sampled their prosecco-style sparkling wine to toast our upcoming nuptials, and they also had a secret birthday cake waiting for our guest. Their tasting room felt the most intimate of the bunch and the snack was much appreciated.
I’ve done a fair amount of wine tasting tours overseas, but this was my first time having a guided option close to home.
Usually Kole and I take turns being the designated driver when we visit Ontario’s wine regions, so it was lovely leaving the driving and planning to someone else. We’re not sure what the cost was for a private event as this was a gift from our friends, but the group tours are highly competitive in cost. We’ve paid around $90 for beer tours in the Toronto area that were shorter in length and didn’t include any food, so the $89-139 CAD price point from Niagara area seemed fair. Pickup and drop off in Toronto is available at a surcharge with private tours, but we opted to take the GO train to Burlington to keep costs down and avoid sitting in rush hour traffic on a Friday of a long weekend. We would highly recommend Crush on Niagara for a unique wine tasting experience!