Sip Back & Relax
By Brooke Madden
Do you smell that? The cool, crisp, harvest air? The warm cinnamon and vanilla? The brown sugar, pumpkin pecan waffles? The crunchy, harvest, apple pie? The velvety, black cherry merlot? The undeniable, unmistakable, unequivocal scent, that, with joyful confirmation, validates sweater weather’s long-awaited return?
True, this sensory overload (in the best possible way) may be slightly elevated by my impulsive Bath and Bodyworks Candle haul. But even undeterred by overpriced 3-wick bliss, parented by Mother Nature herself, the natural, autumnal aroma has arrived. And I am here for it.
Goodbye, smoggy heatwaves. So long, malevolent wasp nests. ’Til next year, sugary seltzers. For we are entering a season of sophistication. A season of colourful landscapes, a season of butternut squash and other savoury soups, a season of children returning to the classroom, a season of giving thanks for (among other things) children returning to the classroom. Perhaps, most notably, a season of boozy elevation. Say farewell to your seltzers, radlers, coolers and frozen fiascos, and indulge with me in some of the best wines Ontario has to offer this season.
I’ve yet to discover an autumnal pairing more calming, more well-deserved, more joyful, more emblematic of tranquility, peace, and a long, long exhale, more poetic even, more harmonious than a crisp fall day, and a large glass of wine. And while, with no judgement (though perhaps mild envy) from me, your favourite bottle can be enjoyed on the couch in front of a Harry Potter marathon; sometimes, it’s best to go all out. And with the virus that shall not be named subsiding, certain Ontario wineries have begun offering exciting, educational, tasteful (no pun intended) experiences this Fall/Winter season.
Gather your partner, your girlfriends, your sister, or any other sommelier-in-training you may be acquainted with. Adorn yourselves with blanket scarves, flannels, and beanies. Enjoy the scenic drive to wine country. Support your local vineyards. Educate yourself about your favourite beverages, and maybe get a little tipsy along the way. Soak up that remarkably fresh autumnal aroma that pairs so decadently with a glass of vino. Because the vineyards I’m going to introduce you to are colourful, creative, and thriving at this time of year.
1. Megalomaniac: A Brand New Look
“Wine can be fun, wine can be tongue in cheek, and we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously!” says Erin Mitchell of Megalomaniac wines. This self-aware, clever winery offers premium wines and experiences, but with less of the ego that can sometimes be associated with wine making. “We’re all about a dichotomy of formality and fun!” Erin continues
Located on the Bench of the Niagara Escarpment, Megalomaniac is home to a 90-acre vineyard. “It’s one of the highest spots on the Niagara Escarpment, which makes it an absolutely stunning, beautiful property to visit. The winery is in the middle of this expensive, rolling vineyard, and surrounded by the trees of the Escarpment, the Bruce Trail, and looks down with a view on
to Lake Ontario,” Erin explains.
Since the pandemic, Megalomaniac’s visitor experience has changed in a permanent way. After undergoing a complete cosmetic refresh, the team at Megalomaniac now offers a dining area – Megalomaniac Food & Drink. “Up until the end of October, we’ll be offering our sparkling brunch, and light fare and small plates for lunch and dinner. We have an all-weather patio. It’s glassed in, with a roof with open elements – a rain or shine patio. And it will be heated too!” says Erin. Up until the end of October, Megalomaniac will also be offering their “Insta-worthy” vineyard walks. Sip and stroll with a glass of Megalomaniac wine, while being led to some of the best photo opportunities available on the property. You’ll learn a thing or two about the winemaking process as well!
From November onward, Megalomaniac is excited to be offering a Winter Wine Bar. Though not an indoor, fully-heated experience, a cozy, wine-bar patio option will be available, overlooking the vineyard’s stunning views. In addition, Megalomaniac is excited to introduce their new tasting rooms. “We’ve taken multiple spaces within the winery and turned them into private (or small group setting) tasting rooms. Guests have a selection of four different tastings to choose from. Each of the tasting rooms is designed with breathtaking views in mind,” explains Erin.
If you’re feeling festive, it should be noted that Megalomaniac is planning on curating a robust, impressive offering of items for Christmas shoppers this year. “How great would it be to come to Niagara, do your shopping, and then while you’re here, hang out at the Winter Wine Bar and enjoy a beautiful glass of wine looking over the vineyard?” Erin suggests. To me, that sounds infinitely better than a trip to a crowded Eaton Centre during the holiday season!
2. Peller Estates Winery & Restaurant: One of the Greats
Perhaps one of the most iconic vineyards in the province, Peller Estates has historically offered exclusive experiences for wine lovers. Located in Niagara on the Lake, this winery and restaurant has creatively adapted to this last couple of years’ one and only* constant: change.
*It should be noted that the quality and superb deliciousness of a glass of Peller Estates wine is also one of life’s constants.
Year round, Peller Estates proudly offers their “Greatest Winery Tour.” Peller invites you to “immerse yourself in everything our world class winery has to offer from vine to cellar on this leisurely and engaging tour experience.” The tour begins with a glass of sparkling wine, taking you through the underground barrel cellar, exposing you to Niagara’s only igloo-like lounge, the 10Below Icewine Lounge, and concluding in Peller’s stunning boutique – the tour is dubbed the “greatest” for a reason.
Further experiences that are not limited to the summer months include a Seated Tasting Experience, where you’ll be able to select three wines and engage for 40 minutes with a wine consultant to learn more about your favourite glasses, and aid you in realizing your at-home wine rack dreams.
Described as, “the ideal setting for the collector who is looking to add to their wine cellar,” the Estate Room provides an exclusive environment to enjoy Peller Estates’ very best wines. Available daily, the Estate Room experience is equipped with a wine consultant to answer any questions you may have, as well as a selection of back vintage library wines and bottlings that are only available at the winery.
Most excitingly, Peller Estates will be offering a Winter Market beginning in November. Running through until March, the market includes premium access to their outdoor tasting area, as well as a beverage of your choice in a souvenir glass, and an Icewine marshmallow to roast over a crackling fire. If you’re looking to gift an experience this holiday season, a trip to the Peller Estates Winery & Restaurant is sure to impress.
“We will most likely offer specialty dining events during the fall/winter months too, depending on COVID restrictions. We typically have barrel cellar dinners during the Icewine Festival in January at Peller Estates,” says Marketing Coordinator, Riley. “We’re looking forward to these things coming back!” she adds.
As am I, Peller Estates, as am I. See you soon!
3. Two Sisters Vineyards: A Taste of Europe
Anyone who has had the privilege of visiting a vineyard in Europe knows the architecture of the estate and the grounds is truly something magical. Inspired by their Italian heritage, sisters Melissa and Angela have successfully brought a little piece of Europe to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Architecturally influenced by Italian Renaissance design, a visit to Two Sisters Vineyards is a visit to a European oasis, in the heart of wine country.
“It was a pure passion project for our family that has evolved into a very special, personal and rewarding endeavour,” say the sisters.
Melissa and Angela proudly maintain a personal connection with each element of the vineyard – part of what makes an experience at Two Sisters particularly special. “When guests come to spend their time with us, it is like us inviting them into our home and all of our team members understand the importance and dedication to the customer experience.” From the way the winemaker crafts their wines, to the ingredients in the dishes, to how the candles are arranged in their barrel cellar, the sisters are involved to create sensory, educational experiences.
While navigating the last 18 months, Two Sisters embraced the challenge of thinking outside the box, and offered creative experiences to their guests. “We wanted to bring the Two Sisters experience into people’s homes, so we naturally evolved to offering Virtual Tasting experiences of curated wine collections with interesting food pairings,” say the sisters. “While it has been incredibly successful, we love to have wine lovers come to the estate to experience what TSV has to offer in both ambiance, service and dining. We have created wine experiences at our newly built ‘Veranda’ overlooking the vineyards that run about 45 minutes and allow our wine consultants a deeper conversation and tasting experiences of back vintages and current portfolio with each guest.”
In addition to the Veranda experiences, the sisters are working diligently to perfect their tour program, launching late fall. “We have a private and corporate events program that includes both wine and culinary experiences and can be customizable to the wants and needs of the host. We have planned exciting masterclasses that will have guests tasting through cellar wines together with our TSV esteemed estate sommeliers in our intimate barrel cellar. These experiences are very wine focused and educational. Winemaker dinners have been scheduled to take place this fall and winter which will showcase our culinary creations from our popular winery restaurant, Kitchen76, carefully paired with our range of library and current wines by our winemaker, Adam Pearce, who will host the dinner.”
I can’t think of a better way to enjoy the cooler weather than by supporting this local, European escape. Grazie Mille, Melissa and Angela!
4. Jackson-Triggs: An Exclusive Experience
As one of Canada’s most awarded wineries, Jackson-Triggs has made a real impact on the Canadian wine scene. With an emphasis on inclusivity, diversity, and fostering a brand that includes all Canadians, Jackson-Triggs is one of my personal favourite wineries to support – not only for their commitments to better the Canadian wine community, but for their seriously delicious products!
I had the opportunity to speak with Abby Wood of the Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate to learn a little more about what the winery has to offer this upcoming Fall/Winter season. Abby told me about their Wine Club subscription, and how it can elevate your upcoming visitor experience.
“We offer really great experiences for our Wine Club members. It’s like a magazine subscription, but instead of a magazine, you get wine delivered to your door, and complimentary experiences throughout the year,” says Abby. Wine club members experience exclusive perks like holiday dinners as well. “We always do a holiday party for members – a seven-course dinner, all complimentary. Members get the winery to themselves, and can explore different food stations,” she explains.
If you’re not a Wine Club member, there is still plenty to enjoy at Jackson-Triggs. While amphitheatre performances aren’t confirmed at the moment due to COVID, stay tuned to see who will be playing at the estate’s iconic venue. Jackson-Triggs is also hoping to offer workshops this year – a Thanksgiving floral centrepiece workshop, and a wreath-making workshop for the holidays.
According to Abby, the “Explore Your Senses” experience is not one to miss. “We do these quite a lot for corporate bookings. It’s a stationed dinner event. You’ll get a map of the winery when you arrive, the full menu, and there’s a wine bar at each food station so you can try multiple pairings throughout the evening. The decor is always unique. You really get a lot of flexibility here with such a large facility to be able to accommodate individual wants!” says Abby.
Another exciting event Jackson-Triggs enjoys is the “Mom Market,” a large event with multiple pop-up vendors. Abby is looking forward to their Halloween-themed adaptation of the traditional Mom Market on October 23rd. Kid friendly, with a screen projecting Halloween films, it’s geared so that parents can relax with their favourite glass of Jackson-Triggs wine and browse the local vendors.
This just in: “Jackson-Triggs is also very known for our sparkling wine portfolio. Keep your eyes peeled, because we’re hoping to release an all-new sparkling wine in January!” Abby disclosed. Stay tuned!
5. Wayne Gretzky Estates: More Than Just a Winery
If you’re anything like me, you’re a huge fan of Wayne Gretzky Estates’ wines, beers, and whiskies. I’ll admit, I’m not a hockey person (I know, I know, revoke my citizenship). But if I can get my hands on a decanted glass of Wayne Gretzky Whisky Oak Aged Red (a seamless blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cab Sauv) while the game is on – I’m going to have a very nice time indeed. While my hockey-playing boyfriend and I appreciate the acclaimed legend for different reasons, a date to Wayne Gretzky Estates is always a hit for the both of us.
“There’s always something happening at Wayne Gretzky Estates in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Choose from wine and whisky tastings with a twist, interactive classes, memorable meals, festive fetes, icy winter fun on our skating rink and so much more!” says Wayne Gretzky Estates. In addition to the aforementioned awesomeness, Wayne Gretzky Estates is also home to a whisky bar, where patrons can enjoy their experience “from the stands” – an excellent way to warm up after winter fun outdoors.
This year, Wayne Gretzky Estates is excited to offer an elevated seated tasting experience in their cozy tasting hall. Choose four options from their wine, whisky and beer portfolio. Uniquely, Wayne Gretzky Estates offers guests the opportunity to fill out the back of their tasting menus and hand them over to an expert. The team member will then do your shopping for you based on your preferences, and you’ll be able to pick it up in the retail store.
“Wine, whisky and beer production may be a world away from the hockey rink, but there are some surprising similarities between the way Wayne Gretzky played and coached the game and the experience you will have at Wayne Gretzky Estates. There is the same commitment to greatness,” the estate says. Learn more about your favourite wines, beers, and whiskies, and get a behind-the-scenes look at production on a 30-minute guided tour of the estate offered daily.
Finally, perhaps most uniquely, lace up your skates and hit the ice! Open mid December until mid March (weather permitting), the Wayne Gretzky Estates’ signature Skating Rink provides fun for the whole family.
Wayne Gretzky Estates truly has something for everyone – hockey and wine fans alike. Bonus points if you’re both!
Enjoy the Season!
I hope I’ve been able to aid you in realizing your boozy autumnal dreams. Regularly check the websites of the wineries listed to ensure you’re staying up to date with the experiences these estates have to offer. If you need me, I’ll be sipping on a Cabernet Franc and lighting an overpriced candle. Happy Fall!