First stop, Royal York Hotel, Toronto… all aboard, let the adventure begin! “Wow, this is quite the mode of transport” comments one of our guests as she boards and surveys the luxury limo bus, (NCT, carrier of the stars, we are all stars today) with perimeter seating, the aroma of freshly brewed premium Reunion Island Columbia Las Hermosas coffee wafting through the air, an oversized basket loaded with an assortment of fresh crisp apples and a totally decadent tray of cupcakes awaiting you. We welcome our guests, which include our TWITTER contest winners, father and son, so happy to be with us, and we are off.
Coveted Cakes, Blackout Cupcake, Red Velvet and for those on a strict regime we have Carrot with cream cheese icing and of course the ever popular non fattening banana. Right….
It is not long before the group is sharing stories, joking and having fun, “that sure didn’t take long” we think to ourselves, and that… our friends was the way of the entire day!
So on the road, with the first bottle of sparkling wine already poured, we officially welcome our clan and give them the low down on how the day will proceed.
Mary-Ann, of Oakville, expressing herself
First stop, the iconic Inniskillin, the “icebreaker” if you will, excuse the pun, that won the “Grand Prix d’Honneur award in Bordeaux, France in 1991, for their Vidal Icewine, the first truly significant international medal won by any Canadian winery. A truly VIP experience awaits us.
Next….Niagara-on-the-Lake, transformed into a wintry wonderland, will be the place to play, to have lunch, reacquaint with history, shop, eat and drink!
Fast forward, Lou Puglisi, former Grape King, 2008-2009 with PondView Estate Winery will charm the guests and dazzle the palate, charismatic gentlemen dressed in War of 1812 ‘garb” for the Bicentennial will share the history, and one of the guests on our tour, David Johanns entertainer/composer/pianist will take the microphone and control the ivories on the piano at the “Warm Up” station, giving the extremely talented performers a much needed break. WOW… our group rocks! And it’s only lunchtime!
Our second winery on the itinerary, Reif Estate Winery, with the family tradition in winemaking going back twelve generations, now that’s experience! An array of five wines to sample will tantalize our palates from a dry Riesling to a luscious Vidal icewine. Our final destination Colonari Estate Winery, beautiful, both inside and out, family members will greet us to one of the more recently opened wineries, steeped in Italian tradition, a Romanesque style, grand winery specializing in Appassimento, Recioto and Ripasso style wines.
The day unfolds into one that surpasses expectations, friends are made, experiences are shared, stories and laughter fill the bus between stops of enjoying stunning wines and delectable foods. Our three wineries, all unique share their expertise, their wines, embrace our guests with passion and the individual experience especially created for them.
Here now our experiences at each of our host wineries.
At Inniskillin we were greeted by friend and Inniskillin Ambassador Extraordinaire, Public Relations Director, Debi Pratt. For those of you who know Debi, you’ve got to know we are in for a special treat, for no-one has the passion, the knowledge and the personality that is Debi, who also by the way we later learn was Miss Inniskillin 1975! (the year Inniskillin got its license, the first winery in Ontario after prohibition)
A brief visit to the vineyard, where still hanging are four rows of the Vidal grape, Debi’s “media rows” as she calls them. All other grapes have been harvested, predominantly mechanically, which we learn is a good thing. Minus 10 degrees celcius is the temperature winemaker Bruce Nicholson likes to pick, although VQA regulations dictate minus 8 be the minimum.
Inside the Founder’s Hall, we chat about the Riedel Vinum Extreme Icewine Glass, created in 2001, jointly with George Riedel, Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser, co-founders of Inniskillin. Later in the barrel cellar, we will witness the impact of this perfect vessel from which to enjoy icewine. To the cellar we descend to a beautifully set table. A “joker” glass (so called in the wine business, just a regular wine glass) on our left with two icewine glasses and a sparkling wine glass beside. Debbie begins to explain the significance of the proper glass when we are interrupted by a gallant gentleman, stylishy dressed donning his signature, a perfectly placed hat! Donald, “The Donald” , we like to call him, co-founder of Inniskillin walks in. We welcome Donald with hugs and great to see you, and he is off, not leaving, but beginning his passionate recount of the development of, the importance of and the lessons in appreciating the icewine glass.
Bottom line, the unoaked Vidal Icewine 2010, our first wine, sampled in the joker glass to start is transformed in the Vinum Extreme, with the wine engaging not just the tip of the tongue (the initial contact point for the wine with the joker glass, as well as the most sensitive point to sweetness). The perception of sweet was intensified with the joker, while the Vinum Extreme allowed for the wonderful acidity to come through, showcasing the balance of, and beauty of the icewine.