Monday, January 3, 2011

Niagara Peninsula Winery Visit: Rockway Glen Golf Course & Estate Winery

Another in our series of Niagara Peninsula winery reports.
Golf, baseball and… wine? It’s an odd combination, but we found it works during our visit to Rockway Glen Golf Course & Estate Winery.

We had been visiting wineries in the Ontario communities of Beamsville and Vineland. The day was winding down and we decided it was time to head toward Niagara Falls, where we would stay the night. We thought we might be able to slip in another winery on the way, but street signs were in short supply. We took wrong turns as each tasting team member gave their theory about where we were. We knew we were headed east and that would eventually get us to the Falls.

We had pretty much given up on the idea of visiting another winery when we saw a sign for Rockway Glen appear out of the mist (OK, there actually wasn’t any mist – that would have caused us to be even more lost). A nice thing about Rockway Glen is that their tasting room is open until 7 PM during peak season. So that extra hour would be golden for us.

There was a bit of puzzlement as we drove up and then walked into what appeared to be a country club with a golf course. A wedding rehearsal dinner or some other event was going on in the dining room and we had the awkward feeling of non-Canadian fish out of water.

We inquired of an employee and soon the metal gate in front of the tasting boutique was rolled up and we rolled in. This seemed to be a golf club that dabbled in wine, so our expectations were not high. The wines, however, were a nice surprise. Our tasting room host was a talkative guy and was happy to fill us in on a big question: What was Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins doing on their wine labels?

Fergie Jenkins played major league baseball for 18 seasons, most of them with the Cubs. He played with some great Cubs including Ron Santo and Billy Williams. The Cubs, however, are loveable losers and for many seasons Ferguson Jenkins was the only bright spot on the team. Fergie is the only Canadian in the Baseball Hall of Fame and holds an annual golf tournament to benefit area charities at Rockway Glen each year.

I sampled the Fergie Jenkins Vidal Blanc and found it to be an easy-drinking, casual sipper with citrus notes and not as much sweetness as I expected. The Cabernet Franc had a nice bite of pepper with blackberry. Very good but not the pick of the day. During the trip, I had been discovering that Ontario does a beautiful job with Baco Noir, an uncommon grape that can render some delicious wine.

The Reserve Baco Noir rocked with tastes of fig and oak mingled with dark berries. The prices rocked as well – just $10 for the Fergie Jenkins Hall of Fame Vidal Blanc ($1 goes to charity) and $18 for the super Baco.

A winery/golf course may sound a little “screwball.” But Rockway is more like Fergie Jenkins in his prime – a vintage performer.

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