Monday, October 12, 2015

Lake Erie North Shore, Canada’s Southernmost Wine Region, Offers Standout Wineries And Great Wine

Great Ontario wineries are just a few miles (or kilometers) away from Ohio and Michigan in Lake Erie North Shore. Here’s a quartet of great LENS wineries.

This Winery Will Change Your Viewpointe

During our recent visit to the Windsor-Essex County-Pelee Island area of southern Ontario, we made a return visit to Viewpoint Estate Winery. This winery grabbed our attention with its incredibly beautiful tasting room and panoramic views of Lake Erie.
The building was inspired by a piece of the past: the "Mettawas", a luxury hotel and casino built by Hiram Walker (Canadian Club founder) in 1890. Today, though, the focus is certainly on wine. The winery has three estate vineyards and produces a wide range of grapes.
Our favorite whites were the off-dry 2011 Riesling and the 2013 Big Bluff White, which has a big “V” on the label. Big Bluff is a blend (say that three times fast!) of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Auxerrois. This is a slice of the orchard with a splash of tart apple.
There is an expansive choice of red wines. Our favorites were the smooth but peppery 2008 High Pointe Syrah and the toasty plum and cherry 2005 Balance Pointe Cabernet Merlot.
The winery features a culinary center and has outdoor seating for its restaurant. When we visited there was entertainment as well. Viewpointe is a major wine attraction in the region, and deservedly so.
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The Small But Mighty CREW Experience

The Lake Erie North Shore wine region has some large and impressive winery buildings.The Colchester Ridge Estate Winery is not one of them.
CREW is focused on making outstanding wines and sharing them with visitors in their pocket-sized tasting room situated on their 12-acre vineyard.
We weren’t sure what to expect when we entered the building, but the wines and friendliness of the staff soon won us over. We began by cooling off from the heat of the day with the 2013 Red Sky at Night Merlot rosé. This was a crisp, citrus refresher. Our favorite white was the 2013 POSH Cuvée, a blend of Chardonnay, Riesling, Vidal Blanc and Gewürztraminer. This is complex, soft and elegant with tropical fruit notes. Goes well with lake perch, coconut shrimp or Thai food. It pairs best, we’re told, with friends. SRP is $14 Canadian.
The 2011 Cabernet Franc was the winner of the reds. It has blueberry, caramel and peppery notes. We’re told it goes well with rabbit, but we’re sure you can find other suitable dishes.

Wine Takes Flight At Cooper’s Hawk Vineyards

We’ve been to Cooper’s Hawk twice – but this was actually our third visit. The last time we rumbled down a dirt road only to discover that the winery was closed to the public due to a special event. Thankfully we had no such problem this time.
On our first visit, we had our dog with us. So the Green Dragon stayed outside with Amber while I enjoyed the experience in the tasting room. (I did occasionally purchase a glass of wine for her to enjoy outside.)
This time, Green Dragon was “all in” and we zipped to the bar for a tasting of their top wines. The winery sits on 67-acres of prime land and it offers some of the best wine in the LENS region. We opened with the 2013 Talon White blend. It features Auxerrois and a deliciously refreshing.  We also tried the 2014 vintage of their well-known Touché, which is a Riesling-Gewürztraminer blend.
The reds were a delight with the musky and delectable 2013 Cabernet Merlot Reserve. It is a blend of 60% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The depth of the wine was incredible. Two superlative wines were the 2012 Merlot Reserve and the 2012 Cabernet Franc Reserve, which delivered pepper and smoke abundantly.
We like the vibe of Cooper’s Hawk. They have a great outdoor area in a grove of trees and a hip and intimate tasting room. Some of the wineries right on the lake can be overrun by buses, but Cooper’s Hawk seems like a much more personal experience.

Colio Estate Wines Leaves Us Wanting More

After visiting four other wineries and going for a swim and picnic at Holiday Beach, I was ready to head back to the US of A. But Green Dragon wasn’t ready. What’s the next winery, she asked.
We finally pulled into Colio after missing a few turns and driving around downtown Harrow several times.
Colio was founded by three Italian bricklayers who persevered after their partners all pulled out. They were granted the first winery license in southwestern Ontario. Today the winery boasts 200 acres of estate vineyards and a bushel of international awards.
The winery grounds themselves aren’t very scenic, but inside the tasting room is a spacious bar and an expansive retail area. Unfortunately, the tasting room wines don’t include the top two tiers, about which I had heard many praises.
On the white side we tried the Moonlight White, a 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Riesling blend as well as the Bricklayer’s Predicament 2014 Chardonnay-Pinot Grigio blend. The Bricklayer’s Predicament was the better of the two.
The 2014 Cabernet Merlot is a 60% Cab Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot blend. We also tried the River Rock Red, which is a good value for a tasty red blend of Cab Franc with a dash of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Our visit was a bit rushed and we dashed off leaving my business card holder behind. Colio called me, but we were at the Swiss Chalet in Windsor by that time, finishing off dinner and preparing to head across the Ambassador Bridge to the US. I hope to return soon and will pick up a bottle or two of their top wines, from the Bricklayer’s Cache and Bricklayer’s Reward lines.
If you are looking for a nice excursion to experience the fall scenery and great wine, point your vehicle north to Canada and the LENS region.
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