You may recall a few weeks back when I had the good fortune of winning Wine Country Ontario's #Untweetable challenge with my photo of the dry-stone bridge at Karlo Estates. Well, what with it being our 10th wedding anniversary and all, Hubby and I decided to cash it in.
The package from WCO included an all-expenses-paid stay at the Waring House, just outside of Picton, along with scheduled stops at a few County wineries and lunch at Norm Hardie. Um, YES PLEASE.
Rolling into the County long after the sun went to bed (and eagerly wanting to do the same) we zoomed through check-in at the House and were delighted by the spacious suite waiting for us: fireplace, king bed, dual balconies, flat-screen TVs, Gibbard furniture. One could easily get lost in the cavernous bathroom, or at least disappear for a while in the depths of the vast soaker tub. Mini fridge for chilling libations, two of which I brought to toast the occasion: a rare Niagara College Teaching Winery 2003 Sauvignon Blanc and a bottle of Hinterland Whitecap.
I was a little leery about the sblanc, not knowing how that particular varietal would age. Needn't have worried. What must have once been cheek-puckering acidity kept everything in check, allowing the gooseberry and grapefruit profile to positively shine within a mellow mouthfeel.
Breakfast the next morning was served in Amelia's Garden, the inn's fine-dining establishment in the main house (sharing space with the Barley Room, a popular watering hole for the locals.) The quaint, floral-themed room overlooked the namesake garden, its summer blooms long since faded but late-season foliage still lending an air of grace to the pathways and fountain.
The breakfast/brunch offerings were hearty and flavourful, whether à la carte or from the Sunday buffet. The farmers' breakfast of over-easy eggs with a generous slice of ham hit the spot before we hit the road for the wineries on the Saturday.
Dinner that night was served back at Amelia's. The appetizer scallop ceviche was lightly tinged with hints of pineapple and punch of chili. The caesar was done right in classic dressing with monstrous croutons and chunks of pancetta. The Australian lamb rack was reminiscent of the Flintstones' order at the drive-in for its sheer size. While overcooked, it still satisfied with a crunchy walnut pesto crust and a jus spiked with port. A glass of Sandbanks Reserve Baco Noir was a seamless match for the jammy, peppery-sweet flavours.
The Sunday brunch highlight was eggs Benny done Waring-style in a zesty cheese sauce, piping hot and fresh with brilliant golden yolks oozing all over the still-crispy English muffins. The standard fare of bacon, sausage and pancakes were snapped up and replaced quickly, everything staying hot as the crowds filed in. Their in-house pâtissière outdid herself with a dessert platter of one-bite Skor bars and brownies, but the tureen overflowing with warm berry crumble was the crowning glory to brunch ... and the last bit of food I could possibly fit into me.
Through it all, though, I kept noticing a recurring theme in the House's operations, unfortunately: it could be better. From the service in Amelia's (friendly, but not quite capable of handling any kind of volume) and the plainness of the room (still in contractor-grade white, with noticeable scuff marks here and there, could use a coat of something vibrant) to the hit-and-miss housekeeping that left cobwebs on the fixtures and sheets that didn't quite fit the bed, the inn stopped just short of being outstanding.
Overall impression: the Waring House, with its beautiful buildings and spectacular setting, holds the promise of being fantastic, if that little bit of extra effort is made.
Not that I'm complaining all THAT much, of course. A much-needed, child-free getaway to wine country made even better by having someone else pick up the tab? Oh, gee, do I have to?