I can always depend on the wine when travelling in the County, and the tour of Hillier organized by Wine Country Ontario certainly didn't disappoint. Despite the deluge Mother Nature dropped on us (or maybe because of it) every tasting bar was packed with busloads of tourists. I suppose if it's rainy out and you don't want to be stuck at home, *why not* head to a winery?
Hinterland, with its all-sparkling lineup crafted by Jonas Newman, has been on my radar for ages. I missed out on the last few runs they made to Ottawa, so I was keen on having this at the top of my list for the weekend. The cathedral proportions of the former dairy barn inspires awe in a first-timer; I was equally fascinated by the cross-section of terroir, right up there on the wall:
2012 Whitecap - Blend of riesling, muscat and vidal done in the Charmat method, allowing all the juicy, fragrant aromas of the grapes to swirl up through the subtle carbonation. Sweeter than traditional bubbly, light on the yeast, just the way I like it. Also tried Les Etoiles, their standard chardonnay/pinot noir sparkler. Nutty, floral, with a soft mousse and muted notes of buttered toast. And then the "weirdo of a wine" (according to Jonas) the 2012 Lacus: 100% cabernet franc, named for a lake on the ninth moon of Saturn that's the exact same shape of Lake Ontario. Nose of strawberry, red currant, roses and cedar, followed up with honey, maraschino cherry and melon.
(Jonas hinted at a blanc de noir from the 2013 vintage, given the high yield of pinot noir they brought in. Stay tuned ...)
Just down the road, we pulled into the crowded parking space at Casa-Dea and made a made dash through the torrent to the tasting room. Lunch was in full swing, crowds jostled for space at the bar. We made our way through most of their portfolio, but the big winner was the gold-medal-winning 2012 Dea's Rose. Bright pink, memories-of-bubblegum, big yeast notes and subtle strawberry with a crisp, toasty finish.
Onwards to Rosehall Run, where we stuffed ourselves silly on Seed to Sausage salumi, local walnut pesto and generous pours of the 2010 JCR Rosehall Vineyard Pinot Noir. Fruit-forward and exploding with a complex blend of Dubble Bubble, peppercorn and raspberries. The 2011 Cabernet Franc also impressed with a nose of campfire smoke, roasted nuts and maraschino cherry accompanying its hefty body and mouthfeel.
Last stop: Norman Hardie, for a late lunch of his popular stone-oven-fired pizza. Norm gave us a smile and nod as he walked through the makeshift dining room, arms laden with dirty dishes. Even the head honcho helps out with table service. One more reason to love this place.
Before long, we were tucking in to thin-crust heaven, washed down with jars of lemonade (hey - my mouth was tired after all that tasting!)
Bellies full, we made our way upstairs to chat with Mackenzie, who gave us an in-depth schooling on wine additives while pouring the 2012 Off-Dry Riesling, 2011 Chardonnay and 2011 County Pinot Noir (still Norm's best wine EV-ER in my humble opinion -- the very definition of terroir.) Had there been any Calcaire, I would have snapped some up right away, but it was long gone. Sigh ...
The food, the views, the people, the wine ... altogether, a truly #untweetable weekend. And a very happy anniversary.
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