|Clockwise from top L: affogato at Drake Devonshire; the Golden Grape; dessert at The Hubb;
Terra Cello Winery; Traynor Vineyards; Red Tail Vineyards
The main focus of the weekend was a big to-do at Karlo Estates, where Sherry and new winery partner Doug Gilmour (yes, that one) were launching a new line of wines bearing his name. The Karlo barn was packed to the rafters with starry-eyed hockey fans fawning over their hero and a few folks (like me) who were simply there for the wine. Of the three new selections, the Maddison rosé was the best, light, crisp and slightly fruity. Still, I found more comfort in my old favourites: Frontenac Gris Rosé, Lake on the Mountain Riesling, Fifth Element.
I suddenly realized this was the first time I had been back since Richard died last year. It was bittersweet; I kept waiting for him to come around the corner and bellow a cheerful greeting. He would have made some comment about the weather, about how a little rain wasn't going to wreck his big party. And it didn't. He would have been thrilled with the turnout, and immensely proud of Sherry and the team for carrying on with it, rain be damned.
A few tents and a small convey of food trucks stood out back, supplying the shivering masses with soul-warming dishes. I opted for a pulled beef brisket poutine from Urban Herb on the Curb and smoked maple tarts from Black Sheep Cannery. Squeezing in to the crowd huddled on the deck, I nibbled away while a Melissa Etheridge-esque singer crooned gritty ballads from the stage.
The night rounded out on the shores of Lake Ontario, at Wellington's Drake Devonshire Hotel, finally fully built and open to the public. I found a spot at the bar and then spent a good hour just staring out at the water. Hard not to, given that the main dining room is dominated by a massive picture window. I sipped on an affogato and watched the gale send white-foamed swells up on to the pebbled shore.
End of June meant limited choices for lodging, especially at the last minute, but I still managed to find a cozy spot at the Golden Grape Bn'B. Just outside of Consecon, on the Loyalist Parkway, the vast, ranch-style home offered exactly the quiet retreat I was looking for. My spotless, spacious room featured a bank of windows overlooking the marshes of Pleasant Bay, simple but elegant furnishings, and nice touches like extra towels and fragrant toiletries. Between that and the multi-course breakfast in the morning, the Grape felt more like a luxury boutique hotel than someone's house. Hosts Lorraine and Gilles were gracious and friendly innkeepers; I can certainly see myself going back there again.
The rest of the weekend involved a marathon tasting circuit around Hillier, with stops at Traynor Family Vineyards, Broken Stone, Domaine Darius and Redtail Vineyard. I paused long enough for lunch at Casa Dea, where I was treated to a creamy risotto and a flight of whites I managed to coax out of the waitress. (Those crowds I mentioned at the beginning? Yeah, a busload of them descended on the tasting bar just as I walked in.) Also had a chance to visit Terra Cello, where the winemaker/owner/pizza guy apologized for his reds being sold out and where to-die-for thin-crust pizza was being served up fresh from the old stone oven. On a bitterly cold, rainy day (in June!) where else would you rather be than curled up next to a woodstove, eating pizza and drinking wine?
One last stop before the drive home, and it had to be The Hubb. I had the good fortune of bumping into Sommelier Laura just as she was getting ready for the evening rush. She fixed me a refreshing mocktail of lavender-infused lemonade while I noshed on beef tartare followed by The Newton, a decadent figgy throwback to a Keebler favourite. I scooted out just as the room began to fill up, and made my way back to the 401. Where it was raining. Still.