You Win Some, You Lose Some

A hot summer Sunday with no plans. What better time to pop into a winery, I thought. Since I was in Niagara-on-the-Lake last week, I thought I’d check out something in the Niagara Escarpment region.

I decided on Henry of Pelham Family Estate because, according to their website, they were having live music (Ron Hoover, apparently) from noon to three p.m. and because The Coach House Café, which is run by Chef Erik Peacock, is open.

I got there at about 1 p.m. and parked and didn’t see where the music might be. I stopped in the tasting room and asked and was told there was no music today – it was yesterday. I mentioned that I thought I read it was going to be both Saturday and Sunday. The woman explained that unfortunately, the musicians told them yesterday that they wouldn’t be returning today.

I was very disappointed. I get that it’s not the winery’s fault – and maybe I should have phoned before making the 100+ km drive. But, I figured since it was on their website, I would just be bothering them if I phoned, especially if they’re busy.

Anyway, music or not, I could still enjoy some wine and a bite. So, I ordered a tasting flight. I’ve always loved Henry of Pelham’s Baco Noir so I ended up with a sample of their 2019 Old Vines Baco and their 2019 Spec Family Reserve Baco Noir, in addition to a sample of their Cuvée Catharine Rosé Brut. I told them I wanted to have something at the Café and they graciously brought the flight out to my table.

The Café menu was limited, which is not unusual. I was intrigued by this starter: Nachos, Lobster Queso, Cotija, Pico de Gallo, Avocado Salsa Verde, Lime Crema. I thought perhaps there was a comma missing between “lobster” and “queso” and I asked the server. She explained that it’s not a typo – it’s melted cheese that’s flavoured or infused with lobster. She assured me it didn’t taste fishy and I assured her that wasn’t a concern, as I had hoped there might be actual lobster on the nachos. She said no, but that the lobster queso is pink from the lobster and is very good.

I wasn’t sure about the lobster queso, so I decided to order one of the sandwiches instead. When I said I wanted fries with it, she said that they don’t have fries but that they have potato chips instead. Man – it wasn’t my day…

Rather than a sandwich and chips, I decided that the nachos sounded different enough that I should try them – after all, chefs are quite inventive in ways I’m not. Well, when the bowl arrived it looked interesting, though what I thought was probably the lobster queso was more like Velveeta orange than pink. Sadly, there was nothing that made you even imagine lobster had anything to do with it. The nachos were pretty much ball park nachos in a nice bowl. Very, very disappointing. I thought about ordering something else, but I didn’t have a lot of faith that anything else on the menu would be worth trying and I certainly didn’t want any more disappointments.

No Disappointment with the Wines

Luckily, the wines didn’t disappoint at all. They do a very nice job on their traditional method sparklings and both Bacos were delicious. In the end, the one I enjoyed the most was the 2019 Old Vines Baco. They were out of the 2019 in the wine shop, but I’ve heard the 2020 vintage in Ontario is one of the best, so I brought home some 2020 Old Vines Baco Noir.

All the way home I debated about whether to do a post about my visit today. I try to accentuate the positive, but I’d be lying if I didn’t express some of my disappointment. In the end, I decided to write about my experience today because readers deserve to know that sometimes visits to wineries are not all you’d hope.

Bottom line – Henry of Pelham Family Estate is a lovely spot and worth going to for their wines (if not for the Café or any kind of entertainment that may be scheduled). There’s a lot of history there too, so be sure to walk around and definitely try their Baco Noirs – they are exceptional.