The Crush is on at Oxley Estate Winery

On my recent visit to the Lake Erie/Pelee Island area I visited a few wineries that I hadn’t been to before, and I also made a point of stopping in again at Oxley Estate Winery – one of my favourite wineries in the area. IMG_0969

I stopped in to find out what was going on and how their summer went. Co-owner Ann Wilson said they had a busy summer, which is great to hear. In addition to a very attractive tasting bar (one that feels like a well-appointed gourmet kitchen), Oxley has a full-service restaurant on weekends that is very popular. I stopped in on a Saturday night after returning from Pelee Island and I could not get a table on the patio because it was full. Fortunately they had a few empty tables inside, so I stayed for dinner. The dinner was delicious and the service attentive, even though I was the only guest indoors. Next time I’ll be sure to make a reservation.


As I sat down to write this blog, I e-mailed Ann to find out if they’ve started picking and she reported that they’ve already harvested Auxerrois, Bianca, Hibernal, GM318 and they are  “Picking, sorting and pressing Pinot Noir right now”. So if you’re in the area over the next couple of weeks, stop in at Oxley – you’re likely to find it bustling with the buzz of the crush going on.

As well, on the weekend of September 28-29, 2013 Oxley will be featuring Micah and Delia – musicians who’ll be performing lively “east-coast kitchen style music” on their lovely patio.  The duo will perform on Saturday from 5-8 p.m. and on Sunday from 2-4 p.m.  IMG_0968


The Gossip on Stone Church – It’s Small Talk

On a recent visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake I set out to find Small Talk VineyardsIMG_0849 IMG_0841 IMG_0846. As I headed along Lakeshore Road I saw the sign for Irvine Road and I thought, “Oh, Small Talk must be near Stone Church, which should be right around here”.  When I saw the sign for the Stone Church Warehouse Outlet, I figured I was right.

But I became quite confused when I saw the Small Talk Vineyard sign on what I thought was Stone Church’s property. I pulled in and headed into the winery’s boutique. As soon as I saw the bright green painted wine barrel I realized something was different. I had seen a bunch of brightly coloured wine barrels along the edge of the vineyard property – they’re quite whimsical and hard to miss – and here was one in the boutique.

The confusion was put to rest when I spoke with staff who explained that Stone Church has re-branded and it is now Small Talk Vineyard. The Hunse family still owns the winery, but they’re shifting their focus to producing VQA and so they decided to re-brand.

The transition is on-going but they’re welcoming guests, so be sure you stop in and see the redesign – and try some of their VQA wines.

GreenLane Estate Winery’s New Location

IMG_0734I was driving along King Street in Vineland (near Cherry Avenue) in June and I noticed a sign announcing that GreenLane Estate Winery would be opening soon — it was on what used to be Wayne Gretzy Estate Winery, for those of you who remember that. Anyway — I was in the area last week and noticed that the sign said GreenLane is now open, so I stopped in to see it.IMG_0732

GreenLane has remodelled the place — brightened it up — and have settled in. Though they still own the property down on Green Lane (near the QEW), their new location: 3751 King Street, Vineland, is where their tasting room is now located.

August 17, 2013 they’re hosting a music night featuring a bluegrass band, so if you’re looking for an excuse to visit, that would be a terrific time to see their new digs.

Touring Tawse Winery

Tawse Winery in Vineland has been named Canadian Winery of the Year by Wine Access Magazine for three years in a row. So, when I had plans to head toward Niagara this week, I contacted Laurie McKenzie, Hospitality Coordinator at the winery, to arrange a tour.IMG_0723

Because it was late in the day and mid-week, I was treated to a one-on-one tour. Bianca started me off with some of their 2012 Grower’s Blend Rosé, which I was invited to take with me on the tour. (I don’t tend to order rosé, but after tasting this one, I’ll re-think that. It was a luscious blend that was like biting into the tastiest strawberry you’ve ever had.)

IMG_0726I knew that Tawse is certified organic and biodynamic, so I didn’t need to see any of the sheep as proof. (Indeed, I didn’t see any sheep – they were off somewhere else in the sprawling vineyard. Only the chickens were around.) My main interest that afternoon was learning about the six-story gravity fed process they use. To get the full effect, Bianca walked me up and around the back of the sloping property to the crush pad.

IMG_0724On the way we stopped to admire the view. It was a lovely clear day, so the view of the lake and Toronto in the distance was spectacular.

Though it seems high on the hill, the crush pad is basically “at ground level”. The winery production facilities are stepped down from there, which means they don’t have to use any pumping to move the wine through the production process. Eliminating the pumps means there’s less manipulation of the product, and generally less aeration.

IMG_0729The tour takes you through the different floors (levels) of the facility and through the barrel rooms. One of the interesting things Bianca pointed out in the barrel room was that each barrel is marked with the vineyard the wine is from (Tawse has a number of different properties and they also get some grapes from other growers). As well, for the wines that are from certified organic vineyards, the barrels are clearly labelled as such.

The tour brought us back to the wine boutique for some additional sampling and final questions.

After touring and tasting, it’s easy to see why Tawse Winery is so popular and acclaimed.