My husband and I decided to go to the Niagara Peninsula with a retired British couple, friends of ours from Mississauga. The husband, who has lots of friends visit him from overseas, visits wineries repeatedly summer after summer. We jumped at the chance because not only is it great to see our old friends, but they make superb tour guides.
Anyway, the first place we headed to was Concession 1, Niagara-on-the-Lake. Our destination was a place called Marynissen Estates. It is the oldest of the three wineries we visited. It is a family-owned winery that uses only its own grapes in its production (many vintners buy grapes from growers, and from overseas). It is interesting to note that the owner, John Marynissen, who is very cordial, was educated at Oxford. He is a true gentleman. He is a Dutchman, having come to Canada in 1952 with his wife, Nanny. Right away he began growing grapes. In fact, he claims to have the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon grape vines in Ontario. He started as a grape grower then, in 1978, was given the illustrious “Grape King” designation (i.e. best grower). It was at that point his daughter, Sandra, encouraged him to start a winery of his own. They have been thriving ever since.
Some famous people enjoy the wines from Marynissen. When Jean Cretien was Prime Minister, for example, he used to take their wines overseas with them. Further, The Rolling Stones just love the place. Mick Jagger had a standing order there.
As far as their wines are concerned, I really enjoyed their Cabernet Franc. They are known for their heavier red wines, and justly so. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there.
Next we drove back to the Western part of the Niagara peninsula, East Dell Estates in Beamsville. We had lunch there and got a window seat. We could see the sloped vineyards and Lake Ontario, given that it was a clear day. The view was breathtaking. By my friend’s recommendation I had the lamb, which was delicious. I had the chardonnay but I didn’t find it that great. However, the view and the lunch made up for it. I might mention, though, that the waitress was a little rude to us. You wouldn’t believe it but we got up to have a wine tasting, and she asked us for her tip! She said “I thought you were leaving, and I want my tip.” Wow.
Anyway, my friend bought me a bottle of their Black Cab wine, which they are known for. It is made up of Cabernet Franc, Baco Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. You can buy it at the liquor store. I tasted it at the tasting bar and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was also impressed with my friend’s generosity.
The girl at the tasting bar told me a bit about the winery’s history. It is not a family-owned establishment. The land it lies on was formerly Walters Estates and it was bought by partners Michael East and Susan O’Dell in 1999. They built the restaurant and refurbished the wine cellars, among other things. Another celebrity name cropped up, and that is the actor Dan Aykroyd, who is part owner. The winery is part of a corporate umbrella called Diamond Estate Wines, which includes De Sousa Wine Cellars, Birchwood Estate, 20 Bees Winery, Lakeview Cellars and Dan Aykroyd Wines. That is quite a large conglomeration. Next we visited the polar opposite, the tiniest of the tiny.
We went to Rosewood Estates Winery and Meadery. It is on Mountainview Rd. just outside of Beamsville, located on what wine growers call “The Bench”. They put an interesting twist on the run-of-the-mill winery, in the sense that they make honey. They have their own bees and beehives. They sell honey as well as wine and mead in their boutique.
The owners are named Eugene and Renata Roman and their family has been beekeeping for 70 years. They purchased the site in 2000 and on it planted vitis vinifera grapes, in 2003. As vines take 5 years to produce drinkable wine, they have just started selling wine. The name “Rosewood” comes from the fact that they love roses, and there are woods on their property. They have recently acquired a further forty acres in Jordan and are in the process of developing it.
I might mention that their service is good too. My friends told us that they brought a friend from Spain once, and the girl serving them spoke to him in Spanish. I thought that that was a very nice gesture.
All in all it was a great day. My favorite place was the last one we visited. Fermented honey beverage (Grande Reserve Ambrosia) really caps off a day of wine tasting!
Photo Credits: Satoru Kikuchi, pbeens, izzyplante
Niagara on the Lake
Marynissen Estates Winery
1208 1st Concession Road,
Niagara On The Lake, ON
L0S 1J0, Canada
Rosewood Estates Winery
4352 Mountainview Road,
L0R 1B3, Canada