Sometimes, after a week that challenges you right down to your very marrow, you just need a fun diversion. Like, say, a scavenger hunt. Or booze. Or both. Totally both. So you say to yourself, “Self, how can I have a scavenger hunt, but stay hydrated, and ensure the future hydration of future shenanigans?” And your brain sticks up its hand like Arnold Horshack and says “Ooo! Ooo! I know this one!”
Baco Noir is a low-tannin red wine. This makes it good for all the folks who list tannins as a trigger for migranes. Still, it doesn’t always get a ton of respect from the snooty oneophiles who think that Baco is lowbrow, for those who don’t have a sufficiently developed palate to appreciate the Cabernets or Burgundies of the world. Lots of wineries pulled out their Baco Noir vines in favour of other fancypants varietals.
Pfft. My Uncle Jack (who was a wine buyer for the LCBO once upon a time, and knows good wine, and expensive wine from cheap wine) had a cellar full of good wine. And his benchmark for good was simple: Do you like it? Then it’s a good wine. Baco, to my palate, is *the* wine.
So, a little google-fu, and I had a list wineries that had a Baco offering (or two. Or three), and it was time for an adventure. I recruited my dad as my Adult supervision, and we went on a hunt for the best Baco Noir the Golden Horseshoe has to offer.
First stop: Riverview Cellars Estate
A lovely drive along the Niagara River brought us to our first stop: Riverview Estate Winery. This wine shop has an excellent setup. There is a well appointed tasting counter (where another couple from somewhere in the US was asking questions and trying different varietals.) But we were on a bit of a tactical strike, so we perused the displays of bottles. Each had tasting notes and information. I picked my bottle, and paid for it. Once we were in the parking lot getting ready to leave, my dad decided to go back in for a bottle (Cabernet) as well, solely based on the notes they presented about it. Nicely done, Riverview!
Stop 2: Konzelmann
My gentleman associate and I have driven past Konzelmann Estate Winery twice during our Cidery tour and the Day Drinking with the Parents Fall Brewery Extravaganza, so I recognized the Octagon shaped building from the distance. Konzelmann is the only winery in Niagara-on-the-lake that’s actually on the lake. They have a viewing platform that overlooks the vineyard with the lake in the distance. We marvelled at the way that many wineries were building pergolas and picnic tables and things to make the wineries a destination to spend some time, not just parachute in, grab a bottle, and jet off. You know… like we did.
Stop 3: Wayne Gretzky Estates:
OK, so this one wasn’t on the original itinerary, but due to a technology fail on the part of my laptop and an unwilling wi-fi router, I couldn’t connect to work as I had intended. That made it so that we could leave a little earlier on our trip, and include additional stops. Like, say, this one.
The Great One has lent his name to both whiskey and wine, and the public space in his distillery-winery is very friendly. We decided to stay for lunch at the patio. There’s a water feature, and a giant 99 photo op (like the giant city names you’d find in Toronto or Kingston, or Cambridge in front of their city halls… or wherever). We both ordered a hamburger, and boy howdy, that was a good choice. This burger was made by hand – thick in the middle, perfectly charred, but still drip-down-your-arm juicy. So Good. Afterwards, I bought my bottle of Baco and two bottles of No Boats on Sunday cider.
Stop 4: Henry of Pelham
Holy Hell, this one was hard to find. We practically drove past it 3 times trying to find it. Srsly. You’re not a small winery, HoP, get some proper signage. Or, yakow, convince Googlez that your address is actually on the road your frontage is on. So yeah, by the time we actually got into the shop, we were kind of annoyed. I still bought 3 bottles – the regular Baco, the Old Vine, and the Family Reserve, but i wasn’t enthusiastic about it. We didn’t taste any of them, so they had better be extra delicious for the effort.
Stop 5: Herdner Estates
Herdner Estates has a beautiful space. There’s a covered bridge on the entrance to the winery, they have an event space, and an upscaled barn with a restaurant and their shop and tasting room. This winery gave me both the least expensive bottle (10.65), and the most expensive (25.15) bottles I bought.
Stop 6: Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery
When you arrive… well, anywhere… and a giant Bernese Mountain dog-Yeti mix greets you with a giant wagging tail, and welcomes you into the space, you know something good is happening. Brix is Sue-Ann Staff‘s director of customer experiences, and he certainly made us happy. I have to say, since I was on a Baco Mission, I didn’t try any of the wine at any of the wineries. I was buying the Bacos either way. But at Sue-Ann Staff, we lingered long enough to try. The Baco Noir here is unoaked – It’s aged in stainless steel casks, so the only flavour you get is the fruit. I bought 2 bottles of the same thing here. And… AND, our hostess said that Sue-Ann Staff has a space at the St. Jacob’s Market, so I could get more closer to home. Although I was certainly welcomed to return. This is very good intel to have. Sandbanks, I’m not sayin’ that Sue-Ann Staff might give you a run for your house wine status, I’m just sayin’.
Back 10 Cellars
Back 10 was the bonus stop (read: the only non-Baco purchase). I used my last bottle of Asti when Child got accepted into the Royal Military College of Canada, so I needed a new bottle of sparkling wine. Enter Smitten by Back 10 Cellars.
So I got to spend a day with one of my favourite fellas, in a lovely part of the province, and I came home with some yummy libations. We’ll put this day in the win column for sure.