Story by Carol Perehudoff
Vacay.ca Senior Writer
BEAMSVILLE, ONTARIO—Sure, it’s fun to spend a weekend in Niagara touring wineries but with more than 50 in the region, how do you choose? For a winery tour with some added dimensions try these unique spots.
Southbrook looks imposing from the outside – the striking blue wall that stretches out for 205 metres is reminiscent of a Crusader fortification on the southern coast of France. Inside, however, this boutique winery owned by Bill and Marilyn Redelmeier is anything but Medieval. The only Demeter-certified biodynamic winery in Ontario, it’s also LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified and certified organic. Oh yeah, and the wine’s good, too.
What is biodynamics? According to Bill Redelmeier, biodynamics is “extreme organics.” Luckily, what’s good for the terroir is good for the taste buds. “While I think organics make better wines than non-organics,” he says, “I know biodynamics makes better wine than standard conventions.” The winery’s advanced eco-outlook includes some appealing old-fashioned notions, like a flock of fuzzy sheep that graze on the lower leaves, helping to maintain the vineyards.
Southbrook is part of a global trend that combines wine with high-impact architecture, epitomized by such blockbusters as the Frank Gehry-designed Marques de Riscal winery in northern Spain. Beyond Southbrook’s eye-catching blue wall, you’ll find a glass and light-infused pavilion overlooking the vineyards. Inside, lines are clean and geometric with plenty of natural daylight and oak barrels sandwiched (and temperature controlled) between glass walls. The award-winning building was designed by well-known architect Jack Diamond, who did Toronto’s opera house.
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Enjoy a cold organic Chardonnay or a Framboise, a rich raspberry wine made with Royalty Raspberries from Ontario. Pair it with a crisp stone-oven pizza – and chew it guilt free. The dough contains Vinifera, ground grape skins that add texture and healthy antioxidants.
Location: 581 Niagara Stone Road, RR4, Niagara-on-the-Lake (see map below)
Contact: Tel: 1 888 581 1581; web: www.southbrook.com
It’s all about the food at The Good Earth, a laidback working farm and cooking school that has recently added a winery to the mix. One of the original players in Niagara’s farm-to-table dining experiences, The Good Earth is situated in the fertile Twenty Valley and visitors can expect produce so fresh it’s still warmed from the sun. To complement the farm’s seasonal food, The Good Earth’s petite lot vineyards produce four varieties of wine: Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc.
Visitors can choose from a wide range of culinary experiences including seasonal events, outdoor cooking classes at the al fresco kitchen, wine and tapas-sized food tastings or a light meal on the seasonal patio.
Location: 4556 Lincoln Avenue, Beamsville (see map below)
Contact: Tel: 905 563 6333; web: www.goodearthfoodandwine.com
You may be fooled into thinking you took a wrong turn and ended up at an art opening in Toronto’s Yorkville when you visit 13th Street’s facility — only the wine is far better than the usual gallery plonk. This ambitious boutique winery moved into new digs two years ago, converting a turn-of-the-century farmhouse into an expansive tasting and retail area complete with wrap-around porch – the perfect place to while away a sultry afternoon. An airy private meeting/tasting room has floor-to-ceiling views of the grounds, and art is everywhere – the facility hosts about six different exhibits a year. Outside, the gardens are permanently jazzed up by the colourful sculptures of Hungarian-born artist Karoly Veress.
Critically acclaimed 13th Street is known for its sparkling wines—and just so you know, their creamy Cuvee 13 Rose 2007 was served to Queen Elizabeth II during her last visit to Ottawa. The winery also makes a terrific Gamay and with a new winemaker, Jean-Pierre Colas from France, wine fans can expect some exciting new directions.
Pair your wine picks with an artisanal cheese and charcuterie board. While 13th Street emphasizes local—love the Glengarry Fine Cheese Alexandrin—European products are offered, too. “We’re at the stage now in Niagara where we’ve proved we do world-class things,” says Peter Bodnar Rod, director of sales, marketing & hospitality. “We want to serve top products from around the world to prove that Niagara has a place at this table.”
Location: 1776 Fourth Avenue, St. Catharines (see map below)
Contact: Tel: 905 984 8463; www.13thstreetwinery.com