Full disclosure: I’m by no means a wine connoisseur. But I think that puts me in the same boat as lot of other Ontarians, especially young professionals. And guess what? It’s not our fault. Unfortunately, we don’t have exposure to a lot of the great (especially local) wine out there because of the LCBO’s crazy-ass standards regarding how much product a winery must provide to get stocked on their shelves. This is why, for example, when you pick up a bottle of Jackson-Triggs from the LCBO, it ranges from ‘meh’ to ‘OK,’ but when you visit their winery, you’ll discover some damn good stuff. Their best bottles never make it to the LCBO for mass sale. Sad? Yes. Surprising? Come on, we live in the land of red tape.
So if you’re someone who enjoys wine, even when it’s not at its best, then you definitely want to make the short trip to Niagara to visit some Ontario wineries. You’d never know it shopping at your grocery store’s Aisle43, but Ontario wines can actually be pretty spectacular.
Now, I’ve been to most of the Niagara wineries, and the one I always recommend is the Jackson-Triggs estate. For one thing, the wine is good. But, oh, the grounds–their scenic vineyard looks as though it goes on for days and days.
And the food. Whether you splurge for dinner in their rustic cellar, or just pop by the Burger Bar, their dishes rival those of some of the best restaurants in Toronto. A personal favourite for the summer is their ‘Bite and Flight’ food and wine pairings, which, astonishingly, are only $15. You can choose from a red, white, sparkling, or mixed Flight and enjoy it vineyard-side on their patio.
An example Flight (each includes three small dishes of food and three glasses of wine):
PEI Oyster: Passion Fruit + Mint
Wild Leek Quiche: Triple Cream Brie
Steak ‘n Eggs: Ontario Beef Tataki +Sauce Gribiche + Free Range Hen Egg
Gold Series: Entourage Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc
Silver Series: Entourage Sparkling Methode Classique
Gold Series: Entourage Sparkling Merlot (THIS! Try it if you go. Trust me.)
And once you’ve got a few glasses into your responsible (HAH) self, what’s better than chilling out in a luxe lawn chair and enjoying a live concert? Jackson-Triggs has an intimate open-air amphitheatre right on site (sits about 500) and a dynamite summer concert series that runs right into September. I caught Jarvis Church (of Philosopher Kings fame) last week and it was just the best. Here are the shows still to come:
July 20 – The Arkells
July 21 – Adam Cohen with the Niagara Symphony
July 28 – Kathleen Edwards
August 17 – Chantal Kreviazuk
August 18 – Raine Maida
August 25 – Sarah Slean and Royah Wood with the Niagara Symphony
September 7 – David Usher
Tickets are still available for almost all of these concerts. You can also buy tickets to the winery’s popular four-course locally sourced Barrel Cellar Dinners that take place directly before some of the performances. I highly recommend doing this if you have the time and cash.
So go on, enjoy some good wine, grub, and music while supporting an Ontario business. You won’t miss the LCBO one bit, I swear.
Sabrina Maddeaux is Toronto Standard’s style editor. Follow her on Twitter at @sabrinamaddeaux.