Packed our bags, grabbed our friends and off to do an EPIC tour
Last summer after the 23rd Annual Vintage Tasting event held in August at Pelee Island Winery, the next day we decided to tour a few wineries to pick up some bottles that we enjoyed at the Vintage Tasting. We quickly realized that we needed more time to visit and get to know what makes each winery special and knew we needed to revisit. When we got home, we couldn’t stop talking and bragging about the EPIC Wineries and just the overall experience we had. It didn’t take much effort or twisting of the arm to get our fellow blogger and wine lover, Joanne and her hubby, and photographer Ken to come with us for our next visit.
We grabbed “The Guide” from Wine Country Ontario and made our list of wineries we wanted to show off to our friends. We contacted our friends over at The Grove Hotel, and they booked us our rooms and made our dining reservations all over the city, this was so helpful, as we still needed to contact each of the wineries we wanted to see, to see if they had time to tour and visit with us. Sounds like not a big request, but we decided to visit at the start of the 2017 harvest. Don’t get us wrong, it is a great time to visit this region, but when you are wanting to learn more about the history and the people that work hard producing the wines, its best to not go during harvest, lol!
We chose the beginning of the week for our visit, so early Monday morning we were packed, Merlot was whisked off to his grandparents, and we were picked up by Joanne and Ken and we hit the road. Once we got into the beautiful little town of Kingsville, we had lunch at Jack’s Gastropub at the recommendation and one of the reservations of our Hotel. They were right on too, they are known for their Jack’s Burger, which was delicious and so are the wraps with fresh cut potato fries. The Gastropub also has INN31 where you will find three custom designed rooms, each with its own theme, the Pub Suite, the Vegas Suite and the Garden Suite.
After lunch, we checked into our rooms at the Grove Hotel, freshened up and as quickly as we checked in, we were off to our first appointment with Pelee Island Winery. Cindy had booked us a Private behind the scenes tour of their Barrel Cellar and Production areas with Amy. After the tour, Amy put out some charcuterie treats as we sampled our way through their extensive menu. I can promise you one thing Pelee Island Winery definitely has a wine for everyone’s taste; from dry to sweet, from light to full-bodied. A great revisit for us and the first visit for our friends.
Next on our itinerary was Mastronardi Vineyards. Unfortunately, we were not able to visit their production area or speak to any of the family on our visit, but we did sample a few wines at the tasting bar, visited their gorgeous events space, and even left with an Apple Cider and a Berry Cider.
Due to the long drive to get to Essex County, we had decided to only do 2 winery visits the first day. We headed back to the hotel and although we had made arrangements for an Italian Restaurant, we opted for a restaurant that we had gotten recommendations from locals when visiting the Niagara Wine Region. We all decided to go to Mettawas Station for dinner. Mettawas Station became an intimate restaurant in 2008, in what once was the Kingsville Railway Station. We called our Host Cindy from Pelee Island Winery, and she and her husband Jeff joined us for dinner. What a great evening of conversation, with new friends. The food here was absolutely amazing; our mouth is watering just writing this. We can definitely say you certainly won’t go hungry in Kingsville!
Retired back to our hotel rooms feeling very well fed and we sat out on balcony reminiscent of the day. We also were talking about how we could see ourselves living here, the people are kind, the town is clean, and it’s peaceful. The one thing about smaller towns is that their downtown core still has some life to it; there is still some of that old untouched charm left.
Tuesday morning we up early and off on another adventure, our first stop was Sprucewood Shores where our Host Stephen Mitchell took us a detailed tour their beautiful winery and how huge this winery is as they have cornered the market on weddings, and who wouldn’t want to get married here as the architecture is amazing, grounds are serene and its right on Lake Erie, with a sandy beach right on the property!
Stephen walked us through their portfolio of wines and even their Applelicious wine. After leading us through their production area and meeting with Stephen’s sister and Winemaker Tanya as she was pressing Riesling grapes, we headed off for Lunch. Stephen walked us down to the lake on a slightly breezy yet beautiful day. Stephen joined us for a charcuterie board picnic as we talked wine, wine regions and about the history of Sprucewood Shores, the dedication of a family, building and living a dream. Stephen makes you feel at home, his stories captivate you and you feel his energy. When we had met his sister Tanya at the Vintage Tasting months earlier, she delivers that same warmth and energy. We even got meet Tanya’s new little girl, Abigail, who wasn’t happy her mommy was crushing grapes.
This Winery probably holds the number one spot in our hearts, the atmosphere, the family and the employees are lovely. In everything we learned through our morning with Stephen, we fell even more in love.
Next on our itinerary was North 42 Degrees Estate Winery. We were greeted by Shelly and Leslie with their Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc. We enjoyed a sampling of their wines with both Shelly, Leslie, and a quick visit with winemaker Jan Schulte-Bisping. Leslie then took across to tour through their new retail and tasting room which was still under construction. It was an absolutely beautiful new venue with vaulted ceiling, stone fireplace, granite countertops and then the second floor with panoramic views of the vineyard that will have a patio and house their new restaurant, Bistro 42. A return visit indeed, especially for dinner!
Our next and final stop was one you will remember us speaking of. Oxley Estate Winery to visit with Yvonne and Jody. We first met Yvonne the last time we visited and she was new to the Wine Industry, this time we learned that she is now studying wine, and one of her instructors is Jody. We wish you the best in your studies and are so proud of you!
We were the lucky ones that purchased the last remaining 4 bottles of 2016 Wowza! As you know, this winery is one of our favorites as they walk you through their wines so beautifully, and we love that each wine is paired with a “Song”. You’ll have to visit for more details on that one…
Jody is also an EPIC cottage rental owner, so luckily she was able to show us the property since it is right behind the winery. What an amazing property, Stones Throw Cottage sits right on the Lakeshore with a wrap around deck, an amazing view, beautiful open concept design, ground floor master bedroom, and more bedding upstairs. The Kitchen and center island would be an amazing area to enjoy a large charcuterie board, drink some local wines and talk with friends. Obviously, we will be renting this place in the near future.
Due to such a busy day, we decided to just enjoy dinner at the Grove Brew House attached to our hotel. For the first time, The Wine Boys actually did a beer flight, well at least one of us did! This was a great experience though, as we are teaching the world about wine, they were teaching us the world of beer. It’s so interesting how society has gone from just drinking beer and wine, to everyone is interested in the art of making it.
Wednesday was our final day in Essex. It is always sad when checking out of the Grove Hotel; they are so genuine that you feel like you are leaving the family. We headed over to Coopers Hawk Winery where owner Tom toured his vineyard with us and told the history of his winery. We went into production and met with their then winemaker Adam as he was pressing their latest harvest of Chardonnay Musque. We were then able to taste a tank sample of their Gewürztraminer that they also recently pressed. It was so fresh, fruity and you just had to imagine how this vintage will turn out as the final product. Whenever you are asked if you want to try a barrel or tank sample, JUMP at the opportunity.
To end our EPIC Road Trip we dined at The Vines Restaurant in Coopers Hawk Winery, we sat on the patio overlooking their vineyards. Another fabulous dining experience – Just in shock at all the great places to eat in Essex County, and this is just the ones we have tried to date. Can only imagine how many others there are.
We would like to thank and acknowledge everyone from the EPIC Wineries for all your time, stories, and generosity. Your excellent hospitality will have guests wanting a return visit just like we did, and we hope to see you all again real soon.
To the following people who made our visit that much more enjoyable; Thank you!
Pelee Island Winery – Cindy & Amy
Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery – Stephen & Tanya
North 42 Degrees – Shelley & Leslie
Oxley Estate Winery – Yvonne, Jody, Keri
Stones Throw Cottage – Jody
Cooper’s Hawk Winery – Tom, Brian, Adam, and Barb
The Grove Hotel – Jon, Troy, and Erika
Niagarafied – Joanne & Ken
Til next time, have a great day and great wine!