niagara wine region ontario

Wine tasting the Niagara Escarpment, Ontario by Jessica Lee


Wine tastes the way it does because of the climate and the soil it's grown in.

And because of the moderating effects of the lake surrounding the Niagara Escarpment, it is a great place to grow grapes.

I spent Sunday on a work-sponsored field-trip down south near St. Catharines, Ontario, tasting wines and learning more about them.

Here is a photo of my co-workers packed in a school bus:


I've only been with the company for about a month, but I really like how everyone is so welcoming and friendly. Or that they give off that image at least. There was a great camaraderie on the bus ride to and from Toronto.

The last wine tasting I did was back in Australia, in Adelaide. It was with a bunch of strangers, so the feeling was quite different, though I enjoyed it very much. I find that alcohol generally tends to go better with people you know, however.


Cave Springs Cellars was gorgeous. It made me wonder what it would be like to work at a winery, picking grapes. Of course in my head, I envision waking up every day in a distinguished stone house and prancing bare feet in the grass, through the vineyards to work in a lovely, flowing white summer dress.

The reality probably looks something like muddy rain boots, ratty jeans and a farmer's shirt- which I suppose is something I could deal with as well... (oh the sacrifices!)


We spent the day touring the place and learning about what affects the taste of wines. What really interested me the most was that the owner knew so much about the soil- what it's made of (limestone mostly), and it's history (the field used to be a cow pasture so there's lots of organic matter in it). I mean, thinking about it now it's really obvious that he would have to since it affects so much of his crop, but being from the city, I obviously know nothing about soil except that you grow things in it. Soil is a whole new field of knowledge I'd be interested in learning about (haha get the pun?).


I learned from one of my co-workers that when you swirl the wine glass, you can see the tannins (the flavour in wine which comes from the grape skins) dripping down. They look like thin, clear lines. The more tannins you see, the dryer the wine will taste; and the dryer the wine is, the more alcohol it will likely have.

Afterwards, we ate lunch on a hill and had prosciutto sandwiches, cheese, almonds, fruit preserves, couscous salad, chickpea salad and a raspberry custard tart. I think all of this was supposed to go with the wine we drank.


Then, it was time for our second tasting, but this time with specific food pairings.

I found that there was no right or wrong answer when it came to pairings, as everyone has a different palate.


We were all given a plate with smoked cheese, Italian Cacciatore sausage, honey soy-glazed shrimp, chocolate salt tart and a gherkin. We sampled these foods with Cave Spring's 2010 Estate Riesling, which is a fresh-tasting white wine that had a citrus/lime scent.

Personally, my favourite pairing was with the cheese and the shrimp and not so much with the chocolate tart- though it tasted great on its own. My co-worker echoed this opinion, but someone else found they liked the tart with the wine.

The next tasting we had is what is called a "vertical tasting" because we sampled the same estate wine, but made from different years.


It was incredible because I could actually taste the differences between them though they are made from the same grape, from the same winery using the same process.

We sampled years 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 and 2005. My favourite was the 2009, which was the coldest year, which means there is more residual sweetness in the wine.


It was a wonderful day of co-worker bonding and learning about wine. I'm extremely fortunate I'm with a company that encourages drunkenness wine knowledge in its staff.


Now if anyone asks me about say tank fermenting versus fermenting in bottles, I can say with confidence that tank fermenting produces coarser bubbles in the wine because the bubbles are bigger.

Honestly though, that is one of the few impressive things I know about wine, and it's all for show. I really am still in the beginning stages of learning. I can't wait to taste more though.