It’s spring in Ontario and wine country is coming back to life. After all the pruning of the vines and carefully monitoring for frost damage all winter, which can still occur until Mid May, wineries and vineyards are once again a destination for locals and tourists on both weekdays and weekends.
In Niagara-on-the-Lake, we visited the tasting room and restaurant at Peller Estates, one of the best-known vineyards and winery in the area. The tasting room is quite impressive in size and décor and allows large groups to carry out tastings at the wraparound counter. All is efficient and the place is always buzzing with activity. Staff help with finding the bottles customers wish to purchase and pass them on the point of sale smoothly and quickly.
The Peller Estates Winery Restaurant, as it is called, is one of the finest in this province. The furniture layout and style is opulent yet discreet and elegant. Staff wear formal attire and move between tables with ease. The menu is the creation of Chef Jason Parsons, also a well-known TV personality from Cityline, and a talented team he leads.
On Saturdays the lunch menu allows for three options: wine pairing, brunch or lunch. Opting for lunch, I was able to confirm the immense talent labouring in the kitchen and the wine-making excellence for which they have been well known since Grandpa Peller obtained his wine-making license in 1969.
A Halibut roulade was the amuse bouche provided before the appetizers and we paired it with a Signature Series Ice Cuvée Rose. This is a sparkling wine made in the “methode traditionelle” (Note: this is all about not saying “Champagne” as it is a protected label and can only be used on sparking wines produced in Champagne, France). Then we enjoyed a smoked trout and a “rillette of rabbit”. Both were superbly done but more intriguing was the rillette as it tasted great, because I was more familiar with rillette of duck. The rabbit was new to me. The presentation w as exquisite and the service flawless.
The main course consisted of a house-made pasta with Swiss chard in a creamy sauce and a lamb shank topped with a lamb sausage with a puree and greens. Needless to say that the taste was refined and flavours balanced to a fault. We paired the dishes with a Cabernet Franc from the Estate, a great wine that is easy to drink with both structure and fruitiness. I will keep you abreast of my winery tours throughout spring and summer as we have this incredible destination less than an hour drive next door. Let’s enjoy it fully!