Do you think that French wine makers would be interested in learning anything from Canadian wineries? Sure, as soon as the Donald gives up his Twitter account, and pigs learn to fly.
But it’s worth a try, so here’s a report on a recent visit to the Niagara-on-the-Lake wine region, which lies to the west and south of Toronto, and is simply loaded with wineries, large and small.
The area’s wine makers have done their homework on how to market (and label) their products and, significantly, have taken some big hints from the California wine country playbook.
As a result, the area offers kilometre after kilometre of wineries you can not only visit, but where you can taste the wine in comfortable surroundings, shop, and — get this — eat some wonderful food.
On our recent trip to Toronto, we took a day trip to visit friends who recently moved to the lovely town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, and had lunch at the Trius Winery. Here’s our friends (with my wife Jan in the middle, in red) just outside the winery:
Before we get to the food, first check out the interior of the winery’s store (and this photo shows only some of the offerings). Not only is it bright and comfortable, and stocked with all the winery’s products, it also offers a huge range of accessories (wine buckets, wine openers, glasses, dishes, local food products, and much more).
By contrast, the last winery in France that we visited (near Bergerac) was more like a beat-up barn, with a battered old office. Here’s a look at the Trius shop:
And now to the food, which we enjoyed outdoors under large patio umbrellas (although there is a rather formal and attractive dining room).
My starter (entrée in France) was described as Atlantic Lobster, and was served with Ontario mozzarella, heirloom tomato, Chioggia beets, organic watercress, muskmelon, cucumber and quail’s egg, all served on a circle of pressed watermelon. Here’s my cool, refreshing and delicious plate:
My main course consisted of Lake Erie white fish, served with (among other things) a beef short-rib-and-ricotta cannelloni, bok choy, Ontario corn (oh how we miss good Ontario sweet corn, here in France!), and a Trius Chardonnay vinaigrette. Here’s my plate:
As for dessert, it was impossible to resist ordering this — Peach Clafoutis, paired with “ice wine roasted peach ice cream, praline sponge toffee, and salted caramel.” It was as good as it sounds:
And guess what? The wine region has become a magnet for tourists, seeking not only wine but also excellent food, in pleasant surroundings.
When Jan and I lived in Toronto, we would often travel there with friends and ride our bikes from winery to winery; sometimes we would spend the night in the area, at one of the many resorts and bed-and-breakfast places.
So, if you happen to know any French winery owners, perhaps you could suggest they make a trip to Ontario. They just might get some worthwhile ideas.