Lessons from Canada (for French wineries!)

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:

Friends 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:

What a wine store should look like.

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 refreshing entrée.

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:

Clever combinations in my main course.

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:

What a dessert!

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.


This entry was posted in Food, French food, Travels in and out of France, Wine and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Lessons from Canada (for French wineries!)

  1. Deb says:

    They have a lot to learn here in France haven’t they. Looks great.

    • Loren Chudy says:

      I agree — starting with adding useful information to the labels on the backs of wine bottles! (I can see why Macron, or any leader, has trouble implementing reforms. Any reform. No matter how minor!)

  2. Sam Hershfield says:

    So? So? We’re breathlessly awaiting your GDA oenophilic evaluation of Canadian Niagara wines vs. their French counterparts?

    • Loren Chudy says:

      Well, they (the Canadian ones) are pretty darn good. Especially the whites — Chardonnay, Riesling, Late Harvest Riesling, Ice Wine. At the Toronto airport, on the way back to France, Jan and I whiled away the hours drinking a quite good Chardonnay from the vineyard owned by the Great One. (Yes, Wayne Gretzky.) For our lunch at Trius, we had the Trius Chardonnay, and were all quite happy.

  3. Ed McGaugh says:

    I think Americans and Canadians get the whole promotion idea. Perhaps they learned it from some of the big Bordeaux and Burgundy producers. 20 years ago my parents lived in central Florida and there were a few wineries just popping up their heads at the time, so my folks insisted we visit. Well, I was shocked. The wineries looked like country clubs. Millions must have been invested before the first bottle was even filled. I wish the wine had been half as amazing as the digs and prices were easily 3 or 4 times what I would have guessed. We have a similar situation here in Switzerland. Anything produced on a small scale, no matter how awkward it tastes in the glass, commands and gets a big price. So maybe there is something to be said about that humble French approach. 😉

    • Loren Chudy says:

      Fair enough, I guess. But I have trouble thinking that the “humble French approach” is working very well, when I suspect that France’s share of global wine consumption is falling. Besides, I rather prefer a good (attractive, clever, delicious) meal to a beaten-up old barn. One of my English friends said he and his family once stopped at a French vineyard that supposedly “welcomed” guests, and felt that he was about to be shooed off the property with a shotgun!

  4. Loren Chudy says:

    To be honest, I didn’t look at the retail prices (because we were travelling, I didn’t want to buy a case of wine to haul around). However, the price for the wine in the restaurant were fairly reasonable, for the quality. I think the Chardonnay was somewhere in the $50 (Cdn.) range, so maybe 30-ish in euros. More or less comparable to wine prices in a French restaurant, I’d say.

  5. Lesley says:

    Bit harsh on the little guys who perhaps only produce 3 or 4 different types of wine a year with themselves and part timers. Some of the co-operatives are more shop/taste friendly and I know of one locally that has a restaurant on site that’s near Bergerac!

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