Featured Image: Wine tasting @ Quail’s Gate Estate Winery. Photo credit: Aaron.
One of us fell sick overnight so we took it easy this morning and started our day a little later. Luckily, we decided not to join an organized wine tour so our schedule was relatively flexible.
Quail’s Gate Estate Winery
Led by our amazing trip planner, Bear Woman, we headed towards our first winery – Quail’s Gate Estate Winery. We had lunch reservation and we arrived a little early so we took a quick stroll around the vineyard and ended in the tasting room for some wine tasting. It was $5 for 4 “Estate and Reserve Wines” and $10 for 3 “Rare and Collectible Wines”. Tasting fees were waived with the purchase of 2 or more bottles of wine. I decided on the “Estate and Reserve Wines”. I started with one of their most popular wines: the 2016 Chasselas – Pinot Blanc – Pinot Gris. I’m not a huge fan of dry whites in general which this was. It was really light in taste. Then I had the 2016 Gewurztraminer which again was too dry for my taste. Next, we moved on to the reds. I first tried their 2016 Pinot Noir. Full disclosure, I’m usually not a fan of pinot noir and this one did not change my mind. I ended with the 2015 Stewart Family Reserve Old Vines Foch and finally found something that I actually enjoyed. It was full bodied and rich, just the way I like my red wines. I did not end up purchasing it as it did not find it was worth the $40+ price tag.
It was time for our lunch reservation so we headed over to the restaurant. We were fortunate enough to have been seated on the patio overseeing the vineyards and lake. A+ for ambience! For lunch, Aaron and I shared the oysters (nice, light in taste, did not taste too much of the ocean), butternut squash risotto (good flavours, not overly heavy), and the duck fettuccine (simple ingredients, made with fresh pasta). Overall, I felt the food was good and it was quite worth the visit accompanied with a nice glass of wine and the scenery. It looks like their menu changes regularly so when you visit, there will most likely be different menu options.
Our lovely organizer has also booked a winery tour for us and we were able to explore the different parts of the winery and learn about their production process. We concluded the tour with some more wine samples (included in the price of the tour). They were generally accommodating to the fact that we’ve already tried some of their wines. We got to try their chardonnay (again, not a fan of dry whites), rose (not usually a fan of rose but this one was not bad) and the pinot noir again (did not change my mind yet again). After our tour, we went back to the wine tasting room for some final wine samples. We tried two of the dessert wines – each served in a chocolate cup! We had the 2014 Riesling Icewine as well as the 2016 Optima Botrytis Affected. If you like super sweet indulgent dessert wines, the Riesling Icewine is the one to try! The Optima is less sweet for those who prefer a more subtle flavour.
Mission Hill Winery
Next, we headed to the nearby Mission Hill Winery – one of the largest wineries in the region. Here we tried the 2015 Perpetua, 2013 No. 23 Crosswinds Syrah, 2015 No. 32 Vista’s Edge Cabernet Franc and the 2012 Compendium. Aaron was put off by the somewhat pretentious naming system of their wines. All the wines were $50+ but we did not find them particularly outstanding. I would still recommend coming here for the beautiful architecture. It really reminded me of the Getty Centre in Los Angeles.
Next, it was time we visited a boutique but lovely winery – Tantalus Vineyards. Here, there is a huge balcony overlooking their beautiful vineyard. We tried their 2017 Riesling Lab (exclusively sold at their winery) as well as the regular 2017 Riesling. Both were nice, crisp, fruity and very easy to drink. We decided to purchase a bottle of their Riesling Lab at a very reasonable price point of <$20.
Carmelis Goat Cheese Farm
It was time for a non-wine stop, so we visited Carmelis Goat Cheese Farm. I’m not a fan of goat cheese but we still had a good time. For a nominal fee of $2, you were able to try many of the cheese they had in stock. I didn’t sign up for the tasting officially but I did take a nibble of Aaron’s samples. The soft cheeses actually tasted quite mild and cow cheese-like. It was only when it got to the harder cheese and blue cheese varieties when I had to step away. They pride themselves in their natural, less sweet gelato made from goat’s milk, so we had to give that a try before leaving. Fortunately, there was no hint of goat taste so it was quite enjoyable even for me. The whole vibe of the place was very friendly and cozy with cute hand-drawn price tags!
Summerhill Pyramid Winery
For our last winery stop, we went to the nearby Summerhill Pyramid Winery. It was near closing time when we arrived so we did not get to tour the great pyramid on site. Apparently, the pyramid serves as more than a tourist attraction. They claim that the wine stored in this facility is smoother and more aromatic. This was definitely the most laid back winery of them all, which had a totally different presence compared to the larger wineries like Mission Hill. The tastings were mostly complimentary, except if you want to try the icewines. They specialize in organic and vegan wine. Apparently, animal by-products are often used in the winemaking process, making them non-vegan. We tried their 2016 Organic Riesling, Ehrenfelser (a very nice white), and I was blown away by their 2012 Keter (which was like velvet, as described by their staff). We ended by trying their two red icewines – 2012 Merlot Icewine and 2013 Sweigelt Small Lot Icewine, both of which were delightful but not too sweet. What a lovely way to end our full-day wine tour.
Red Fox Club
It was almost dinner time, so we headed over to Red Fox Club, at Indigenous World Winery. This is a restaurant serving aboriginal inspired dishes using local ingredients. We started with the baked brie (not my favourite, the cheese was not molten enough) and the pork belly (can’t go wrong with pork belly). For mains, I had the Haida Gwaii Salmon. It was flavourful and not too dry. I am usually cautious about ordering salmon at restaurants because they are usually too dry, but in this case I was not disappointed. Aaron had the Harmony Beef Tenderloin, which was really nice, especially with the dollop of caramelized yeast butter on top.
It was a wine and food-filled day for us, so we once again all retreated into our rooms in a food coma once we got home.