By Bryan Calandrelli, Niagara Region Editor
As you’ve probably heard by now, TasteCamp is going where it’s never gone before: international. With an agenda that reads like a wine industry A-list, organizers Rick Van Sickle, Remy Charest, Suresh Doss and I have put together an all-star lineup of Niagara, Ontario and Niagara, USA wineries and restaurants that are eager to open their doors to this year’s attendees.
TasteCamp kicks off on Friday, May 13 with a Grand Tasting at one of the region’s oldest wineries, Chateau des Charmes. The afternoon will be spent at Hillebrand Estate Winery with winemaker Craig McDonald, followed by a tasting of Stratus, Lailey and Thirty Bench wines.
Icewine will be the main focus later in the day as Inniskillin, Jackson Triggs and Le Clos Jordanne guide us through tastings at the official hotel of TasteCamp North, the White Oaks Resort and Spa.
The first night wraps up with a dinner at Ravine Estate Vineyards, hosted by two of the most interesting and knowledgeable people in the Canadian wine industry, Ann Sperling, winemaker at Southbrook and Sperling Vineyards, and wine consultant and industry veteran, Peter Gamble. The focus will be on Bordeaux varieties, organics and biodynamics in the Niagara region. I can’t stress to attendees what an opportunity it is to have this husband-and-wife team available for our questions at this venue.
Saturday begins with a vineyard walk, tour and tasting at Tawse Estate Winery. Tawse makes a serious lineup of vineyard-driven biodynamic wines, and winemaker Paul Pender will be on hand to demonstrate the differences between their cuvees. The morning doesn’t end until we head over to Vineland Estate Winery for a tour of St. Urban vineyard, one of the oldest in the region. Lunch will follow with a grand tasting of wines from the Bench area.
Saturday afternoon also includes a tour and vineyard walk of Flat Rock Cellars, one of the most progressive in the region. Inside the winery’s picturesque tasting room, Ed Madronich, president of the winery and of the Wine Council of Ontario, will talk Niagara wine with attendees. The day is capped off with a sure-to-be-epic BYOB dinner at the region’s premier farm-to-table restaurant, Treadwell’s, located in Port Dalhousie.
Sunday May 15 begins with a trip back across the border for brunch and a grand tasting of Niagara USA wineries at the region’s most influential farm-to-table restaurant, Carmelo’s, located in historic Lewiston, NY. Area wineries will be showcasing their best as we explore the early success and overall potential of the United States side of the region. The afternoon will be spent on the bench of the escarpment at Arrowhead Spring Vineyards and Freedom Run Winery, with barrel samples and production and vineyard tours.
Niagara is without a doubt one of the most exciting and cutting-edge wine growing regions in the world. Ontario, which is now hitting its stride with a diverse collection of world-class wines, is virtually unknown to most American wine drinkers.
Ice wine may be the only Niagara wine in your store but there are exciting Bordeaux blends, cabernet francs, pinot noirs, sauvignon blancs, chardonnays, rieslings and much more in these tasting rooms. The same geography that created Niagara Falls lays the foundation for a diverse growing region influenced by the Niagara Escarpment itself, the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. It also created a wide range of limestone rich soils, elevations, aspects and microclimates.
The unique geography doesn’t end at the border. The Niagara, New York area benefits from the same influences. Even though the Ontario industry is some 20 years older, there’s already a common thread in the best wines from this side of the river.
TasteCamp North will bring all of this together in an action packed weekend of events thanks to this year’s organizers and the welcoming spirit of the wineries and restaurants. We’d like to let everyone in on the secret that is the Niagara region, from the wines, to the cuisine, to the geography and the people.
If you’re interested in attending, the official agenda is posted here and the link to the TasteCamp North website can be found here.