Wine Trolley to Southwest Ontario Wineries

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Viva la Difference! That’s what we had to say when experiencing a wine tour via a trolley car to some Southest Ontario wineries recently. We found out about this exciting tour, word of mouth, from a friend who had taken the trolley recently and had a great time! We wanted to try something new and unique so we got online and made our plans. The trolley tours are through Windsor Essex County in Canada and they take you on a relaxing tour to 3 wineries near the Lake Erie Shoreline which includes lunch. Of course, you do have to cross the border into Canada so make sure you bring your passport or enhanced license so you can cross. It took us about 20 minutes to get through the line at the border and we had no problem with the border security. The trolley picks you up at the Windsor Crossing Outlet Mall which was easy to find and was only about 3 miles from the Ambassador Bridge. The weather was beautiful so we waited outside at the stop for our magical trolley to arrive. Of course, it showed up exactly on time and our driver took roll call of the approximately 32 thirsty tour guests. The trolley named “Desire” was clean, roomy, and it holds around 44 people so we practically filled it up! Good thing it wasn’t a full trolley since we did need room for a case or two of wine that we planned to bring home.

There are currently 12 wineries that are on or just north of the Lake Erie shoreline with a few more opening in the near future. This is the EPIC (Essex Pelee Island Coast) wine region. Because of the proximity to Lake Erie, this area offers a unique maritime climate that provides ideal growing conditions and allows the grapes to reach their peak of ripeness. It’s a very scenic area with a lot to do and is less than 30 minutes from the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit area!  We were really looking forward to this excursion and to visit 3 wineries we have never been to before. Our first stop was Aleksander Winery in a small town called Ruthven, Ontario. The winery had a small driveway and we were a bit nervous because the trolley had to back up into the driveway since there was not enough room to turn around! The driver maneuvered perfectly missing the rocks and ditch and we survived our first ordeal of the day! We were happy to see a big outdoor tent next to the winery and under it were tables skirted with white linens. This is where we would have lunch and it was a good thing since we try to avoid drinking wine on an empty stomach. A local chef, “Chef Jeff” prepared all the excellent food and gave us a quick synopsis of how he put the meal together. Aleksander Winery’s Wine Consultant, Natalie, paired her wines with the meal and gave us a short lesson on how to pair wines with food. Natalie also mentioned that Aleksander Winery has 5 acres of vineyards right there on the premises and they use other local vineyards within 30 km to make their wines. So Aleksander’s wines are all produced with local grapes from the Shores of Lake Erie vineyards. There was a lot of learning, sipping, laughing, eating, socializing, and making new friends. After the meal was over, we went into the winery to taste a few more of Aleksanders wines. We found many that we liked and decided to purchase a few to take home for later. Our favorites were the Dry Riesling, the semi-dry Gewurtztraminer, the dry red Chambourcin, and the lively Rose that had a nice, sweet style finish.

Our hunger was satisfied and thirst quenched so onward to the next winery! On the route just a few miles away is Mastronardi Estate Winery in Kingsville, Ontario. We pulled up to a farmhouse on one side of the driveway and a large building with a tasting room on the other side. We exited our trolley and was greeted by our Wine Host Pamela who gave us the whole history of Mastronardi Estate Winery. The winery itself was opened in 2006 but the 100 acres of vineyards on premise were planted over 25 years ago. There are 18 different types of grape varietals planted here so there can be many diverse flavors of wines being offered. The winery is surrounded by water since it is only 3 km from Lake Erie and near the Detroit River and Lake St Clair. All have a positive effect on the climate so the vineyards can grow some of the most flavorful grapes possible! Pamela was our Mastronardi Wine Consultant and Tour Guide and she took us on a fun and educational tour of the lush vineyards and reception centre. We were very impressed with the Vino Vista Outdoor Reception Centre. What a beautiful place to have a wedding or event! The room had an old world charm on the inside with flowing curtains and windows that open out to the scenic vineyards. Just magnificent! Then Pamela took us inside the tasting room to try some of the much anticipated Mastronardi wines. We were able to try some wonderful wines and just had to take some home to enjoy later. Some of our favorites were the 2008 Cabernet Franc which had lots of flavors of raspberries, cherries, smoke, and spice. We also liked the 2010 Pinot Grigio with crisp flavors of green apple, honey dew melon, and pear. We loved the 2006 Pavlo Signiture Reserve Meritage with flavors of black currants and dark chocolate. And the best buy of the day was the Cabernet Rose with bright flavors of pomegranate, red berry, soft spices, and under $9 a bottle. Fresh and refreshing!

Now our last stop of the day is one that we are much more familiar with. Whenever or wherever we shop for wine, we always come across wines from Pelee Island Winery. There are actually 2 locations for Pelee Island Winery. One is on Pelee Island which is just a 90 minute ferry boat ride to the island. This island is actually the southernmost point in Canada and is actually more south than most states in the U.S.  But our trolley was not crossing Lake Erie today so we were happy to stop at the mainland location in Kingsville, Ontario. We were excited for the stop here since we know Pelee Island Winery has a long list of award winning wines and we were hoping to taste a few of those. But first we get to tour the facility and see how Pelee Island produces their wines. We toured the area where the grapes are crushed and also the cellar where the wines are aged in barrels and stainless steel. We also got to tour where the wine is bottled, labeled, and boxed for delivery. We found out that Pelee Island has 550 acres of vineyards on the island itself which makes Pelee Island Winery the largest private estate in Canada! And Mother Nature herself controls the climate perfectly for the growing of grapes since the waters and breezes off Lake Erie limits the humidity and there are more frost free days.

Our neurons were filled to capacity for the day and all that brain power just made us more thirsty. The tasting room was very quaint and we were ready to try some great Pelee Island wines! There is a wonderful selection of wines to taste here and we did find quite a few we could not do without. Some of our favorites were the 2010 Chenin Blanc with its crisp flavors of pear, starfruit, and citrus. We loved the Secco (prosecco) Sparkling white wine with its festive bubbles and flavors of green apple and pear. We really enjoyed the 2010 Gamay Noir Zweigelt which was smooth and had flavors of dark berry. And also the 2010 Meritage red with its Bordeaux style and flavors of blackberry and spice! As we were leaving, we walked through the gift shop which was filled with all our favorite wine accessories! We couldn’t leave without a few more memories of all the days experiences.

We truly recommend heading to Southwestern Ontario and visiting some of the wineries in that region. There is definitely a lot to learn about, see, and do here if you want to enjoy a unique wine experience. We travel here several times a year and there are many wine events held at the wineries that you should not miss! For more information about the Windsor Trolley and its hours and tours, check www.wetrolley.com . Check out www.PeleeIsland.com for more info on Pelee Island Winery on the mainland and on the island. Going to the island is a fun day trip in itself! Mastronardi Winery has a website that gives its hours, wines, and how to book their reception centre for weddings and events. Look them up at www.MastronardiWines.com . And don’t forget about Aleksander Winery and its wonderful wines! They can be found at www.AleksanderEstate.com for more information. And lastly, for information on the whole Southwest Ontario region with its wineries, events, accommodations and more, try www.epicwineries.com  You will be greeted by fun people, good hospitality, and great wines!  Cheers!

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