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Wine Travel

Two Nights in Bacharach: Wine Travel in Germany

September 12, 2016
A wine tasting flight at Weingut Karl Heidrich in Bacharach, Germany.

I discovered Bacharach on a travel forum, where it was described as a slightly less touristy option for wine travel in Germany. Inspired by our discovery of Bernkastel-Kues in 2013, I made it the first stop of our epic German travel adventure this July. It did not disappoint.

Bacharach lived up to its billing as a traditional German wine town that, while full of things to discover, was not so packed with summer tourists as to make exploring stressful. It had all the charming nuances and stunning vineyard views I love about Germany and two nights was more than enough time to fully explore the area.

Bacharach is full of fabulous traditional buildings!

Day 1 in Bacharach:

Wine tasting at at Weingut Karl Heidrich in Bacharach, Germany.We arrived early after our flight and an hour’s drive from Frankfurt airport (the train is also an easy and central option), and well before we could check into our hotel, the charming Hotel Am Markt, which is a lovely gem located in the centre of town. We spent our time before check-in exploring the nearly empty town and then walking up to the Burg Stahlek to take in the stunning views. This trail is great for those who want to enjoy an activity that combines physical fitness and local history with breathtaking vineyard views.

The rooms at Hotel Am-Markt in Bacharach are comfortable and clean.After a quick snack, we checked into our spacious, clean and comfortable room at Hotel Am Markt (note there’s no elevator, if that’s an issue for you), took a quick nap and then headed out again to enjoy some of the local charm.

The Riesling gelato at Italia-76 Eiscafe is a can’t miss for wine lovers and something I’ve only ever seen in Bacharach. The family who runs the store is lovely and they also make a rose gelato that is so unique and flavourful. The small portions of a one scoop cone is easily walked off by a walk along the Rhine or an afternoon strolling the cobblestone streets. I love how not everything is super-sized in Germany, making it easy to enjoy small indulgences.

Sampling the local wine is a must-do and we settled in to taste a flight of trocken (dry) wines from Weingut Karl Heidrich. Their adorable patio was so relaxing that we visited twice during our stay and were impressed both times by the service and the wines. Our flight came in traditional Mosel-style glasses, which aren’t ideal for swirling and sniffing, but we opted to make this a relaxing travel adventure and not a structured tasting. We purchased our favourite wine from the flight, the 2015 Riesling Spatlese, as most of the local wineguts offer bottles for sale as well as lunch and/or dinner menus.

 

Pasta a la Bacharach at Hotel Am-Markt is named after the quaint town!For dinner, we returned to our hotel and Hotel Am Markt filled our bellies with delicious German cuisine. I had the pasta ala Bacharach (spaghetti in mushroom sauce) with a glass of local Riesling and Shawn had the schnitzel with a Fruh Kolsh beer. Both were very good and it was lovely to enjoy a summer evening on the outdoor patio.

It was an early night for us after a long travel day, but many of the beer gardens stay open until 11 or so on the weekends, if you want an evening out. Keep in mind that this is definitely not a late-night hot spot, but I suspect if you’re visiting a tiny German wine town that isn’t what you’re looking for.

The Rhine River as seen from Bacharach, Germany.Day 2 in Bacharach

I started my morning with a run along the Rhine, with fantastic views of the river and the vineyards. I had the path along the water practically to myself and it was a great way to start the day.

Afterwards, we opted to take a Rhine cruise, which is easily done from the waterfront. We went from Bacharach to St. Gore and back, which took about 45 minutes on the way there and an hour on the way back, due to the currents. In retrospect, I would have liked to take the train to a city a few stops ahead of Bacharach on the route in order to see more of the region. It really is magical to see from the boat tour and with drinks, snacks and full meals available on board, it’s easy to cruise for hours if you’d like.

St. Gore is another charming town similar to Bacharach, but we found there was less to do. We enjoyed visiting an artisanal beer stein emporium and marveling at their amazing creations and had a lovely walk around their old town before heading back to Bacharach on the next boat (depending on the timing, they run once an hour or so, but sometimes they skip an hour so be mindful of how much time you want to spend in a place).

Discover delicious flammkuchen in Bacharach, Germany.Back in Bacharach, we spent more time exploring the town and then had some of the best flamkuchen ever on the patio at Postof Bacharach. While the town isn’t huge, there are lots of small local wineries to explore and several interesting shops. After a glass of wine on the patio at Weingut Karl Heidrich, we headed back to the hotel for another early night, fully charmed by this wonderful wine town.

Have you been to Bacharach? Share your travel tips in the comments below or on social!

 

Wine Travel

Where to Stay in Lake Erie North Shore

August 29, 2016
The Iron Kettle Bed and Breakfast in Comber, Ontario is a wonderful place to stay when wine touring in the area.

When Shawn and I set out on our recent trip to the Lake Erie North Shore wine region in Ontario’s Southewest, we were lucky enough to be invited to check out two very different, but equally fabulous local accommodations. We liked them both so much that we decided to do an entire post to tell you about them! Either would be a great option for wine touring as a couple or (small) family, depending on the type of traveler you are and the kind of experience you’re looking for in your accommodations. Please feel free to post any questions about them below, or ask me on social. And if you have any suggestions for other places to stay in this area, please share them in the comments so other readers can find out about them!

Gorgeous patio at The Vineyard Suite in Essex, Ontario.The Vineyard Suite – Essex, Ontario

When we rolled into The Vineyard Suite, we were exhausted. We drove four hours from Toronto and then filled our entire day with wine and food adventures (learn all about our trip in this recent post). Our hosts greeted us with a wealth of warmth and hospitality and quickly made us feel right at home.

Sitting room at The Vineyard Suite in Essex, Ontario.The Vineyard Suite is a guest house and not a bed and breakfast or inn, but since the owners live right on site and are so friendly and helpful, it seemed a bit more b&b-like. The space itself is gorgeous – they have done a wonderful job creating a home out of this converted garage. It has a cozy living room and kitchenette, a big bedroom with a comfy bed and a bathroom that’s just fabulous. The jetted shower is a wonderful and surprising luxury and the whole space is just so comfortable and lovely. We settled in right away.

The outdoor space is equally impressive – there’s a big outdoor seating area where you can watch the fireflies in the surrounding fields and enjoy a glass of wine around the fire pit in the evening. It’s relaxing and refreshing after a busy day and a lovely option for a cup of coffee in the morning.

The location is also pretty perfect – it’s a short drive to all the local wineries and several other great attractions, including the John R. Park Homestead. There’s much to do in this area and The Vineyard Suite is a fabulous home base for couples and solo travelers.

The Iron Kettle Bed and Breakfast – Comber, Ontario

Suite at The Iron Kettle Bed and Breakfast in Comber, Ontario.You can’t miss the iron kettle outside this bed and breakfast in charming Comber, Ontario. Our GPS failed us, so we were using Google maps to find the location and as soon as we saw the kettle we knew we had arrived. Owner Benjamin Leblanc-Beaudoin greeted us with a huge smile and we immediately loved the relaxed charm of this restored home. Our room was big and comfy and had so many of the perfect little touches that make a bed and breakfast so special – including a bowl of fresh-picked local berries and vases with local wildflowers scattered throughout the space. The communal spaces are big and comfortable – you can read a book in the sitting room, watch the world go by on the patio or relax by the backyard pool.

Shawn and I spent our evening by the pool (well, he spent his evening IN the pool, I had cut my foot earlier in the day and settled for a magazine and a lounge chair), a great way to enjoy an absolutely perfect summer evening. We had a fantastic sleep in our big, comfy bed and woke up to the smell of Benjamin baking downstairs. It was pretty much the ideal b&b experience.

Delicious breakfast buffet at The Iron Kettle Bed and Breakfast in Comber, Ontario.And that baking? So, so good. Melt in your mouth blueberry waffles and homemade croissants with preserves made by his wife’s grandmothers. Add to that a delicious omelette made with locally-sourced ingredients? And fresh, local fruit? We had to force ourselves to stop eating because it was all just SO good.

The Iron Kettle is a wonderful gem about 30 minutes from wine country and is an oasis at the end of busy day. It books up fast on weekends, so plan ahead or look at weekday options when you’re booking. Want to see more images from The Iron Kettle? Check out my Instagram (@kristavino), where I highlighted so many of the amazing little touches that make The Iron Kettle a b&b gem.

Where are your favourite places to stay in Lake Erie North Shore? Share them in the comments below or on social!

*While our stays were complimentary, our opinions (as always) are our own.

Wine Travel

Lake Erie North Shore – A Wine Lover’s Getaway

August 22, 2016
The patio at Viewpointe Estate Winery is a gorgeous place to enjoy a glass of wine.

Planning a few days away to explore the wines of Lake Erie North Shore (LENS)? Shawn and I were recently invited to check out the area and we highly recommend it! Over two days, we visited four wineries, a distillery and a wealth of other local venues. From the bountiful local fruit stands to the delicious restaurants (many offering amazing local perch) and beyond, this is a gorgeous part of the Ontario’s Southwest and well worth visiting.

Below, is a short version of what we discovered on our trip. I’ll have even more info in future posts where I go in depth into our winery visits and winemaker chats.

A glass of local Chardonnay and a fish hoagie at Billy's Taphouse in Windsor/Essex.We started out from Toronto on a Wednesday morning and made it to Billy’s Taphouse in time for lunch. Billy’s is a great option for local craft beer and wine (I tried the Colchester Ridge Estate Winery Chardonnay), along with locally-sourced ingredients (they have their own garden). They have an extensive menu of delicious pub-style fare and a relaxed and fun atmosphere.

 

John R. Park Homestead in Essex, Ontario is a great stop for lovers of history and local food.The John R. Park Homestead was our second stop and a huge surprise for me. Pioneer homesteads and wine trips seemed like a weird fit, but after a few minutes chatting with curator Kris Ives, I was completely sucked into the experience. The Homestead itself is a fantastic way to step back into the past and truly immerse yourself in pioneer times and the staff and students in period costumes do much to make this as realistic an experience as possible. We enjoyed visiting the blacksmith shop and learning about the process of making authentic textiles with a student expertly working a loom, but it was the foodie experience that had me hooked. This is a locavore’s dream with a working orchard from which they make authentic pioneer-style cider and they recreate pioneer recipes from items grown on site. While walking through the extensive grounds Kris mentioned their pick and sniff tours, where school children learn about the many things grown on site and I thought that would be a brilliant tour for wine students wanting to better understand the aromas of so many of the scents that are found in our wines.

While we were sad to leave the homestead, we were excited to move on to winery stops at North 42 Degrees Winery and Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery. North 42 Degrees is under construction right now, with their new tasting room and restaurant set to open in November 2016. I had the chance to taste through their wines and interview winemaker, Martin Gorski, so watch for a full report on North 42 Degrees and all our winery stops coming up soon. We did enjoy a visit to their Serenity Lavender store, though, where we picked up a gorgeous bar of lavender soap.

Serenity Lavender shop in Essex, Ontario has lovely lavender soap.At the gorgeous Sprucewood Shores property, I toured and tasted with co-owner Steve Mitchell and learned much about their planned expansion and got to taste their new apple wine (a surprising winner in the fruit wine category for me).

Blimey's British Store & Gift Shop in Harrow, Ontario.We ended an intensive day of exploration at the brand new Wolfhead Distillery, where the restaurant was absolutely slammed (pretty impressive for a 10-week old business on a Wednesday night), but they made room for us to enjoy a delicious dinner and tasting experience. We both very much enjoyed our entrees (I had the drunken shrimp and scallops and Shawn had the ahi tuna) and I loved the unique mojito they make with their grapefruit vodka. There’s nothing minty about it, but it’s a fun and refreshing cocktail for a hot night.

On day two, we headed out early to check out the shopping in Harrow, Ontario with a special stop at Blimey’s British Store & Gift Shop. The couple who own Blimey’s are just the loveliest people and they have created a space that embodies what they love about England and the surrounding areas. The shop features a wealth of British goods, as well as an extensive grocery section, but it also has French glassware, Scottish jewelry and lots of Irish touches too. Why? Because they liked the products. The shop is so genuine and full or truly lovely things, I couldn’t resist picking up a wooden duck with rubber boots from England and a box of delicious Irish tea. Shawn had fun picking out some fun things from the grocery section too and there were dozens more things we wished we could bring back with us. We will definitely make a special stop at Blimey’s when we’re next in the area and I have no doubt there will be lots of British and European items to tempt us. This really is a must-stop shop.

Sweet Retreat ice cream in Leamington, Ontario serves Kawartha Dairy ice cream.We headed to Viewpointe Estate Winery next and driving up to the winery I let out an audible gasp – it’s stunning. Right on the shores of Lake Erie, the winery comes into view as you turn into the driveway and with the sun shining on the water it was just breathtaking. The tour and tasting were fantastic (more to come soon) and lunch on the patio was just delicious. We were treated to a special show direct from Mother Nature when a storm came in across the water while we were eating. We stayed dry under the canopy and were able to watch the storm drench the area and then disappear just as quickly as it rolled in. A wonderful treat during lunch on a crazy hot day.

From there, we visited Oxley Estate Winery – another beautiful property with a warm and inviting restaurant. We had a wonderful chat with owner Ann Neydon Wilson under the pretty yellow canopy, which I’ll share in a future post.

The seating area at Sweet Retreat ice cream in Leamington, Ontario is so pretty!On a hot day, an ice cream break seemed in order, so we headed to Sweet Retreat in Leamington where I quickly fell in love with the gorgeous décor and Shawn was won over by the Kawartha Dairy ice cream they served (it really is the best). On top of the dollhouse-adorable indoor décor, Sweet Retreat has a fabulous backyard with a koi pond, Muskoka chairs and all sorts of nooks and crannies for little ones (or big kids to explore). A delicious and delightful stop.

We ended the day at our delightful bed and breakfast, The Iron Kettle (more on that soon too), and were thrilled with all that we were able to achieve in our two days of wine tourism in the Windsor/Essex area of Ontario’s Southwest.

As always, Shawn played designated driver – a must if you’re going to spend time tasting (and especially if you’re not spitting). Be sure to stay safe and keep this in mind when planning your wine trail adventure!

Have you been to the LENS region? What were your favourite stops?

*While our trip was complimentary, our opinions are (as always) our own.

 

 

 

Wine Travel

7 Finger Lakes Wineries to Visit

August 2, 2016
The View from Standing Stone Vineyards in The Finger Lakes.

Last year’s Wine Bloggers Conference took place in the Finger Lakes, one of New York’s must stunning areas and a wine region well worth visiting. With summer and fall wine touring top of mind, I wanted to suggest a few Finger Lakes must-stops for wine lovers looking to explore the area. Technically, this is six wineries and a distillery, but that didn’t fit nicely into the title so I hope you’ll cut me some slack there–the distillery visit is definitely worth it.

Hermann J. Weimer Winery in The Finger Lakes makes incredible RieslingHermann J. Weimer Vineyards – This was on our must-visit list, as I had heard good things about the Riesling Weimer is best known for. The experience certainly didn’t disappoint. This is a lovely winery and, while not as show-stoppingly beautiful as some of the most exquisite properties, the wines will take your breath away. If you love Riesling, in particular German-inspired Riesling, this is the place for you. They make several different styles, from sweet to off-dry, to dry and they are very reminiscent of the Mosel, including the 2013 Reserve Dry, which reminded me of a Kabinet.

Standing Stone Winery – This property is absolutely stunning, with a gorgeous lake view. The winery itself is quite modest, the staff are friendly and the wines are good. We tried an absolutely lovely Reserve Saperavi, which comes from 20 year old vines that produce this lovely, big and rich wine with great balance. If you’re not familiar, Saperavi is reminiscent of Sangiovese. If the reserve is too rich for your blood, they also offer a non-reserve version that is not quite as lush and intense, but is quite good and very reflective of the style. Shawn and I brought home a bottle last year that we plan to open soon. We also enjoyed Standing Stone’s 2013 dry Riesling.

Wagner Winery and Brewery in The Finger LakesWagner Vineyards—Sitting on the patio enjoying lunch at Wagner’s Ginny Lee Café, it’s hard not to fall in love with the Finger Lakes. Looking out over the water, sipping a glass of Wagner’s lovely dry Riesling and enjoying a hearty and affordable lunch, you can see why this is a popular stop with both locals and tourists.

A cocktail from Damiani Vineyards and Finger Lakes DistillingFinger Lakes Distilling—While we both love good wine, Shawn and I are always interested in checking out local distillers. Finger Lakes Distilling makes a range of vodka, gin, whiskey and bourbon on site, as well as brandy and liqueurs. The staff were great here, though it can get very busy on the weekends and over the summer. You can taste through several of the products they make on-site and the prices are fair for craft products. We had the opportunity to try several of their spirits as cocktails during the Wine Bloggers Conference and were quite impressed.

Damiani Wine Cellars – We had dinner at Damiani as part of the conference (it was catered, as the winery does not have a restaurant on-site) and it was a beautiful venue to watch the sun set over Seneca Lake. Damiani is right next to Finger Lakes Distilling, so there’s no reason not to pop over to taste their terroir-driven wines and check out the view after picking up some whiskey.

Fox Run Vineyards in The Finger LakesFox Run Vineyards—Fox Run Vineyards has a lovely café and cheese bar on-site, as well as a wealth of wines to taste through. The winery staff are knowledgeable and happy to run you through their wines, though be warned that this is a busy spot, especially on weekends and during tourist season, so plan accordingly if you want a laidback tasting experience. Their patio is a nice option and Shawn and I enjoyed a salad while sitting out and enjoying a lake view (a theme of this trip).

Anthony Road Wine Company's award-winning red wineAnthony Road Wine Company—The last stop we made on our way home, Anthony Road Wine Company impressed us with their gorgeous views, beautiful property and impressive wines. Even though we were nearing exhaustion at this point in our trip, a walk through the grounds and a few minutes on their patio had us feeling so exhilarated to be in The Finger Lakes and enjoying such a vibrant and beautiful wine region. We can’t wait to go back.

There are many other wineries to visit in this region, making The Finger Lakes a great option to visit again and again over the years.