When I interviewed my good friend Melissa for a Toronto Star travel story a couple of weeks ago, she couldn't stop gushing about the beauty of the Beamsville Bench.
"It’s just a beautiful place—it’s full of peach orchards and wineries and what could be less pleasurable and beautiful than that?" she told me. I was already sold, but then she said the magic words: "It's not a zoo. It's not Niagara-on-the-Lake or Niagara Falls."
So when I was sent passes to attend 20 Valley's "Get Fresh" wine and culinary event in the Beamsville region, it was pretty much a done deal.
My partners in crime for the day were my friend Ramsey and my upstairs neighbour Diana. Since they're both lushes (for all things in life: food, wine, good company), I knew they'd be the perfect pair to join me.
What I didn't know is that despite the fact that they've both grown up in Southern Ontario, it would be the first time that either had gone wine tasting.
"Where should we go first?" Diana asked me, eyeballing the map. (She had been put in charge of navigation. I was in charge of music duties. Since I'm basically the best car DJ ever, I decided that John Mayer's Your Body is a Wonderland should be our winery arrival song. I have no idea why Ramsey and Diana objected.)
The answer to Diana's questions was easy: Rosewood Estates Winery.
"There's so many wineries in Ontario, but this one is a really special one," Mel had told me.
Within 20 minutes of our arrival, we knew that Mel was right.
One of only two meaderies in Ontario (in order to produce and sell mead commercially, you also need to be a beekeeper), Rosewood's sprawling property looks out from midway up the bench out onto Lake
Ontario. The bees themselves live in a UNESCO protected biosphere.
We were greeted by Rosewood's "Ener-bee" Sonia, who took us on a tour of the property and filled our glasses. (Actually, she filled them more than once.)
Sonia's bubbly energy carried us through the next three hours, but her level of expertise was second-to-none. Originally from Germany, Sonia had attended culinary school in Florence and sold Canadian wines in Tuscany (a hard sell, no doubt), before moving to the Beamsville area to work with the Romans.
My friend Jane, who has worked in Ethiopia (where mead is a celebratory drink), had warned me that I might not like mead's sweetness. But Rosewood had just the mead for me; the "Mon Cherie," a sour cherry mead.
We also picked up a bottle of the riesling and an amazing bordeaux.
With four bottles of mead purchased, Diana and I determined that we're going to stop yelling at boys from our front porch to join us for a beer. For the rest of the summer, any babes that bike past are getting invited up for a "mead"ing.
And then, after Sonia had encouraged us to try every single wine on Rosewood's list (seriously), Diana was ready to pose for her glamour shots.
Next, Sonia drove us up to the top of the "bench" to Fielding Estates Winery. Although they weren't participating in the Get Fresh event, we sampled some wines before it was time to start trekking down the hill again.
So despite having only visited three wineries, we came to the only natural conclusion; why not just go back to Rosewood and spend the rest of the afternoon pretending like we were on our honeymoon?
(Okay, I promise that was my last lame mead pun.)
On the drive home, we reflected on our day, listening to music and let the sun warm us. Kindred "spirits" can be found in the most unusual places. (Okay, that was my last pun. Promise.)
It was a day of sunshine, mead and friends. And what could be more pleasurable than that?