7 steps for a sumptuous winery tour
1 Expect it to take more time than you thought There's no fun in racing through the experience or trying to fit too many wineries into a single afternoon. Take all the time you need to enjoy the moment.
2 Start early Trust me, the winery will be crowded later. And don't worry about drinking alcohol so early in the day. You won't get more than sample-size portions and will be encouraged to spit them out. Do it. The point of this exercise is to be happy, not hammered.
3 Keep an open mind You don't have to like every wine you taste, but that doesn't mean the less pleasing ones are bad. Wineries make many styles to please many tastes. As well, some wines only start to show their best side after a bit of cellar aging. Young wines often taste bitter and tough soon after birth.
4 Ask about special releases After tasting through the wines offered, ask about a product the winery's especially proud of, even if it's not yet or no longer available. You may get a chance to taste it, too.
5 Don't buy what you don't know. You may be encouraged to buy an unusual bottle -- perhaps an older vintage or special single-vineyard wine that may never show up in your neighbourhood liquor stores. Consider the offer only if you get a chance to taste it first. Otherwise, leave it for the experts and buy two of something you know you'll like.
6 Temper your comments That doesn't mean you should say you like wines you don't, but deliver your criticisms with honey, not vinegar.
7 Go big or go home There's no fun heading home empty handed -- no bottles, no souvenirs, not even a photo to remember the day. A case of some special wine you tasted with the winemaker can spice up many dinner parties over the next year.
Top wineries to visit
Angels Gate Winery
Beamsville, Ont., 905-563-3942; angelsgatewinery.com
Cave Spring Cellars
Jordan, Ont., 905-562-3581; cavespringcellars.com
The Cider House Company (Stutz Cider)
866-479-4637; Grand Pré, N.S., 902-542-1753; stutzcider.com
Domaine de Grand Pré
866-479-4637; Grand Pré, N.S., 902-542-1753; grandprewines.ns.ca
Flat Rock Cellars
Jordan, Ont., 905-562-8994; flatrockcellars.com
Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery
St. Catharines, Ont., 905-684-8423; henryofpelham.com
800-498-6211; Oliver, B.C., 250-498-6663; inniskillin.com
Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate
866-589-4637; Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., 905-468-4637;
Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate,
866-589-4637; Oliver, B.C., 250-498-4981; jacksontriggswinery.com
866-522-2228; Vineland, Ont., 905-562-5625; kacaba.com
Malivoire Wine Co.
866-644-2244; Beamsville, Ont., 905-563-9253; malivoirewineco.com
Mission Hill Family Estate Winery
Westbank, B.C., 250-768-6483; missionhillwinery.com
Osoyoos, B.C., 250-495-2985; nkmipcellars.com
Pelee Island Winery
800-597-3533; Kingsville, Ont., 519-733-6551; peleeisland.com
Peller Estate Winery
888-673-5537; Grimsby, Ont., 905-468-4678; peller.com
Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery
Beamsville, Ont., 905-563-0900; peninsularidge.com
See Ya Later Ranch
Okanagan Falls, B.C., 250-497-8267; hmvineyard.com
Steve Bauer Bike Tours
888-704-1224; St. Catharines, Ont., 905-704-1224; stevebauer.com
Stoney Ridge Estate Winery
Vineland, Ont., 905-562-1324; stoneyridge.com
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., 905-468-1806; stratuswines.com
Sumac Ridge Estate Winery
Summerland, B.C., 250-494-0451; sumacridge.com
Tawse Family Winery
Vineland, Ont., 905-562-9500; tawsewinery.ca
Viewpointe Estate Winery
Harrow, Ont., 519-738-2421; viewpointewinery.com
Vineland Estates Winery
888-846-3526; Vineland, Ont., 905-562-7088; vineland.com