29 AUG 2016: Just about an hour drive from Toronto, is a beautiful valley and the natural wonder of the Niagara Escarpment. The linchpin of the Twenty Valley area is Canada’s Jordan, a tiny town with oversize charm, surrounded by 48 wineries and abundant farmers’ fields. Foodies, athletes, history buffs and music lovers will all find something to love on a visit here.
Canada is home to over 700 licenced wineries stretched out in select pockets of land from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. This little pocket also boasts three spas, eight cycling trails, seven conservation areas to explore, 16 historical sites, four antique stores, 10 specialty stores, six music festivals and 14 restaurants. That’s a lot compacted into a speck on the map of the nation.
Twenty Valley gets its name from the Twenty Mile Creek, which flows east through predominately agricultural lands before it veers north and drops 26 metres over the Niagara Escarpment at Ball’s Falls Conservation Area. In its meandering it goes through a local golf course where comes into play on several holes and by the town of Jordan. The creek is named for the location of its mouth, twenty miles west of the Niagara River along the Lake Ontario shoreline. In summer it virtually dries up.
In my view, Inn on the Twenty, smack in the middle of Jordan, is the place to stay. Rooms are large and comfortable in that quintessential Canadian way. The inn’s spa offers vinotherapy treatments as well as the more traditional massages and facials and across the road is On the Twenty Restaurant, where fine dining meets a stunning view of Twenty Valley.
From there it’s a quick trip to experience some of the area’s finest. It’s impossible to visit all 48 wineries unless you have a couple weeks to spare (figure no more than four wineries a day to get the most out of a trip). It’s best to pick up the free yearly travel guide to Wine County Ontario and chose from there.
On this particular trip, my group started at Featherstone where owners David Johnson and Louise Engel run an eco-friendly estate. Engel has learned falconry using her bird Amadeus to keep the starlings away from the grapes. The couple, married 30 years, met at U of Guelph and both grew up on farms. They raise their own pigs, feeding them grape skins and pips and use the resultant savoury meat to make their own charcuterie, aged in their wine cellar over winter. Visitors can enjoy the home-grown, wine cellar cured pork while sitting on the winery’s porch and sampling a cool glass of riesling or pinot noir.
At 13th Street winery, set amongst 25 acres of estate vineyards, winemaker Jean-Pierre Colas produces excellent traditional method sparkling wines, pinot noir and gamay reds, along with chardonnay and riesling. Dotted about the property is eye popping sculptures by Karoly Veress and other artists. The gallery room features works by Canadian artists – changing with the seasons.
At the onsite bakery visitors can pick up the area’s best butter tarts as well as local preserves, cheeses, gourmet food items and gifts. Available daily at the winery is the “Wine and Food Experience” which pairs three wines with three house-made small dishes at twenty dollars a person.
Creekside presents itself as “serious wines from an irreverent bunch”. Talented winemaker Rob Power makes bold, smooth syrah and expressive sauvignon blanc along with fun sparkling wines. The Deck at Creekside (a lovely outdoor dining area) is where Chef Nathan Young proprietor of In the Smoke Cookery, fires up an old fashioned BBQ meal of smoked meats, roasted stuffed suckling pig, baked beans and the like.
Dynamo winemaker and self-proclaimed “Fancy Farm Girl” Sue-Ann Staff opened a winery on her family’s 200-year-old Niagara Escarpment estate. This beautiful country property with its man-made two acre hour-glass shaped pond, hosts multiple weddings and corporate events in its semi-permanent Legacy 40 Tent. Catering is by Feastivities, Niagara’s largest caterer. No choice on the wine – it’s Staff’s fabulous collection or go elsewhere.
Sold under names such as Frivolous white, Flamboyant red and Foxy pink, Staff quips she uses the “F-word” a lot. Saturdays and Sundays (until Thanksgiving) from noon to 4pm Susannah’s Smokehouse southern barbeque serves tasty meals to the visiting crowds.
Not to be missed is a visit to Westcott Vineyards, a rising star of a boutique winery, producing fabulous hand-crafted chardonnay, pinot noir and sparkling wines. On the patio by a 200-year-old restored Mennonite barn, visitors can sip the elegant wines while lunching on inspired dishes created by Zooma Caters. The meal I had there was absolutely delicious and perfectly portioned.
During harvest season, road side stalls and markets such as Peach Country Farm Market, sell a cornucopia of tree fruits, berries, vegetables and baked goods. Believe me you don’t leave this place with the slightest hint of hunger in the belly. Plan a trip via www.winecountryontario.ca