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Wine Tasting Fees

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Detroit
posts: 614
reviews: 1
Wine Tasting Fees

We just returned from our first trip to the Napa Valley region and were quite impressed with the wineries. My wife and I, however, were taken aback at the tasting fees at some of them - up to $60 for a flight of 4 wines at a few. Visiting a few wineries at this cost can quickly become a significant expense.

What can one expect to pay for a tasting flight at a winery in Niagara on the Lake?

London, Canada
posts: 3,732
reviews: 61
1. Re: Wine Tasting Fees

This is from the Stratus website and prices are indicative of other wineries, unless cheese is served and then there is an additional fee.

"Stratus wines are sampled in comparative ‘flights’ of four wines and served in premium crystal stemware. Flights are $10."

For that price you can have a private tour and tasting at a winery like Vineland~

"Private tour & tasting • accompanied by a perfect pairing of our artisanal cheeses

Gain knowledge of our vineyard, our wine making process and our cellars. Taste three of our award winning classic wines and enjoy a selection of four different Canadian Farm Cheeses and Estate made Breads.

60 minutes…………$70.00 /2 people"

Ottawa, Canada
posts: 13,859
reviews: 50
2. Re: Wine Tasting Fees

Hi TheKrow,

Welcome to the NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE TRAVEL FORUM.

Hmm, a bit of confusion here for me…

Are you asking about the usual price of Tastings at the Wineries in the Niagara Region… OR are you asking about special Tasting Events (such as the two that my esteemed colleague TOBIE has mentioned above?)

Generally, speaking most Wineries will offer you FREE Tastings… you pick from the list of wines on offer... and plan your own flight... an occasional few will charge a minimal fee (say $ 5 to $ 10) and will refund that against purchase. And then there are a couple of spots… who charge the fee regardless. Mr Wine & I like to forego those few spots out of principal… although granted they have great wines… BECAUSE there is so much good wine in Niagara Region, that it is silly to charge for the “regular” stuff.

I can see charging for “premium” pours… (perhaps what your post was referring to?)... Wineries will usually tell you that upfront with a placard on the Tasting Pour showing which wines must be paid for. Typically some Ice Wines, Small Batch Wines, Winemaker Special Blends and / or some Reserve Selections.

In some wineries, so as to not make this a huge issue… they have separate Tasting areas for their Regular Wines, and another for their Premium Wines… such is the case for example at Hillebrand… IF you are a member of their Wine Club, or clearly have a strong interest or knowledge in wine you can get invited “upstairs” to the more Private Tasting Room (vs the one on the main floor in the Wine Store).

Upstairs some wines are usually FREE, but most will have an additional charge. Most of the wines poured upstairs will START above $ 25 a bottle… and go up. As dedicated Wine Lovers, Mr Wine & I have spent serious money at Hillebrand over the years.

When it comes to Tastings, in general Ontario Liquor Laws are pretty harsh than other places… expect to see 3 x 2 ounce pours per person per winery (adds up to 1 Glass = aprox 1 Standard Serving). The best way around this… is to have a wine tasting buddy… and share pours, or glasses… so you can get to sample 6 different wines and not just 3.

If you are on an Organized Wine Tour (Motorcoach – Van etc) … or working with one of the local Touring Companies (like a Wine Limo Tour) then most Wineries will bend the rules a bit…

OF NOTE… Ontario has as I said Provincially Controlled Liquor (AGCO = Alcohol & Gaming Commission of Ontario) and also Government Run Liquor Stores (LCBO = Liquor Control Board of Ontario)… Wineries are allowed to sell their own products directly to the customer… a HUGE exception to the law here in Ontario. And as the LCBO doesn’t offer good deals to Ontario Vintners to carry their products (infact they gouge Ontario producers)… So IF you find a wine you like BUY IT… as you very well may not find it anywhere else !!

Hope this is helpful,

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

Detroit
posts: 614
reviews: 1
3. Re: Wine Tasting Fees

To clarify: I was asking about the usual price of tastings at the wineries, not the special events or tours. Basically, what I would be charged just walking in off the street (as our itineraries are usually very free-form) and tasting.

In Northern Michigan, 90% of the rooms do not charge, which is why I found it to be quite different when those in Napa were charging (sometimes exorbitant amounts) for a flight.

I should also add that some wineries had requested appointments be made ahead of time for tastings as well. Is this the norm in NOTL as well? Or can you just walk in?

London, Canada
posts: 3,732
reviews: 61
4. Re: Wine Tasting Fees

Hi~I did understand your query. I was using the cost of a personal tour etc at Vineland simply for pricing comparison with Napa. The Stratus fee is just for a walk-in tasting, and they are at the top of the price range.

As mentioned, may wineries will not charge if it's evident you will be buying at least one bottle after the tasting. With others, it's a minor fee and 2 people can share a flight, or glass, with no issue.

Appointments are not necessary, but avoid any winery with a bus in front!

Ottawa, Canada
posts: 13,859
reviews: 50
5. Re: Wine Tasting Fees

Hi TheKrow,

Wine Touring in the Niagara Region is great… and in my opinion self-touring is the best way to do it (Although do watch your consumption… Wineries don’t offer large pours primarily because of Ontario’s Drinking & Driving Laws which can be quite severe… although .08 is a DUI, large penalties kick in at .05 ~ Driver Suspension for 3 Days, Car Impoundment, Heavy Fine)

Self-Touring can be done by car, bike or with a limo service… in this way you can choose the Wineries that you want to see (and not on someone else's list)… and those that interest you be it for their types of wine, Winery architecture, process, Winery setting, or perhaps an on-site restaurant.

I also recommend that when Touring that you mix it up… visit a BIG Corp in the NOTL area, but also some of the Medium, Small or Family Run ops… and some of the other places that have unique features (Organic – Gravity Fed – Award Winning Architecture etc). This way you’ll get a real feel for what Niagara has to offer.

The Registered Appellation is called Niagara Peninsula… but it is divided into two distinct Regional Appellations… Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Escarpment… followed by 10 Sub-Appellations spread out over the 50 Kms from NOTL thru to Stoney Creek.

VQA Ontario (Niagara Peninsula Appellation) = vqaontario.ca/Appellations/NiagaraPeninsula

Wines produced in and around NOTL with the moderating temperature of Lake Ontario mean a micro-climate that provides for wines not normally found in Eastern North America… BIG Reds (Cabernet Sauvignon – Shiraz / Syrah – Baco Noir) and BIG Whites (Oaked Chardonnay) and even some CRISP Whites like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio… and of course Ice Wine (Niagara’s Signature Wine was first grown in the NOTL area).

Along “The Bench” of The Escarpment you’ll find more MEDIUM bodied wines… like Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Foch, Pinot Noir… and Unoaked Chardonnay or Chablis… and of course Ice Wine.

Farther up The Escarpment and the wines will be similar to those found in the Alpine Regions of France (Alsace) and Germany… Gewurtztraminer & Riesling (and again some Ice Wine).

I’d say that the BEST of Niagara by suitability would be… Ice Wine (made from a wide variety of grapes… although Vidal is the most common) – Gewurtztraminer & Riesling – and then blended wines using those grapes grown in the warmer areas along NOTL and married to the better grapes that grow here.

If you’ve been to California… a word of warning… don’t come to NOTL expecting the same quality of BIG Reds & Whites, they just aren’t here… we don’t have that hot a climate for that long a season.

BUT you will find some great blends… think the French Wine Regions… where blending is an art & science… When one takes an Excellent Cabernet Franc & Merlot and marries it skilfully to a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz… great things can happen (think the French Wines of Bordeaux ~ Medoc, St Emilion). One wine that comes to mind for the NOTL area is Meritage… styled along the lines of Hermitage from France’s Rhone Valley.

Sparkling wines will be found primarily around NOTL… there are some tasty offerings… gone are the days of Andres Baby Duck (Amen).

Ice Wine is found at just about every winery… the standard grape is Vidal (easiest to nurture thru Spring – Summer – Fall and on into January. This “golden elixir” has more in common with Brandy, Cognac or Port than it does table wine… far more intense in concentration… a little goes a long way… It is also quite EXPEN$IVE in that it is so labour intensive… hand-picked in the middle of a January Night (temp must have reached -8C) it then requires immediate processing… with each grape giving up but a few drops… IF the Ice Wine is made from other varietals, then the investment is greater, and the yield lower… so costs can sky-rocket. Look for Ice Wines made from local Rieslings & Gewurtztraminers as well as some Wineries working with Red Wines (Cabernet Franc). If you have the opportunity to taste beyond Vidal… do so… some swear once you’ve tasted a Red Ice Wine… you’ll be hooked !!

The most reknown Ice Wine in Niagara is produced by Royal DeMaria Wines in Vineland… where Joseph DeMaria has perfected the art of making ice wine from red varietals… his award winning wines are stunning… and he is a very busy man, and hard to catch… best to call ahead if you want to visit this winery.

When it comes to Wine Touring the Official Guide to Ontairo’s Wine Country is “the bible”… it is organized by Appellation and laid out from North to South (Stoney Creek thru to NOTL)… there are notes about each Winery, Winemaker, Location, Contact Info even what wines they offer, and which are Award Winning.

The Guide is available on-line or in a hard-copy form (the latter has a great pull out map)… the on-line version also has an App for your mobile device and a Plan Your Route feature. Hard copies can be gotten at any Ontario Winery – LCBOs in Wine Country – or at some Ontario Tourism Offices… or you can order one to be mailed to you.

Official 2011 Guide to Wine Country Ontario = www.winecountryontario.ca

Hope this info is helpful… happy touring…

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

PS… In your travels be sure and take some time to just pause and enjoy the view… there are many great spots in the Niagara Region… be it a picnic along the Niagara River Parkway, or stunning views from higher up the Bench near Beamsville… favourite spots off the beaten path include… Balls Falls right on the edge of The Escarpment… and watching the big ships “climb the mountain” at the Staircase Locks on the Welland Canal… Niagara has a lot to offer wine lover, history buff or photo hound. Enjoy.

Waterside, Canada
posts: 114
6. Re: Wine Tasting Fees

You did not mention whether you would be staying in the area while touring. Some accommodation operators offer wine tasting coupons to their guests to visit selected wineries in their area. Last time we were there we ended up visiting and tasting at 8 different wineries.

Also as Wine-4-2 mentioned, when sharing with a buddy most wineries will increase the number of wines to sample.

Ottawa, Canada
posts: 13,859
reviews: 50
7. Re: Wine Tasting Fees

Hi Ejohn80,

Good to see you again!!

Nice of you to drop in on the NOTL FORUM... will you be visiting us here in Beautiful Ontario this summer?

If you are going to be around, drop me a PM... maybe we can get together for a glass of wine... or two... (our turn to host).

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

Edited: 1:56 pm, July 27, 2011
Detroit
posts: 614
reviews: 1
8. Re: Wine Tasting Fees

Thanks to all for your extensive replies! To answer your question, we will certainly be staying in the area --- hopefully the downtown area. I'm still in the the infancy stages of convincing my wife and planning the trip so I should know more soon.

I am thinking sometime this fall, perhaps. Any thoughts as the the time where the ideal as far as minimizing the crowds and maximizing variety and value?

Upstate NY
posts: 25
9. Re: Wine Tasting Fees

Thanks for the wonderful information on this thread! We're planning a Sept trip to Ontario and tasting some of the wines is defiantly in our plans!

Ottawa, Canada
posts: 13,859
reviews: 50
10. Re: Wine Tasting Fees

TO THEKROW & ARTRINA,

Year round NOTL is lovely, there really isn't a bad time to visit.

September & October are both nice...

Crowds are certainly less after Labour Day once the kiddies are back in school... and less people taking Family Vacations.

September is the wine harvest and the annual Niagara Wine Festival (September 16th - 25th, 2011) = http://www.niagarawinefestival.com/

October and the Autumn Leaves will be in full colour... the first half of the month is better weather than the last half... BUT be aware that Thanksgiving Weekend (corresponds with Columbus Day Weekend) in the USA is usually VERY Busy because more people are travelling from both countries... and it is typically the best time to see the Leaves at their prime in Southwestern Ontario.

Hope this is helpful,

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

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