Every once in awhile, you hit upon an idea for the perfect birthday present for someone and it feels like you just struck gold. This was definitely the case when my sister and I brainstormed for the perfect gift for our mom on a very special birthday (I’m about 99.9999% sure she wouldn’t want me to mention her age here, so… you’re welcome, Mom!) – a surprise family birthday party weekend that included a tour of her favourite wine company – Jackson-Triggs!
Jackson-Triggs was founded in 1993, and continues to be ranked one of Canada’s best wineries. For our visit, we chose the winery conveniently located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. Since we knew we wanted to invite all of the extended family as a surprise, we started planning and researching a year in advance.
Our first challenge was how to get our mom, who lives an eight or so hour drive from the Niagara area, there without spoiling the family surprise or the destination. We didn’t want to let on where exactly we were going, in fear of her realizing the closeness of the winery. In the end, we decided to tell her that we wanted her and my grandma to fly into Toronto where we would pick them up in my sister’s car and take them to the secret destination.
Our second challenge was to get a place big enough to accommodate all the family. After several family members confirmed they were unable to attend, my cousin Leah found the perfect spot – a beautiful Airbnb about a ten minute drive away from the winery. I can’t recommend this spot highly enough. It was the perfect place for us due to its proximity to the winery and is a great location for anyone interested in a Niagara Falls weekend getaway.
I still remember the nerves associated with trying to ensure everything went off without a hitch. The other family members arrived first and decorated so that mom could walk in to a legitimate surprise party. Safe to say, she was pleasantly surprised!
On Saturday, nearly all of us attended the winery tour. My mom knew we were doing an outing, but not where. As we pulled up to the winery and turned in, her excitement was nearly uncontrollable.
The tour we signed up for was $10 per person, and included 4 wine tastings. The tour was extremely informative and our guide personable and knowledgeable. We toured around the grounds slightly – shivering in the cold November wind – before making our way through the facility. At each stop, our guide imparted some wisdom as we sipped some wine.
The tour begins by stepping outside of the visitor centre to the back patio, which boasts a lovely ground-level view of the vineyard. The vineyard at this particular winery boasts grapes for seven varietals, and all are showcased close to the visitor center. At a vineyard, when you see the rows of vines switch direction (eg. north-south to east-west), it means those grapes are for a different varietal. This seemed even more impressive when we learned that 1.3 million bottles come from this winery location alone!
The next stage of the tour takes you up an outdoor ramp where you can overlook the crushing station. After being crushed, the grape juices are pumped into the tank room, and are stored in the giant stainless steels tanks for fermentation.
As we sipped wine here, our guide informed us that unless the wines have international grapes, they can only be shipped within Ontario. For instance, to ship the wine to South Africa, you would first need to mix South African grapes into the wine.
The tour next took us down to one of the cellars where the wine is stored in barrels. While we were there, the room was being decorated for a private event, and I couldn’t help but marvel over what a perfect location it would make.
Here, we tried the Vidal Icewine, which was incredibly sweet. I normally stay away from purchasing icewines, not for the sweetness, but for the higher cost. During the tour, I was shocked to learn that each grape produces only one drop when making icewine. Suddenly, the increased cost makes perfect sense.
Our tour came to an end where most do – in a gift shop. Wine was purchasable here, and with our tour ticket price came a discount on our purchases. Needless to say, we all stocked up fairly well.
The tour was fabulous, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested. Don’t let the affordable price of the tour fool you – these wines are of high caliber and you won’t be disappointed.
The birthday weekend continued with a dinner for my mom, and some wonderful family time together on Sunday. To close it out, five of us rushed over to Niagara Falls near midnight Sunday to see the Falls lit up.
It was a fast but fun weekend, and it felt great to celebrate what a wonderful person my mom is. Cheers to more family time together and – always – more wine!
Have you been on a winery tour?
This trip actually took place in November 2017, and after a rather long hiatus I’m going to do my best to maintain this blog on a regular basis again.