By Michael Lowe
When looking for ways to tour Niagara wineries there are a lot of options. From guided cycling tours to luxuriously appointed private coaches, the region has it all. But, there is new choice if you’re looking to meet new people and have some fun.
The Magic Winery Bus kicked off its 2019 season last weekend and I went along for the ride. Check-in is at the Jordan House in the village of Jordan where passengers are greeted by Niagara’s own consummate volunteer and “selfie king,” Jimi Russell (photo above).
Your fare includes a six-bottle wine bag, just in case you feel compelled to purchase something you like. The tours run Friday through Sunday from June 21 to Oct. 13. There are six participating wineries, all members of Twenty Valley Tourism and each tour takes you to four of them. This trip was kicked off with a welcome and a short history by partner and operations manager David Hovell (photo below) of the tour company, which also operates in Nova Scotia wine country.
The bus is a colourful, classic British double-decker bus (top photo), which is bound to turn heads while cruising the wine route. Our tour will take us to Redstone, Flat Rock, 13th Street and Creekside. En route to our first stop, passengers, myself included, remarked about the views from our lofty vantage point on the upper deck of the bus. It certainly offers a different perspective as we rumble down the wine country roads. Commentary along the way is provided by our tour guide Judith Fulton (Photo below).
At each stop we are greeted by a winery staff member and taken to a tasting area, in some cases away from the usually busy tasting bar. You can expect to be at each winery for approximately one hour, which is good if you need to grab a bite to eat. At Redstone we start the day of tasting with their lively, refreshing 2016 Limestone Vineyard sparkler (photos below).
As if right on cue, the bus pulls into the parking lot to scoop us up and take us to stop number two — Flat Rock Cellars. Flat Rock offers one of the most impressive views of vineyards and Lake Ontario beyond (photo below) —and on clear days the Toronto skyline. Here we taste the 2015 pinot noir and Twisted white, a blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay.
Our third stop is 13th Street Winery where, by now, I’m feeling a little peckish. Luckily, their Farmhouse Bistro offers some great dishes and wines by the glass. The smoked duck sandwich with fresh salad paired with a glass of their Sandstone Gamay Noir seems a logical choice (photos below)—and it’s delicious.
While aboard the bus on our way to the last stop I can’t think of a more unique way to tour the area. As we pull into Creekside our driver’s skill is put to the test. Driver Jessica Giesbrecht (photo below) manoeuvres the two-tiered monster between rows of parked vehicles like she’s threading a needle.
One of my favourite wines tasted on this warm, sunny day is the fresh, floral/lemony 2017 Iconoclast Sauvignon Blanc Semillon. Creekside also has one of the best winery dining options in Niagara. The deck is always busy as visitors dine on amazing food by Chef Ross Midgley. Another point of interest is the underground barrel cellar at Creekside.
It’s about now that I sense the basis for the name of the bus. For the third time, just as I mention that the bus should be along at any minute, we hear the rumble of the engine as it turns into the lot. I mean, it appears just like magic — do you believe in magic? Our trip back to the boarding depot is filled with positive remarks about the tour and the sharing of which wines we loved and purchased. It was, after all, a purely magical day in Niagara.
Please see link below for tour information and tickets.