By Tas Fraser
I ventured out to the lovely land of Niagara-on-the-Lake recently, packed some friends in my little car and embarked on a cider adventure to Small Talk Vineyards, home of Shiny Apple Cider.
Small Talk Vineyards is located about one hour from Toronto and 20 minutes from the heart of Niagara Falls. Now, I know what you’re thinking … cider? At a vineyard? YES, indeed, cider at a winery.
Note: To learn more about our new Ontario cider contributor, see bio at the end of this post.
Fun fact: cider is more like wine than it is beer (unless adding the hops, of course). This is due to the way cider is made and the fermentation of the fruit (grapes and apples) opposed to brewing beer. Even though many ciders have carbonation, it makes them more like a sparkling wine as opposed to a beer-like drink.
Small Talk Vineyards itself was first a fruit farm that opened in 1954 on 200 acres of land purchased by Grace and Lambert Hunse. The property was replanted as a vineyard in 1985 and wine was made under a different name. In 2008, eldest son Hank returned to run the vineyard. Cider is quite new to the scene at Small Talk and was launched only in 2014! The first time I tried Shiny Apple was in 2018, and now plenty of times since at various events.
Shiny Apple Cider’s first cider, the original, is a carbonated crisp apple in a green can (473 ml) with the unique geometric label. It is a bit on the stronger side in terms of alcohol content (on average for cider) coming in at 7% abv while many others are around 5%. The cider is made from 100% Ontario apples, and they definitely shine through in this cider. Shiny Apple Cider is a member of the Ontario Cider Association and upholds methods of traditional cider making while adding unique twists. In terms of what’s sold in the LCBO, you can find this original green canned gem along with the Shiny Apple Pinot Noir in the purple can (I bet you can’t tell what two drinks are combined here). The Rosé Cider, which is also on my to-taste list, is on the website and I hope coming to the LCBO soon, too.
While limited in what you can buy at the LCBO, at Small Talk Vineyards, you can try many more flavours and even take home a massive growler (like I did). As of July 2020, this is the current menu and ciders.
• You can enjoy a flight of four for $10 and even combine both wine and cider in the flight, if you desire. Of course, I had to try four ciders. My friends and I all got different combinations of the ciders based on our tastes, but I got the following: Shiny Strawberry, Shiny Spicy Pineapple, Shiny Salted Caramel and Shiny Peach. Out of the four, I went home with the bottle of Shiny Spicy Pineapple, which was the perfect amount of sweet, tart and chili heat. If you like floral notes in your cider, they have a Juniper Orange, which is another creative combination. Floral notes in cider are also quite popular this summer season.
In terms of set up, when you arrive you walk down a picturesque pink arch to the outdoor bar where the host greets you and shows you to your patio table. Masks are required inside the building if you are using the washrooms, so make sure you bring one. When I was there, they did have masks you could use just in case you forget.
The tables are also safely spaced and perfect for small groups. It was easy to chat, laugh and interact with my group and I felt I had enough privacy from the other guests. The sample cups come labeled so you don’t completely forget what you’re trying either. The whole outdoor arena also has great scenery for photo opportunities: cue Instagram! Some of my favourite spots were, of course, at their lovely blue writing wall, the pink arch, in front of the vineyard and in front of the big blue door.
Overall, I had a wonderful experience at Small Talk Vineyards and hope to return again hopefully when the world is in a better state. In terms of purchasing the stylish flavours you can’t get in the LCBO some of them are on available at online store here, where you can order cider by the can, bottle or collect some of your favourite wines and icewines. Shipping is free over $100, so stock up while you can. Shiny Apple Cider also has their “Insider Club” where you can get exclusive perks. If you sign up you receive four shipments a year featuring a 1L growler of a limited edition flavour, surprise gifts and 10% off merchandise. The vineyard does both tastings and curbside pickup Monday to Friday 11 am to 4 pm and Saturday to Sunday 12 pm to 5 pm if you’re looking to pop by.
I definitely recommend a visit as the area is filled with other wineries and close to many restaurants with patios. My favourite restaurant to check out close by is Johnny Rocco’s an Italian eatery only 15 minutes away in St. Catharines.
About Tas Fraser
I am a Canadian Cider lover located in Mississauga. I am the founder of @girlwithaciderreview on Instagram where I share my reviews of ciders across Canada, host contests and more. I started my Instagram in February 2018 and since have been able to taste ciders from Ontario as well as the East and West Coast of the country, network with other professionals and share my love of cider. I am currently hosting weekly chats with those in the cider world on my IGTV show Cider & Life (#ciderandlife). I am also the Canadian Cider representative for the popular cider blog @ciderscene, which posts about ciders across the U.S. and Canada and shares articles about Canadian cideries and beverages. I spent the last six years in the Niagara region and was able to enjoy beautiful Wine Country before changing lanes to living the city life. Outside of cider, I spend my time in nature, biking, singing, listening to/writing music, and travelling to see cool places and taste amazing ciders.