17 October 2011
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario: Romancing the Grape
Friday, October 7, 2011 by Toby Saltzman
In a world of intriguing destinations that can serve double-duty, both for nitty-gritty meetings demanding high-tech gizmos as well as charming venues for gala events or motivational team-building exercises, Niagara-on-the-Lake and its rural environs deserve recognition as an enclave of sophisticated grace.
Thanks to a mild, nurturing micro climate and soil comparable to the coveted vineyard regions of France and Germany, the Niagara region is home to more than 70 of the world’s award-winning wineries. Wine-tasting visits to some of the popular wineries are some of the most popular day or evening excursions for groups lodging in Niagara Falls as well as Toronto, Hamilton and London. For all their quaint country charm, the wineries are expert at organizing an array of highly sophisticated events.
Among my favorites for rollicking fun is the “Trius Art of the Blend” team-building event at Hillebrand Winery that turns everyone into a winemaker for the day. A pioneer in the Niagara winery region, Hillebrand (founded in 1979, and sister to the Peller Estates Winery) has won more than 500 national and international awards for its wines and ice wines. At this event – suitable for, say 11 to 150 participants divided into teams – Hillebrand’s wine experts cue participants in the art of blending wines to their palate preference to create one bottle of wine. For example, starting by tasting samples of three single varietals from Hillebrand’s traditional Bordeaux reds – say, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc – the team will blend the wine; bottle it; cork it with a hand-held corking machine; then name and label it. Then, the team will submit their bottle to be judged by one of Hillebrand’s wine consultants. No matter the winning team, the teams then duplicate their own blend for each team member to take home as a trophy of their wine-making experience.
With Hillebrand’s bucolic vineyard estate, outdoor patios and atmospheric spaces that include the romantic Trius barrel cellar (named after its international award-winning premium wines) and the Vineyard Pavilion with its wall-to-wall windows opening to the vineyards, there are several venues to host this event, depending on the group size.
Add the lip-smacking antics of people trying to create the perfect wine to a feast of delectable dishes created by Frank Dodd, Hillebrand’s award-winning chef, and planners have the perfect blend for a successful event.
Click here to read more