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Day Trip: Niagara

If you’re headed for Niagara this fall to check in on some wineries and their latest vintages–as we just did–you will certainly work up an appetite on the trek. So here follow two of our top recommendations for a wine tasting and a dinner to follow.

Oddbird St-Catherine’s

Oddbird–which started out as a pandemic-era fried chicken takeaway–has since grown up into the sort of neighbourhood restaurant that we all wish we had next door. The décor has a sense of fun, the cocktail program is superb (thank you, Stuart Laidlaw), and the smart, fast-evolving menu is–for real, and not pretend–heavily focused on local produce. It helps the cause to have a farm in the family (in this case, co-owner and co-chef Justin’s father Ray owns and runs Forrer Farms). But it’s more important to know how much or how little to do with it on the plate. And this is where Duc and his c0-chef Scott White excel. Consider this expertly executed and prettily dressed foie gras terrine. We fell hard for the qualis’ egg Scotch egg with its sausage meat swapped for boudin. Fresh ricotta and baked beets topped with crispy-fried kale tidily sums up the kitchen’s knack for focussed, uncluttered plates. A well-executed squab–roast breast, confit leg, local cherries–showed off good technique. And for all that, we know we have to go back because the seared foie gras with Forrer’s peaches left us too full to try the fried chicken that got them started.
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Leaning Post Wines

Ilya Senchuk’s latest releases at Leaning Post highlight his unending quest to explore the terroir of Lincoln Lakeshore. With this release, the Grimbsy Hillsides vineyard across the street from his winery — and closer to the escarpment — comes on stream, offering a dramatic contrast to his own Senchuk Vineyard, which is closer to Lake Ontario (within 800 metres).

2018 Traditional Method Blanc de Blanc: Only the second release of this expressive medium-bodied sparkler, which saw 36 months en tirage before disgorgement in March. Great seafood wine — mineral, bright, citrus. Remarkable value. Very good. $55

2018 The Geek Riesling: A successful and ongoing experiment with lees aging, this is 2018 riesling aged on the lees of multiple past vintages (2014 – 18). Orange blossoms, clove, tropical notes, and barnyard — some tannin action too. Very good. $35

2019 Chardonnay Senchuk Vineyard: Brimming with character, texture, and elegant ripe fruit. Pure silk, medium-bodied, with tropical notes and massive length. Pure joy. Outstanding. $50

2019 Chardonnay Grimbsy Hillside: The first Chardonnay release from this vineyard, and a stark contrast from the Senchuk Chard. This is wooly, medium-bodied, with spicy interplay (caramel) and a slightly bitter (though not unpleasant) finish. Likely in a transitional period at the tasting. The fruit is clean; it just needs some time. Good to very good. $40

2019 Pinot Noir Senchuk Vineyard: Minerally and structured, poised, balanced, and lip-smackingly delicious. From 40% whole clusters. Outstanding. $65

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