It’s annoying to have my health problem whenever we go cycle-touring in the wine regions of Canada, U.S. and Europe: I get easily drunk on alcohol.
You could say I am afflicted by a common problem that isn’t just confined to some Asians (although there is that stereotyping). My ears become quite red: fast like a supremely over-exerted cyclist after less than 6-8 sips of wine.
Either Red Ears or Tone Down Wine Sips
By drinking more wine, just to “harden” my sensitivities to the fermented grape, is not a solution. Not when already, I’m into my fifth decade in life. I still want a liver and control over calorie intake. Drinking wine often means drinking in more calories too.
Nevertheless, we have sallied forth by bike into the wine regions of Niagara-on-the-Lake region, Ontario; Okanagan Valley in interior British Columbia and on Vancouver Island. We have yet to taste the recent wines from eastern Ontario in Prince Edward County or south on Pelee Island. These areas developed their vineyards after we moved to British Columbia.
Wine Regions- A Heady Bouquet of Memories
We have touched down on some great routes and wineries with creative tasting rooms, good wines, restaurants and ambience that sometimes tie together the local experience into a lovely bouquet of memories.
My jumpstart into wineries, was over 16 years ago with our 120 km. cycling day trip from Toronto to Niagara-on-the-Lake wine region. Since then, we’ve done this trip several times different ways which included a ferry across Lake Ontario that ran only a scant 2 summers. We have also biked around the lake, as a hot humid bike trip in summer from downtown Toronto. Now, wine-thirsty cyclists can choose to roll on their bikes onto the popular summer weekend Bike Train service passengers from Toronto.
The 50 km. 1-way bike route from Port Dalhousie to Fort Erie, past the roaring Niagara Falls and Butterfly Gardens, is easy, if not also crazy-busy during peak tourist season. A more pleasant visit is early fall, with the blaze of autumn-kissed trees along the bike path.
During various different trips across Canada, we’ve stopped to pull out our bikes and puff away on short steep hills in the Okanagan Valley, Canada’s near desert-like wine region in British Columbia.
Favourite Wineries Blend Spirits, Scenery, Food and Artistry
One of my favourite wineries for wine, great food and valley views, is Quail’s Gate in West Kelowna which overlooks gentle grapevine slopes dipping down to Okanagan Lake. The winery’s location shows off the area’s sparkling waters, bright clear skies, undulating hills and winding roads.
At Summerhill Wines, past its signature upended wine bottle sculpture, is a restaurant that offers relaxation for a lovely meal and shade from the sunny dry heat –that is, if you can avoid the crowds during peak seasons. They once produced a white wine packaged in a blue glass violin shaped bottle which I’ve kept, after savouring its contents.
Though we have not yet travelled by bike to the following two Okanagan Valley wineries mentioned below, I can’t resist just mentioning them because of their unusual ambiance and effective marketing.
Blasted Church Wines are arresting just for its wine labels and its story of a carefully dynamited church in 1929 that was moved from Okanagan Falls to its present location that now houses the tasting room.
For innovative surroundings and something unEuropean, but deeply embedded in British Columbian identity, is Nk’Mip Wine Cellars which features aboriginal iconography and artwork in its restaurant, tasting room and grounds. The winery has been developed by savvy local aboriginal entrepreneurs from the Osoyoos Indian Band.
Can’t Resist Local Seafood and Blackberry Wine
What distinguishes British Columbia in vineyard visits and tastings, are also local salmon and other fresh large local seafood featured on winery restaurant menus at reasonable prices for high quality.
Whenever I visit Vancouver Island wineries, like Cherry Point Wines, I savour the seafood entrees just as much as the accompanying wine from their barrels nearby. Large scallops, spotted shrimp (unique to Pacific Northwest coast), various clam varieties and mussels, are often drawn from the Pacific waters. This level of freshness and quality most definitely, is not featured much in Germany at winery restaurants.
Ideal frost-snow conditions in British Columbia and Niagara-on-the-Lake wine regions, also allow pressing of ice wine more easily than Spain, Italy or France.
For locals or visitors, I cannot stop reminding people that Vancouver Island, is home of port-like blackberry wine varietals. Blackberry bushes bust out all over the land, if left unpruned, since they thrive in Pacific Northwest coastal balmy weather and rain –much to the curse of dedicated gardeners.
Wandering and Wine-Tasting Overseas
Further abroad, we have cycle-ventured into the Napa-Sonoma wine region in California (though more him, than me), bike-touched the wine regions in Washington and Oregon.
Since Jack’s family roots are based in the Black Forest region in the famed wine region by the Rhine River in southern Germany, we have cycled there for wine, food, and
picturesque villages while on our way to visit relatives. His extended family still has a vineyard and hotel inn with restaurant since the 1700’s. It is a region that other Europeans flock, whose home country lack wineries due to inadequate climatic conditions for grape-growing –ie. from Scandanavia, United Kingdom, etc.
I haven’t yet cycled France enough, to visit its wine regions. However, last spring Jack rolled through the Burgundy wine region but was unable to stock up on wine due to his heavy packed bike panniers. He really wondered if he would be able to meet his 80-100 km. daily cycling goals if he stopped for a swig of red wine glory. So, he blissfully spun unaware through some French winery areas that produced famed red wines that cost over $120.00 per bottle in North America.
So touring wine regions by bike offers many gorgeous vistas, an outdoor Nature experience married with cultural refinement –even if you can’t pack in much wine in your tummy or in your bike panniers, from your favourite winery stops.
Reading to Entice You:
Tourism British Columbia. Includes information on its wine regions, map and winery links.
Chong, J. Cycling for Spargel, Kirsch and Blue Painted Bikes in Black Forest Region, Germany. In Cycle Write Blog. Jun. 3, 2010.
Chong, J. Freiburg, Germany: Cycling Among Medieval and Renaissance Restoration. In Cycle Write Blog. Jul. 10, 2010.
Chong, J. An Idyllic Summer Escape to Vancouver Island for Maidei. In Cycle Write Blog. Jul. 3, 2011.