Most of the time, people visit wineries during the summer. I can’t blame them as seeing a vineyard in full bloom is pretty awesome. I’ve seen vineyards in France, Spain, Turkey, and Australia but I’ve never actually did a wine tasting session in any of those places. I guess it is pretty fitting that when I finally did do one, it was in my home country of Canada in the region of Niagara. And on top of that, I did so in winter.

While a winter visit means that one doesn’t see the lush grapes hanging heavily on the vines, it does mean that one is much more likely to snag a tasting session without a reservation. At least, I found this to be true in the Niagara Region of Ontario, Canada. In this particular region, there are little wineries all the way up to more famous ones, including Inniskillin and Jackson-Triggs. As I have this good/bad habit of rooting for the underdog, I decided that my visit should be at a smaller place, one that I’d never heard of. All the wineries, though, no matter their size, are hugely popular in the warmer months but since it was winter, we were able to just walk right in and snag a tasting session of any three wines for $5CDN.

Wine tasting can be as chi-chi or as irreverent as you want it to be. Though, it is easier to be irreverently chi-chi when you’re the only one in the room. And since my cousin and I had the tasting room to ourselves, we took full advantage. But no matter how chi-chi I pretended to be, not once did I do the swirl in the mouth and spit maneuver – why waste good wine like that! Sacrilege! They do provide you with your personal spittoon if you feel the need to do so, though.

If wine as a subject interests you, your tasting session person can teach you all about colour and clarity (hold your glass up tilted slightly to the light), tell you how to smell your wine (sniff after swirling the glass), show you how to check to see if your wine has legs (the wine’s viscosity and indicates how full bodied the wine is), explain the difference between aspirating and expectorating (I declined this part as I was not wasting my expensive choices!), and give you a newly expanded repertoire of descriptor words.

If you have any money left over from your wine purchase (and after you just tasted good quality wine after only ever having grocery store cheaper quality wine, trust me, you will be buying some bottles), Niagara wineries tend to have a shop on the compound where you can pair your purchase with fresh breads, cheeses, etc. Here was another reason why I was happy to have done this during the winter – less crowds. We were able to browse the little shop without jostling for space. Between that and the different feel that winter gives a winery, I do recommend a winter visit the next time you’re in any wine region.

How about you – have you ever visited a winery in winter?