Travel: Georgian Hills Vineyards, Grey County

I recently had the opportunity to pick frozen grapes from the vines at Georgian Hills Vineyards in Blue Mountains, Ontario. Sounds a bit random, doesn’t it? I mean, who goes grape picking? And in the winter? I was originally set to visit the Georgian Hills Vineyards to enjoy a tasting and a snowshoe tour, but because the weather was just right for picking, I was able to join a group of about 30 volunteers to pick frozen grapes. I jumped at the opportunity!

The team of volunteers gathered around 9 am, and while we sipped on coffee and treats, we learned about the process for making Frozen on the Vine. This is Georgian Hills Vineyards’s brand of Icewine (the term “Icewine” is assigned and approved only to VQA-designated viticulture areas). Since the temperature had hovered consistently around -8 to -10 degrees Celcius for several days, the grapes were perfect for picking. Robert Ketchin, one of Georgian Hills Vineyards’s partners, explained that after the grapes were picked, they would be pressed right away to release all the sugar.

volunteers are ready to begin

grapes from Georgian Hills Vineyards’s Frozen on the Vine

Robert led us through the picking process. Each person was given cutters and a basket, and once our basket was full, we emptied it into a larger bin, which would then be carried away and emptied into massive blue bins by the Georgian Hills Vineyards’s staff. We worked side by side, moving along the rows, which resulted in a very social grape picking experience! I enjoyed meeting people from the area;  many of us were enthusiastic first-timers. Photos were snapped as we moved through the rows, and we were encouraged to try the grapes, too. Frozen grapes are such a sweet snack.

The green nets you see protect the grapes as they grow. We moved them aside, of course, to get at the grapes. We cut the grapes from the main stem and everything got dumped into the baskets. The grape press does not let the stems and leaves pass through, so we didn’t need to worry about being so perfect.

I wore many layers for this outdoor activity. I wore four top layers, wool leggings and snowpants, two pairs of gloves, my long L.L.Bean coat, big blanket scarf, and my trusty Sorel boots with two pairs of socks. I was warm. Better to be warm and happy than cranky from the cold when you’re out picking grapes!

We worked through rows of Vidal and Riesling grapes, and without noticing, the hours flew by. When we took a group break, we warmed up with cider, hot chocolate, and more treats. The Georgian Hills Vineyards’s team were gracious hosts and very appreciative of everyone’s time and energy.

massive blue bins of frozen grapes that are ready for the press

the press

winemaker Vanessa at work

the bladder (the black thing in the middle) pushes the grapes against the wood frame to release the sugary juice

the wood slats will come together as the bladder presses the grapes against them

This year’s sweet Frozen on the Vine will be bottled up and ready next year. I guess that means I need to make a return trip to Georgian Hills Vineyards to grab a bottle two of the sweet winter wine with the grapes that I picked this month.

Besides catching the “picking frozen grapes” day at Georgian Hills Vineyards, the winery is open year-round for visitors. Check out the range of winter experiences (e.g., snowshoe tour) and summer packages. (e.g., helicopter tour). In addition to the sweet winter Frozen on the Vine wine, Georgian Hills Vineyards offers white, red, and rosĂ© wines as well as a variety of ciders.

another Georgian Hills Vineyards sweet dessert wine – Ida Red – made from frozen apples (available at the LCBO)

I have many words of thanks today. Thanks to the Georgian Hills Vineyards team for welcoming me to this grape picking party! Thanks to Allison Davies for taking my photos! Thanks to Amanda P. and Grey County Tourism for arranging my trip.
See more of my trip to Grey County at #WhiteCabanaGoestoGreyCounty.

Travel: Things to Do in Collingwood, Ontario

As I mentioned on Monday, I recently enjoyed a relaxing time at the Scandinave Spa Blue Mountains in Collingwood, Ontario. The day was a full one, and I’d like to fill you in on a few other things I experienced during this mini-vacation.

As I mentioned, the drive from Waterloo to the Collingwood area is very easy and enjoyable. Driving the country roads is relaxing and beautiful. The route took us through the charming town of Erin, Ontario, and just as we entered the main part of town, we spotted a house painted black with cafĂ© on the sign – the Tin Roof CafĂ©. We grabbed homemade cookies and coffee (healthy way to start a spa day, right?) for our journey. I appreciated the design, and the coffee was well-made, too. I recommend it.

As we made it to Collingwood, we stopped to walk the main street. When we spotted a white bike in a shop window, I knew I had to explore. Turns out that the store – Leuk – was made for people like me. White, white, and more white! In fact, Leuk has three stores – a flower store, a cafĂ© and clothing store, and a furniture store – all on the main street (Hurontario St.) in Collingwood. I wanted to buy everything.

photo via Leuk

On the recommendation of a Leuk saleswoman, we stopped in at The Tremont for a delicious lunch in a design-y, French atmosphere. Marble tables get me. Every. Single. Time. I had a freshly made quiche and side salad, which I thought was an improvement from my morning cookie. The closer you get to a spa, the healthier you get? 🙂 I would definitely go back to The Tremont on a future visit.

photo via The Tremont Cafe

Not wanting to return home after five hours at the spa, we took the quick drive over to the Blue Mountain Village. This is the ski zone. There are shops, restaurants, and accommodations for all those people who love to ski. In the spring, though, the Village is a great place for a little walk. We were also hungry for dinner at this point in the day (worked up an appetite after all that relaxing!), and we walked around the sweet boardwalk to the Oliver & Bonacini CafĂ© Grill restaurant at the Westin Trillium House hotel. I had already known that the Westin was in the Village, but I didn’t know that Oliver & Bonacini was the in-hotel restaurant. The restaurant has a beautiful, modern, and welcoming interior, and the sun was shining brightly in the restaurant even though it must have been close to 7pm at this point in the day. Such a wonderful atmosphere! Here, I opted for a classic pizza margherita. Yum. I’d order it again. And one of these days, I’m going to stay at the Westin because it looks like my kind of place – regardless of season!

photo via Oliver & Bonacini

So, not only did I have an amazing time at the Scandinave Spa, but I also really enjoyed exploring a bit of Collingwood. I know the area has so much to offer, and while we generally hear about the winter activity options, I think now is also an ideal time to take explore the area.