An Inspiring Wine Country Mini-break

Parmesan, Mushroom and Bacon Tagliatelle

On the same weekend every year, we hop into the car giddy as school children, wave goodbye to the ponytails on grandma’s balcony and head for wine country as fast as we can.

Can you think of a better way to celebrate our anniversary than with 24-hours of freedom? We got married in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, so we love to return whenever we can–especially on our annivesary weekend.

The Niagara region has been gaining a lot of attention for its award-winning wines in recent years. There are more than 70 wineries in the area and lucky for us it is less than two hours from Toronto. Would you believe that Southern Ontario is the same lattitude as Provence in Southern France? It’s true!

Ridge Road Winery, Vinemount

Our first stop on our getaway was Ridge Road Winery. It’s a boutique winery known for its hand-crafted, award winning wines. But I like this winery for more than its wines. Owners Jayne and Sean have been friends for many years–in fact, my first visit to this property was to visit Jayne’s grandmother when we were in high school. They’ve worked very hard over the past 15 or so years to make this dream a reality and now it’s a thriving business with quite a loyal following of Ridge Road wine lovers.

Sharon (the Sommelier), Jayne and my husband Kevin

Fortunately, Jayne was working that afternoon and so we were able to spend a couple of hours catching up and sampling their excellent selection of wines. (Sean is the winemaker.)  It was easy to settle in and relax in their cozy tasting area overlooking the vineyard. (Jayne designed the tasting room.)

View of the vineyard from the tasting area at Ridge Road Winery

Sharon, a sommelier who works there, helped us to map out our route for the rest of our trip by recommending some terrific new wineries that we should visit.

One of them was Colaneri in Niagara-on-the-Lake. This winery makes you feel like you have just walked into a quaint Tuscan village. Colaneri is known for its appassimento style wines, which are made from grapes that have been dried first to concentrate their flavour. You may be familiar with the well-known Italian amarone wines, which are made using the same process.

SONY DSC

We were running out of daylight, so we headed straight for our favourite place to stay in NOTL, The Charles Inn. The historic inn was built shortly after the War of 1812.

Our tradition on these min-breaks is to have some “house wine” in our room before dinner. We had a bottle of 1999 Brunello di Montalcino that we bought in Tuscany on our honeymoon. My husband still complains that his shoulder has never been the same since he carried all of the wine, honey, pesto, and olive oil that I insisted were essential souvenirs.

The restaurant at the Charles Inn is not to be missed. It is one of my all-time favourite restaurants and the food never disappoints. We enjoyed the tasting menu with wine pairings, which I highly recommend. The appetizer was our favourite: Mushroom and Parmesan Tagliatelle (the inspiration for the recipe in this post).

En route to pick up the girls the next day, we stopped in a couple more wineries recommended by Sharon. One of my favourites was the The Good Earth Winery and Cooking School.

Photos at The Good Earth Winery and Cooking School.
Wouldn’t you love to sit down to a meal at that table?

I was delighted to find this charming self-serve pantry at The Good Earth and couldn’t resist buying some (frozen) double smoked bacon. You just leave a note and drop your money in the ceramic canister inside. How cool is that?

The self-serve pantry at The Good Earth Cooking School where you’ll find flavoured butters, preserves/jams and double-smoked bacon.

Our 24-hours of freedom always comes to an end far too quickly–just like a good bottle of wine! So, I set out to make something with the ingredients that I had picked up along our wine tour: the double smoked bacon and some verjus from Ridge Road Winery.

Double smoked bacon and verjus

In case you’re not familiar with it, verjus is made by pressing unripened grapes and is a wine-friendly alternative to vinegar in salad dressings. It is also a great way to add flavour to sauces. Because it is not fermented, it is not alcoholic, so it is also kid-friendly!

Parmesan, Mushroom and Bacon Tagliatelle

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cups of a medley of mushrooms, chopped (I used oyster and cemini)
  • 4-5 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled (I used diced double smoked bacon)
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, stems removed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 1-2 tbsp verjus (I used 2 tbsp/see notes)
  • 1 lb dried tagliatelle pasta

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, saute onions in olive oil for 2 to 3 minutes, until softened. Add mushrooms, thyme, salt and pepper, and cook for another 4-5 minutes. Add cream and cook for about 5 minutes until it starts to thicken slightly. Add grated parmesan and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add 1 to 2 tbsp of verjus (according to taste). Add pasta and stir well. Sprinkle with bacon before serving.

If you prefer a creamier sauce, you can add a few splashes of cream to the pasta. Alternatively, you can reduce the amount of pasta that you make to 3/4 lb.

NOTES:

  • You can substitute lemon juice for the verjus. However, it is important that you use heavy cream, otherwise the cream will curdle/split. I used half and half cream, which worked well because I was using verjus.
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68 Comments on “An Inspiring Wine Country Mini-break”

  1. I’m going to remember this trip! I would love to visit these wineries and follow in your footsteps one day! It must bring back so many wonderful memories when you visit there! I haven’t heard of verjus before, but I’ll be looking for it now! What a cute little pantry shop too!

  2. Saskia (1=2) says:

    Lovely post Barb. Lucky you! Sounds like the perfect mini-break. Colaneri looks absolutely beautiful, as does the Inn you stayed at. Hope your husband’s shoulder is on the mend (nice way to hurt himself though… better than sustaining an injury from carrying out the garbage bins… at least it’ll be a reminder of your lovely trip)! The pasta looks delicious. We love verjus too, and I’m always on the look-out for new ways to use it.

    • Thanks Saskia. I’ll have to update the post to clarify that my husband’s shoulder hasn’t been the same since our honeymoon in Provence and Tuscany! Fortunately we were able to put all of the wine that we bought in the trunk (boot) so his shoulder was safe. Let me know if you have posted or can recommend any verjus recipes — as I still have quite a bit to use up! Is it well-known in Australia? There are still lots of people here who have never heard of it!

      • Saskia (1=2) says:

        Hi Barb. Verjus (or verjuice as we call it) is quite well-known here, thanks to Maggie Beer, one of my favourite Australian foodies. She has produced verjuice for many years, and hers is stocked everywhere here now. I LOVE it! My pulled pork with caramelized apples recipe (posted a couple of weeks ago) uses verjus; and I have an eggplant (aubergine) pasta recipe coming up soon which uses it too! Looking forward to trying your recipe too.

  3. A_Boleyn says:

    A terrific way to enjoy a mini-break. A winery tour is something I’ve wanted to do for ages … one day. 🙂

  4. Oh wow wine city my friend what an awesome experience 🙂

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  5. Scrambled Megs says:

    It’s so nice getting away. I have some really fond memories of when my partner and I went away to the hunter valley in Australia for a little wine tasting and fireplace + movie watching. Glad you had such a nice time x

    • Hi there! I found your comments in my spam folder. i had that problem a while back and I had to go through Akismet to get the problem resolved. My dream is to go to the Hunter Valley one day. Glad my post brought back some happy memories!

  6. Ali says:

    I do love a visit to the wineries (any will do!), your weekend sounds fabulous! And, congratulations on your anniversary!! xx

  7. Debi says:

    Sounds like you had a fabulous anniversary weekend. I love the wineries you visited so will be adding them to our list of places which must be visited! Thanks for the recipe which I will be making!

  8. Karen says:

    What a lovely anniversary celebration…I know that you must have really enjoyed the special time together.

  9. Eva Taylor says:

    What a great post Barb, it looks like the weather was fairly nice too. We love NOTL but haven’t been for an over-nighter in a few years…your post makes me want to go again (we kind of over did it a few years in a row, so we gave it a break!). We’ve stayed at the Harbour House (a sister Inn to the Charles) and it was exceptional. They used to have a wonderful tradition of wine and cheese between 4-6 in the front room. They served a house made cheese ball that was really tasty (I believe I have the recipe!)
    Not only does Ridge Road make excellent wine, they also have excellent wine bottle labels, don’t you think ;-)?
    This dish looks restaurant quality, very pretty and the ingredients…WOW! But I would have to reduce the cream…it would just be too rich for me.

    • We once stayed at the Harbour House and really enjoyed it. You MUST try this restaurant one of these days though…you really won’t be disappointed. Kevin has the recipe for some kind of cheese pot at Harbour House — maybe it is the same one?

      Yes they do have excellent labels! I thought about mentioning that but I didn’t want this post to turn into a novel!

      The dish is rich for me too (definitely a splurge)….as I was mentioning, I’m working on a reduced-fat version of the sauce…but I just ran out of time and energy before posting this.

  10. erika says:

    Gorgeous post! I love the look and taste of tagliatelle pasta, but for some reason don’t make it often at all. You’ve inspired me to make a dish with it soon!

  11. Norma Chang says:

    Happy Anniversary!!!!! What a memorable mini break. Your pasta dish looks yummy.

  12. That slab of bacon looks heavenly!

  13. Vijitha says:

    Happy anniversary and what a wonderful break! The pasta looks so delicious.

  14. petit4chocolatier says:

    What a lovely mini break : )

  15. musingmar says:

    I love Niagara-On-the-Lake and it’s simply too long since I’ve been there! The Culinary Enthusiast and I have been talking about a tour through wine country ever since we met, but it’s still on the list. It would certainly make for a wonderful weekend away.

    Your pasta dish looks so rich and tasty … a real special occasion meal. Happy Anniversary!

  16. Happy Anniversary! What a great little trip without the ponytails. Wine country, cooking school and beautiful views and your sweet hubby…what more could a lovely wife want? I think this dish is one even the ponytails will enjoy. Take care, BAM

  17. Tandy says:

    Happy anniversary! We also spent our honeymoon in Italy 🙂

  18. Karista says:

    Happy Anniversary Barb! What a lovely little trip and in such a beautiful part of the world. I love those little getaways… I think I might need to plan one soon. 🙂

  19. Karista says:

    Ooops! Forgot to comment on the food! Looks delicious! I love a good tagliatelle…especially with bacon!

  20. Sissi says:

    Thank you, Barb, for sharing with us such wonderful moments. You seem to have had extraordinary date 😉 As a big wine amateur, I am always glad to learn more about new wine regions and Canada is certainly not the country I know well. I have always thought Canada produces only ice wine, but not dry wine! You have really surprised me! Pity I cannot get these appetising wines here… I guess I must visit your country one day.
    PS Have I seen “double smoked”??? I am so crazy for smoked bacon, so double smoked must taste heavenly…

    • Hi Sissi!
      You are quite right — Canada is well known for its ice wines but it is also gaining notoriety for many other wines. Apparently a lot of our wine is being exported to China…but perhaps not to Europe. You really will have to come visit us one of these days!

      The double-smoked bacon was terrific. I’ve still got a good portion in the freezer for my next culinary adventure! Talk soon!

  21. Kristy says:

    Happy Anniversary Barb! What a wonderful weekend getaway. Niagara-on-the-Lake is one of our favorite places to visit. Now I’ll have a few more places to check out the next time we get up there. Looks like it was a great weekend! 🙂 I think I just might have to crack open a Niagara ice wine this weekend now. 😉

    • I thought of you when drooling over the lemon tart in Balzac’s coffee shop! It really is such a special little corner of the world — glad that it is one of your favourites. Just love the ice wine too! Have you ever tried the late harvest? It is really worth a try as well.

  22. Beth says:

    What a fun getaway. Happy anniversary!

  23. Happy Belated Anniversary and what a lovely tradition in a gorgeous looking place! I love mini vacations, especially if they involve wineries! 😉 Your tagliatelle looks so delicious, and you can’t go wrong with mushrooms, bacon, cream and parmesan in my book.

    • I seem to recall that you have a few good wineries close by as well Betsy! It’s such fun to spend an afternoon exploring a few wineries, isn’t it? The pasta brought together a great gang of friends, but it’s definitely a gang you want to hang out with on special occasions…because of all that cream!

      • Yes, we have quite a few up and coming little wineries around here…probably because of the poor soil in the mountains. Two of them have garnered some awards and have some interesting wines…Wolf Vineyards and Frogtown Cellars. It’s so fun to have them close by, isn’t it? 🙂

  24. Charles says:

    “Would you believe that Southern Ontario is the same lattitude as Provence in Southern France?” – No way…. ok, I just looked it up… colour me extremely surprised. I *never* would have thought that!

    Happy Anniversary Barb – what a lovely trip and lovely photos! Did you sneak a snack on any of the vineyard grapes? It’s the most disappointing thing ever. They’re absolutely terrible to eat raw like that. Not at all like the ones you buy in stores with the fruit!

    • I didn’t have any of the grapes Charles. The grapes had been harvested at my friend’s place and I was too focused on the photos at the cooking school where there were still grapes on the vine. I can imagine that they taste different though….

      Glad to have opened your eyes (and mind) to our local wines. You must come for a visit one day!

  25. Sophie33 says:

    What a lovely mini-break it surely was! I love mini-breaks like you do! I also love verjus.
    A lovely Inn & a great & tasty get away too! 🙂 Lovely pics too!
    Your tagliatelli dish is one I make often! MMMMM!

  26. I loooove wine holidays and for us (the equivalent here) would be a trip to the Hunter Valley. That was a fascinating fact about the wine region being on the same latitude as Provence, just goes to show that when nature put her roots in, (she knew what she was doing!)

    The inn looks so charming and I love the comment about your hubby’s shoulder after carting those souvenirs on your honeymoon. As for a 24 hr open pantry filled with smoked goods, preserves and the like, I’d just empty my wallet there (so it’s a good thing) I live on the other side of the world!

    • You really would love this little getaway! The little self serve pantry was so charming — I know you would have had a ball in there …and likely used up and spare change on hand! You’ll have to come for a visit one day! We’d love to have you!

  27. Awesome post! We have ancestral roots from that area…now I really want to visit!

  28. Oh stop it! You make me want to get in my car and drive straight on until I find a cellar door! What a great trip. You did so much in so little time.

    • It was such a great trip … it already seems like ages ago! I bet you have some great cellars close by you, and if you did a post on them I’d feel the same way. Oh if only the world was a little smaller — what fun we could have!

  29. Jeanette says:

    I loved the entire post; but, your pasta recipe really has my mouth watering. Bacon and mushrooms are a match made in heaven!

  30. aFrankAngle says:

    The dish looks wonderful … plus I love wine, but have yet to venture northward for some extended time in this wine region – but I keep hearing good things!

  31. […] you Barb, your anniversary post inspired JT and I to make our way to Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) this past Christmas for a quick […]

  32. Charles says:

    Aaah, thank goodness for grandparents, eh? Can’t wait until we live nearby a set of them one day! The Charles Inn too, eh? 😀

    Looks like a gorgeous place to have a break from it all… fantastic scenery! Hope you enjoyed the time away Barb!


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