I think I can safely say today was the first cold day of the year. One of those days when the wind howls through the windows in the morning and you try to convince yourself every which way that waking up is simply … not necessary.
With harvest wrapping up and my days in Niagara that much quieter, today seemed like the perfect day to cross the border and visit my good friend Eric Genau in Buffalo, NY. Eric and I first met some years ago when as a favour to a mutual friend, he hand-delivered a bottle of Cavallotti Barolo to Toronto for my 23rd birthday. (If I’m not mistaken, also the bottle I drowned my sorrows in the evening Ford was elected to office — but I digress.)
With little hassle at the border, I was at Eric’s shop in record time and strolling through the beautifully curated aisles, which cover the world in wine. A lawyer and avid outdoorsman, Eric began City Wine Merchant in 2009 and since then has become quite the purveyor of the finely fermented. Him and his small team of hyper intelligent New Yorkers could make anyone fall in love with the good juice.
Coming from north of the border, it’s always refreshing to cross into the un-monopolized land and venture from shop to shop, albeit simply trying to decide which two bottles will make the trip back to my cellar. With a bottle of Giacomo Conterno’s Cascina Francia and Luciano Sandrone’s Cannubi Boschis in the bag — Eric and I left the shop and ventured out for some old school Italian fare.
Nothing quite matches old school fare like some new school blood. Joining us for lunch was ex New Yorker come Buffalo boy Tommy Lombardo. The lovely young restaurateur left the southern bustle to come back to his family’s restaurant — Lombardo’s — to both general manage and beverage direct. With a bottle of Etna Rosso on the table and some Piedmontese papardelle, there was a firestorm of restaurant and wine chat.
Hours later, home and fiddling in my cellar, it’s still hard to believe that thirty minutes from Vineland, most people have never once tasted an Ontario wine, nor have we tasted the wines of New York. Most New Yorkers never cross the border to venture to our myriad of restaurants, nor do we hike down to see what our neighbours are up to. The bourgeoning Buffalo is home to so many young creatives, many looking to set up shop in a small-town feeling city where the rent is cheap, the architecture classic and the locals are curious.
A short drive from Buffalo and you’ll find yourself in the Niagara Escarpment wine region. Another hop skip and a jump and you’re in the Lake Erie region and the Finger Lakes. If you’re in for a road trip, you can even trek down as far as the Hudson River region and Long Island. Little did I know, these 5 regions are home to 1,438 vineyards, 230 wineries and an annual production of over 180,000,000 bottles of wine. That’s a whole lot of wine.
So if the leaves have all hit the ground and you’re not sure what to do with your gray November weekend, why not hit the road and discover some border booze.
Look for old school Italian producers like Rinaldi, Roagna, Conterno, Mascarello and Sandrone. Beauties that we just can’t get our hands on up here.
Make a point of also checking out some proper New York vino, such as Arrowhead, Dr. Konstantin Frank, Lamoreaux Landing, Anthony Road, Bloomer Creek, Red Tail Ridge and Boundary Breaks. When in Rome?
If the wine gets the better of you, have a Buffalo style nap at The Lofts on Pearl, The Lafayette or The Mansion on Delaware.