21st Annual Niagara Icewine Festival 2016

Discovery Pass Tastings

I recently had the opportunity to head down to the Niagara Region for the 21st Annual Icewine Festival, my first time down to experience this event. I am a huge fan of Ontario Icewines and I was excited to use the Discovery Pass (still available for $40, more information here) to try some Icewine inspired wine and food pairings. As I was flying solo I had to be careful of my alcohol consumption and limited myself to four wineries over the two days I was down. One of the great things about the Discovery Pass is that it can be split between all the weekends that the Icewine Festival runs as well as between people. On this trip I visited Fielding Estate WineryRedstone WineryMegalomaniac/John Howard Cellars of Distinction and Inniskillin Wines. My final post from my first tour, here are the details from my snowy stop at Inniskillin Wines.

 Inniskillin Wines

From the Niagara Icewine Festival brochure – Northern Cool Meets Southern Warmth … Warm up this cold winter with our own take on the southern favourite, Chicken and Waffles, spread with our classic Riesling Icewine Butter. Enjoy this warm pairing with Inniskillin’s cool and highly awarded Riesling Icewine.

My only stop on the Sunday, a light snowfall added to the ambience of this classic Niagara winery. Inniskillin Wines makes one of my most favourite things, Sparkling Icewine, and I was elated to see they had offerings of both their Vidal and Cabernet Franc versions in addition to the Discovery Pass pairing listed above.

Chicken and Waffles with Icewine Butter and Icewine Hot Sauce paired with 2014 Inniskillin Riesling Icewine VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

Although listed as a warm pairing, the sample I got warm room temperature, not surprising considering the sheer volume of people through the doors. I’m a fan of chicken and waffles and this take with some Icewine elements added, in the form of the Icewine Butter and Icewine Hot Sauce, was a delicious mouthful. The 2014 Inniskillin Riesling Icewine VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA was a wonderful pairing with the sweet, salty and savory heat from the chicken and waffles. This Riesling Icewine was typical excellence from Inniskillin with a vibrant yellow-gold hue leading to aromas of golden ripe pineapple and honeyed guava, following through with a sweet and balanced punch of tropical fruit and a vibrant seem of acidity making this refreshing and happy, warming and delicious. The Icewine Butter was the key ingredient, adding a layer of texture to bring all the components into harmony across the palate, the sweet-salty-heat-creamy profiles all playing together nicely.

From the indoor tasting room to the tasting bar outside, I ordered the 2012 Inniskillin Sparkling Cabernet Franc Icewine VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA and went with the White Sparkling Icewine pairing, the raw oysters, instead of the ‘Smores offered with the Sparkling Cabernet Franc Icewine. I lucked out to get one of the remaining Fanny Bay West Coast oysters, and a Malpeque from the East Coast. An Icewine mignonette was offered along with generic cocktail sauce and lemon, I went with a splash of the mignonette on both of the oysters. Both were cold and fresh, tasting like the smell of the ocean with a tart sweetness from the garnish. I have tried the Inniskillin Sparkling Vidal Icewine in the past but had yet to try the Sparkling Cabernet Franc Icewine and was super excited to see it offered. Wow! The 2012 Inniskillin Sparkling Cabernet Franc Icewine VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA was outstandingly astounding! Served in a frozen art deco ice saucer, the deep reddish brown colour had a muted nose that opened up with the first sip of this amazing nectar. The delicate fairy bubbles whispered sweet nothings as they danced across the palate, revealing a cacophony of aromas and flavours: cranberry tart, barbeque ribs, peach pie, strawberry jam. I found this to be true happiness in a glass, effervescent excellence remarkable in its verve and function as pure luxury, a fitting end to my first visit to the Niagara Icewine Festival.

Patiently waiting to be turned into liquid gold



photo-56someWHEREness – OLD SOILS new wines

Tasting Notes from Trade Tasting held at St. James Cathedral Centre in Toronto on Monday, April 20th, 2015. Eleven wineries represented – around the horn it was Norman Hardie Wines, Southbrook Vineyards, Charles Baker Wines, Stratus, 13th Street Winery, Flat Rock Cellars, Cave Spring Cellars, Tawse Winery, Malivoire Wine, Bachelder Niagara and Hidden Bench Vineyards & Winery. A separate Late Harvest and Ice Wine table was set up with seven wineries offering sweeter samples.

St. James Cathedral, Toronto

St. James Cathedral, Toronto

Terrior, the french term for Somewhereness, describes the interplay of all the characteristics that make up a wine and how the uniqueness of individual place, type of soil, and varietal choice influence the final product. The Somewhereness experienced continued my belief that Ontario makes delicious wines that truly speak to their sense of place. Balance was a descriptor used to describe many of the wines tasted. Fruit and acidity, tannins and texture, refreshing and satisfying.

“Somewhereness is more than just an event. It allows us to recognize the particular beauty of a place. Since Ontario’s wines have just such a particualr beauty, Somewhereness celebration makes sense in a single sip.” – Matt Kramer, author and wine columnist, quote from programme.

Somewhereness Trade Tasting

Somewhereness Trade Tasting

I tasted whites first, followed by reds with a sweet and a couple sparklers mixed in. Also showcased were a number of artisan food purveyors with some awesome cheeses, smoked salmon, bacon and eggs, breads and preserves offered to compliment and complement the wines. Below are my short notes and impressions from what I tried. Some I thought would be excellent with FOOD and are noted as such.

Norman Hardie Wines

2013 Norman Hardie Wines Calcaire VQA Ontario – mineral witha  tinge of sweetness. Nose and flavours of apricots and granny smith apple. Summer sipper, light and refreshing.

2013 Norman Hardie Wines County Chardonnay VQA Prince Edward County – crisp fruitiness, zingy lemon pith – FOOD

2012 Norman Hardie Wines Niagara Chardonnay VQA Niagara Peninsula – crisp and refreshing, smoother than County, balance.

2011 Norman Hardie Wines Niagara Pinot Noir VQA Niagara Peninsula – floral and pretty, feminine power, excellent. My favourite Pinot Noir of the day.

Southbrook Vineyards

2014 Southbrook Vineyards Small Lot Orange Wine – a natural wine with no sulphates, may use very low (10 ppm) in bottling, cloudy pale orange colour gives way to vibrant orange swirl aromas and crisp blood orange flavours. Definitely unique, discussion about the predisposition to having a taste for a certain amount of sulphates from the trace amounts in most wines.

2012 Southbrook Vineyards Poetica Red VQA Four Mile Creek – freshly opened bottle slightly closed. Beautiful nose of red licorice, raspberry, red ink. Tannic, acidic, young spicy bite. Balanced in its power, still a baby. Decant for FOOD now, will evolve for years to come.

2010 Southbrook Vineyards Vidal Icewine VQA Niagara Peninsula – golden brown colour with a nose of caramel squares, sherry notes, caramel apple pie. Flavours replayed with slight acidity, not unctious and not thin but smooth. Sampled with de la terre bakery multigrain baguette topped with rhubarb ginger jam.

Charles Baker Wines

2014 Charles Baker Riesling Ivan Vineyard VQA Twenty Mile Bench – minerality and vibrant young fruit sweetness against a lemon lime finish and a dry acidity to end.

2012 Charles Baker Riesling Picone Vineyard VQA Vinemount Ridge – juicy and still young, almost jammy on the nose. Tastes of apple pudding and a lemon curd tart that fell in gravel, hints of petrol starting to evolve. Balanced acidity and fruit, outstanding expression for a hot vintage.

2008 Charles Baker Riesling Picone Vineyard VQA Vinemount Ridge – silky smooth with the same aromas and flavours of the 2012 with more petrol to bring it into a nirvanic state of equilibrium. The next evolution with more integration – outstanding. My favourite white wine and favourite wine of the day.

Stratus Winery

2011 Tollgate White VQA Niagara Lakeshore – nose of fruit and dryness with a hint of caramel, buttery and creamy on the palate with cardamon spice. – FOOD

2014 Wildass Rosé VQA Niagara Lakeshore – pink grapefruit aromas and flavours from this freshly bottled pink prettiness. Clean, clear, dry and refreshing.

2010 Stratus Red VQA Niagara Lakeshore – excellent, perfect balance of dark red fruits and bright acidity. Fine wine finesse that shows how the sum is greater than the parts.

13th Street Winery

NV 13th Street Winery Cuvée Rosé VQA Niagara Peninsula – fantastic nose of Laura Secord strawberry cream chocolates, fine mousse of strawberry and white cherry. Sampled with Fat Chance Cold Smoked Salmon prepared by Imant Malins, enjoyed the smokey fatness of the salmon with the fruit and acidity of the sparkler.

Flat Rock Cellars

2014 Flat Rock Cellars Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling VQA Twenty Mile Bench – nose closed at moment but hints of lemon pineapple upside-down cake come through. Lively and exciting on the palate with a luxuriously smooth oiliness, mouth coating then refreshed with acidic backbone. Great expression of Somewhereness. Interesting to taste a new, younger version from this vineyard compared to the 2007 I tasted in the fall.

2012 Flat Rock Cellars Gravity VQA Twenty Mile Bench – dark ruby with a nose of rusty beets. Flavours of red cherry, crisp red current, roasted beets. Smooth tannins for so young. Lots of potential for evolution.

Cave Spring Cellars

2010 Cave Spring Cellars Sparkling Riesling Extra-Dry VQA Niagara Escarpment – nose of petrol, lemon pith, orange peel with a mouthful of lemons and limes and vibrant acidity. Evolving mid-age Riesling with bubbles. You can tell it is a Riesling, in a good way.

2013 Cave Spring Cellars Dolomite Cabernet Franc VQA Niagara Escarpment – crisp nose of red raspberry, brick and clay. Bright acidity to balance the chalky stewed red fruit. Still a baby, potential for fantastic evolution.

Tawse Winery

2011 Tawse Winery Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc VQA Lincoln Lakeshore – inky purple goodness with a nose of black and red fruit. Finely gritty (good) tannins reveal the black raspberry and blackberry acidic backbone.

Malivoire Wine

2011 Malivoire Wine Stouck Meritage VQA Lincoln Lakeshore – inky depth in this dark and angry wine. Grip from tannins and copious black and purple fruit, leather and smoke. Serious and masculine. Lots of life left in this juggernaut.

Bachelder Niagara

2012 Bachelder Chardonnay Mineralité VQA Niagara Peninsula – mineral sweetness on the nose with flavours of crisp apple and lemon

2012 Bachelder Pinot Noir Parfum VQA Niagara Peninsula – lighter style of Pinot Noir with fruit-forward cherry on the nose and palate. Balanced acidity to the fruit. FOOD

2012 Bachelder Lowry Vineyard Pinot Noir VQA St. David’s Bench – balanced and lovely with light red fruit. Integrated tannins for so young, drinking very well now.

Hidden Bench Vineyards & Winery

2011 Hidden Bench Vineyards & Winery Terroir Caché Red Meritage VQA Beamsville Bench – blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. Deep and rich nose of black fruit and stewed liquorice. Chalky and youthful tannic grip with jammy black fruit. Big, balanced wine. Excellent. FOOD


2012 Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery Riesling VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

2012 Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery Riesling VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

2012 Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery Riesling VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

A guest for dinner and her request was for a white wine. A trip to the cellar and the 2012 Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery Riesling VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA was the first bottle I laid my hand upon. I picked this bottle up last year before Christmas from the reduced section at the local LCBO. I believe it was reduced due to the latest vintage being offered, not from someone returning 7 bottles.

With a light golden colour, the nose burst forward with bright zesty floral aromas. Lots of green apple peel, lime pith, and a touch of a floral (think just-opened tulips and daffodils) note. The flavours were a replay of the nose with vibrant green apple, slightly under-ripe pear, and a touch of kiwi and dried apricots. The combination of flavours and aromas gave the slightest impression of petrol starting to form, delightful and delicious. Complex yet simple at the same time, a truly fine example of a Canadian Riesling.