21st Annual Niagara Icewine Festival 2016 pt. 3

 

Niagara Icewine Festival 2016 Tour 1


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 first post of this tour is about my stop at Fielding Estate Winery followed by my post on my stop at Redstone Winery and I culminated my first day with a stop at Megalomaniac. My final and only stop on the Sunday, Inniskillin Wines, will be posted in the next few days.

Megalomaniac/John Howard Cellars of Distinction

Megalomaniac/John Howard Cellars of Distinction

From the Niagara Icewine Festival brochure – Megalo-Mixology-Mania … Icewine martinis are back! Megalomaniac is pleased to offer you three Icewine-based martinis. You will experience Icewine in three unique ways, as part of creative and delicious concoctions. Please call ahead for groups of more than six people.

Discovery Pass Tasting Menu

 
Another first-time visit, perched high on the escarpment with panoramic views, the winery with glass walled tasting room was abuzz as twilight crept in. Although the brochure notes said three cocktails, four were on offer. Under promise, over deliver!

  

Coldhearted Personality

First up was the Coldhearted Personality, a mix of their 2015 Megalomaniac Sparkling Personality Riesling VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA and 2014 Megalomaniac Coldhearted Riesling Icewine VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA (the 2013 information available here). Sweet and bubbly with aromas and flavours of sweet key lime pie and mango puree, a refreshing start with great balance between the acidity and big sweetness.

Vodka Martini

Vodka Martini was next up with Dillon’s Small Bath Distillers Method 95 Vodka, 2014 Megalomaniac Coldhearted Riesling Icewine, and a splash of Triple Sec and Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers Lime Bitters. The lime bitters added a layer of dimension to the backend, a twist on the classic Icewine Martini. More Triple Sec at the start, transitioning through the Icewine to the lime flavours, the pleasant aftertaste was reminiscent of a sweet lime rickey.

  

Cherry Vodka Martini

Cherry Vodka Martini followed, a combination of the 2013 Megalomaniac Grounded Cabernet Franc Icewine VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA and Absolut Cherrys Vodka with a few canned cherries thrown in the mix. This was cheery cherry, cherry, cherry! I spent a few of the summers of my youth at a cherry processing plant between Waterford and Simcoe, Norfood Cherry Growers. This cocktail took me right back there.

  

The Sweet Seduction

The finale to the martini tasting, and a very fine finale it was, was the Sweet Seduction. 2013 Megalomaniac Grounded Cabernet Franc Icewine VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA and white Crème de Cacao together created a most delicious cocktail. Big aromas and flavours of chocolate covered strawberries and Black Forest Cake. The ratio of liquid chocolate to Icewine glory was spot on, with the Icewine taking main stage and the chocolate singing perfect background harmonies.

  

2012 Megalomaniac Frank Cabernet VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

Putting my final taste of the day in the hands of Lauren at the tasting bar, I tried her current favourite wine on offer, the 2012 Megalomaniac Frank Cabernet VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA. The colour was a thin translucent red, revealing a nose of roasted green bell pepper and inky boysenberry. In the mouth the bright young acidity was balanced with drying tannins and upfront red berry fruit. A very fine expression of Niagara Cabernet from a warmer vintage, terrific now with potential for evolution over time.

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21st Annual Niagara Icewine Festival 2016 pt. 2

 

21st Annual Niagara Icewine Festival – 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 last post was about my stop at Fielding Estate Winery and after a delightful start to my tour, as well as the recommendation of Katharine at Fielding Estate Winery, my next stop was Redstone Winery to try their aged Cabernet Franc Icewine pairing and their Syrah.

 Redstone Winery

Write-up from the Niagara Icewine Festival brochure – It’s Gonna be ‘Chili’… Bundle up and join us fireside on the Terrace at Redstone to enjoy a cup of Chef Sider’s Icewine-inspired creation. A sweet and savory pairing of our 2010 Cabernet Franc Icewine with a Braised Venison and Dark Chocolate Chili is sure to keep you warm.

My first visit to Redstone Winery and my first time trying their wines. Somewhat understated on the outside, this winery with terrace and restaurant is simply gorgeous. The use of natural materials in the construction and finishing is beautiful. The Discovery Pass tasting was set on the terrace overlooking the vineyard below. An ideal setting save for the fact of the gusty wind blew over my glass spilling my sample. My cat-like reflexes saved the glass from smashing below and I told the sample guy to pour a bigger sample to prevent that from happening again. He did laugh, but didn’t pour a bigger sample. I retreated inside and took a seat at the bar to try the wine and chili.

 

A steadying finger to save this glass from blowing over!

The 2010 Redstone Cabernet Franc Icewine VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA had a colour of golden raspberry marmalade, a nose of strawberry compote and a slight whisper of sherry rancio, and flavours of strawberry rhubarb tart with a pleasant sweetness balanced gently by the tart, low acidity finish. A fine example of an Ontario Icewine with some age and maturation, with secondary and tertiary aromas at play. The chili on its own was big in its flavours of chili powder and cumin but overpowered the delicate nuances of the Icewine, turning it too acidic when tasted together. I can appreciate the intention of the sweet/savoury pairing but it just didn’t jive for me. While looking through the menus as I tasted my Icewine and chili I saw Fried Chicken Skins and thought to myself that it would be a crime to not try them. My favourite food item from the weekend, the crispy battered skins served with a garlic and lemon dipping sauce were exceptional, nicely seasoned with a spice rub with similar flavours as the chili. I will be back just for a double order of the Fried Chicken Skins! The Cabernet Farnc Icewine matched nicely with the fried chicken skins, both very indulgent in their own right, together the sweet and grease was an extravegent pleasure.

 

Selections from the Lunch menu

 

Fried Chicken Skins – Amazing!

Katharine from Fielding recommended the Syrahs from Redstone so I tasted what they had on offer, their 2011 and 2012 that was just being released.

 

Redstone Winery 2011/2012 Syrah

The 2011 Redstone Syrah VQA Lincoln Lakeshore VQA Redstone Vineyard was a pink crimson in the glass with aromas of tart red sour cherry and a light floral note. In the mouth there was still some tannic grip from the young tannins with finesse and crisp acidity on the pepper finish.

Jelena at the tasting bar poured a sample of the 2012 Redstone Syrah VQA Lincoln Lakeshore VQA Redstone Vineyard, a warmer vintage in the Niagara Region compared to the 2011. The colour was similar to the 2011 with a little purple added into the pink crimson. The nose was cooked red fruit and sun-baked brick, replayed on the palate with brickish tannins, a rustic yet smooth and juicy finish. I found the 2012 more masculine in nature than the more feminine 2011.

With a small sip left in each glass I combined the two for my own special Redstone Syrah blend and was pleasantly satisfied with the results, an Ontario Syrah that hit on all notes, the big fruit from the warmer 2012 and the delicate floral notes from the 2011. Truly a case where the sum is greater than the parts, the 2011/2012 was exceptional with ultimate balance and great harmony.

 

 

 

 

21st Annual Niagara Icewine Festival 2016

Four fabulous winery stops for the Niagara Icewine Festival

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 Winery, Redstone Winery, Megalomaniac/John Howard Cellars of Distinction and Inniskillin Wines. My first post is about my stop at Fielding Estate Winery with the other stops to be posted over the next few days.

 

Icewine and nachos, a fantastic pairing!

 Fielding Estate Winery

Write-up from the Niagara Icewine Festival brochure – Icewine Ole! To celebrate the Icewine Festival at Fielding we’re serving up cheesy ‘Chile Con Queso’ nachos topped with crumbled bacon and blue cheese. Paired with our 2012 Riesling Icewine or 2012 Cabernet Franc it’s a fiesta not to be missed.

 

2012 Fielding Estate Winery Riesling Icewine VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

First stop of the day and my favourite pairing of the weekend. The 2012 Fielding Estate Winery Riesling Icewine VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA colour was a bright golden yellow hue with a nose of candied apricots and pineapple jam, flavours replayed on the palate with a mouth-coating slight unctuousness, sweet with a light seam of acidity. I enjoy the classic blue cheese and Icewine pairing and this take with nachos gave a shabby chic playfulness with the added texture from the chips, a really nice cheese sauce and the pungent creaminess of the blue cheese. Simple yet luxurious, similar big flavours in each of the ingredients lead to very enjoyable pairing.

After the tasting in the tank room, I went back to the retail space and tasting bar to try some of their other offerings, specifically their 2013 Viognier, 2012 Syrah and 2012 Chosen Few high-end blend.

 

2013 Viognier VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

 2013 Viognier VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

Pale, pale faint tint of pale yellow, like clear water. Nose of peachy apricots, with some time a hint of candy floss. Flavours of stone tree fruit and touch of fresh lime, crispness from the cooler vintage year.

 

2012 Syrah VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

 2012 Syrah VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

Dark red, semi-transparent. Nose of brick pepper spice. Androgynous in nature, not masculine or feminine in style, somewhere either in between or outside. Fresh red fruit and pepper (green peppercorn?) in the mouth. Balance of fruit and spice.

 

2012 Chosen Few VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

 2012 Chosen Few VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

A blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Translucent crimson, clean and clear. Fantastic aromas of toasted marshmallows on asphalt and Brunswick Stew. Vibrantly youthful in its tannic crispness, the dark fruit is balanced by the other big flavours that march across the palate. Drinking very well now, great potential for more to evolve from this wine.

Rotary Club of Palgrave 18th Annual Wines of the World

Rotary Club of Palgrave 18th Annual Wines of the World

Rotary Club of Palgrave 18th Annual Wines of the World

On Saturday June 6, 2015 I was privileged to attend the 18th Annual Wines of the World event held by the Rotary Club of Palgrave on the picturesque grounds of the EMG Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park, Palgrave Caledon. A cool breeze complimented the Caledon sunset with another sold-out offering of wines from around the world. Below are my abbreviated notes on what I had the chance to try with my focus on what Ontario wines and ciders were on offer. The program was general in the description of the wines, I tried to get as much info as possible in the short timeframe this event ran.

2013 Errazuriz Pinot Noir Chile

2013 Errazuriz Pinot Noir, Chile

2013 Errazuriz Pinot Noir, Chile – lighter style of Pinot Noir with aromas rhubarb and cherry tart and tastes to match, balanced by smooth acidity.

2013 Epica, Chile

2013 Epica, Chile

2013 Epica, Chile – dark red colour with a brickish ruby and red raspberry nose. Smooth tannins with flavours of plum and cherry, low acidity and a fruity sweet finish

2012 Graffigna Reserve Blend, Argentina – deep dark red with aromas/flavours of spicy dark red fruit and slight crayon and a strong tannic finish.

2013 Zolo

2013 Zolo Classic, Argentina

2013 Zolo Classic, Argentina – ruby garnet colour leads to big expressive nose of bright red fruit (red plum, cherry) and a tannic finish balanced with acidity.

Graffigna Pinot Grigio Riserva, Argentina – thin and insipid, vagueness in flavour.

Downey's Estate Winery "Loose Goose"

Downey’s Estate Winery “Loose Goose”

Downey’s Estate Winery Loose Goose Gooseberry Fruit Wine, Ontario Canada – light and refreshing with a slight residual sweetness, flavours of fresh gooseberries, lime pith and lemon curd. A very refreshing summer sipper.

Downey’s Estate Winery Two to Tango Apple/Raspberry Fruit Wine, Ontario Canada – pale pinkish red leads to a nose of crab apple compote. Flavours of raspberry jam, apple jelly and a slight sherry note with balanced tannins and acidity.

2013 Silver Bay Cellars Pinot Noir VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

2013 Silver Bay Cellars Pinot Noir VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

2013 Silver Bay Cellars Pinot Noir VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA, Ontario Canada – aromas and flavours of bright cherry tart with a slight tannin grit and some brick on the finish.

2013 Sandbanks Cabernet Franc VQA Ontario VQA

2013 Sandbanks Winery Cabernet Franc VQA Ontario VQA

2013 Sandbanks Winery Cabernet Franc VQA Ontario VQA, Ontario Canada – translucent purple red with nose and flavours of ripe red fruits and a simple balance of refined acidity and fruit freshness. Excellent example of young Ontario Cabernet Franc. Enjoyable on its own, would match well with bistro cuisine.

2013 Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery Merlot VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

2013 Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery Merlot VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

2013 Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery Merlot VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA, Ontario Canada – bright red leads to aromas of red plum and cassis that are replayed on the palate with some wonderful toasted marshmallow notes on the finish. Balanced with bright acidity and tannic backbone.

2011 L'Evidence Bordeaux, France

2011 L’Evidence Bordeaux, France

2011 L’Evidence Bordeaux, France – big dark red with big alcoholic heat, aromas and flavours of singed red and black fruit with tannic grip and high acidity. A big, food friendly red.

2013 Henry of Pelham Family Estate Baco Noir VQA Ontario VQA, Ontario Canada – nose of sweet red fruit and candied cherry compote. Acidity in balance with a delightful fruit-forwardness, almost like a cross between Merlot and Gamay. A tamed brute with a smooth finish and complementary tannins. Excellent.

2014 Pierre Sparr Gewürztraminer, France – nose of lychee, rose petals and orange sorbet, replayed with flavours of orange peel and lemonade. Low acidity and a sweet finish.

2011 Cannanou Riserva Sardinia, Italy – bright red colours leads to a spicy red fruit nose and sweet red fruit, flavours of cranberry sauce and fresh cherries. Low tannins and an acidic finish.

2014 Café Culture Pinotage, South Africa – dark red with a nose of freshly ground coffee, replayed with sweet fruit, light tannins and refreshing acidity.

Spirit Tree Cidery 2013 Reserve, Ontario Canada – light and refreshing with tart apple notes, fine thin mousse. Would never have guessed it it 8% abv., drinks much lighter.

Pommies Farmhouse Cider, Ontario

Pommies Farmhouse Cider, Ontario

Pommies Cider Farmhouse Cider, Ontario Canada – a slightly drier version of the flagship Pommies Dry Cider with a gorgeous fine fizz, a hint of residual sweetness swept away with a refreshing acidic twang. This is my go-to cider for the summer, another fine offering from Pommies Cider Co. Simply excellent!

2007 Ravine Vineyards Meritage Red VQA St. Davids Bench VQA

2007 Ravine Vineyards Meritage Red VQA St. Davids Bench VQA

2007 Ravine Vineyards Meritage Red VQA St. Davids Bench VQA

A rainy late summer afternoon, the Toronto Blue Jays on the radio and the suggestion from a good friend to open a 2007 Ontario Pinot Noir. No ’07 Pinots in the cellar so went with another ’07 red, a 2007 Ravine Vineyard Meritage Red VQA St. Davids Bench VQA I bought for myself on my birthday in 2009 at the winery. The voluptuous bottle hints at the gorgeous nectar inside like a beautiful woman in stunning black dress.

Colour of opaque crimson with a whisper of garnet on the rim. Nose of juicy red raspberries, rain-dampened violets, white pepper, cherry jam. A symphony of flavours roll over the palate with bright red fruit of cherries, raspberries and overripe red currants, all sprinkled with white pepper. Balance and elegance in the interplay of seductive fruit and evolved tannins. Glorious, truly the sum is greater than the parts. Pure expression of the elegance, I wish I had bought a case…

2008 Thirty Bench Wine Makers Small Lot Merlot VQA Beamsville Bench VQA

2008 Thirty Bench Winery Small Lot Merlot VQA Beamsville Bench VQA

2008 Thirty Bench Wine Makers Small Lot Merlot VQA Beamsville Bench VQA

My beautiful wife wanted a glass of red wine to go with a steak supper so I told her to pick whatever she felt like from the cellar. Up she comes with the 2008 Thirty Bench Wine Makers Small Lot Merlot VQA Beamsville Bench VQA and I say to her, “Fancy-schmancy, nice choice! That should be drinking beautifully now!” Indeed I was right!

The colour was deep crimson with a slight garnet rim. The nose opened with spicy red fruit – raspberry, plum – progressed to show cassis and some leather with time. Mouthfeel was cool, clean and delicious with perfect balance of fruit and acidity. Flavours of raspberry, bing cherry, purple plum and a hint of leather. Elegance and character, each sip made me want to take another. Drinking very well now but still some life left for short-term aging. Exceptional.

2012 Vineland Estates Winery Cabernet Franc VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

2012 Vineland Estate Winery Cabernet Franc VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

2012 Vineland Estate Winery Cabernet Franc VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

I needed a bottle of red wine to reduce down and add as an ingredient for my umami paste that I make to put in my James Jackson Barbeque Signature Finishing Sauce. The wine, since it was to be reduced by 4/5, needed fresh fruit and balanced acidity, nothing overly tannic or extracted. Since the umami paste is an integral ingredient to my barbeque sauce, the components of the umami paste need to be of certain quality. I have tried a number of different varietals and vintages with mixed results. The 2012 Vineland Estates Winery Cabernet Franc VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA was the perfect choice to reduce and concentrate.

The deep translucent crimson colour hints at the nose of dark red fruit, cassis and leather. The flavours are lighter on the palate with black cherry and raspberries with an echo of leather from the nose. The balance between the vibrant acidity and forward fruit is bang on. Simply excellent, another stunner from the Ontario 2012 vintage. Go and get some (LCBO link here) before this vintage is no longer available!

2002 Lakeview Cellars Meritage VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA‏

2002 Lakeview Cellars Meritage VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

2002 Lakeview Cellars Meritage VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA

I have had this bottle in my cellar for years and have thought of opening it many times. I never really thought it the right occasion or something else would pique my interest and I would choose that bottle instead. Turns out that it is wasn’t me that picked this bottle to open, but my beautiful wife that finally grabbed it and popped the cork. Actually, cork would be a misnomer as it turned out to be sealed with a synthetic “cork”, not known for being preferred for aging wines.

After passing me a glass and asking, “Does this smell off to you?” I closed my eyes, took a big whiff and responded “It sure doesn’t smell on!” With trepidation and reluctance, I took a very small sip. Good or bad, I pride myself on trying to convey the essence of the wines I taste. The time spent in bottle definitely did not improve this wine.

With a nose of melting crayon, nail polish remover, and windshield washer fluid, the colour revealed no hint of brick on the rim, something I expected from 13 years in bottle. The mouthfeel was ultra-tangy, like licking a zipper with a piece of aluminum foil in my mouth. Flavours of rotten cherries, freshly laid asphalt, and spoiled dill pickle juice. The synthetic cork was encrusted with small tartrate crystals. In this case not wine diamonds, more like wine cubic zirconias. Thoroughly awful and repugnant.

Drive-By Stratus Tasting

Stratus Winery

Stratus Winery

After spending a night in Niagara Falls with the family, we decided to stop at a winery on the way home, specifically Stratus Winery, to pick up a bottle of 2012 Wildass Red as a gift for a friend. It has been a few years since my last trip to Stratus and I was excited to get in and try a few of their fantastic wines. With two kids in tow, I didn’t have a lot of time to make detailed notes on what I tasted but did have a chance to try some recent vintages of their single varietal offerings. Below are what I tried, in the order they were tried, the price of each and the notes I made. Beside the two bottles of 2012 Wildass Red (one gift and one for ourselves), I also picked up the 2012 Kabang Red, the 2012 Stratus Gamay and a bottle of the 2011 Stratus Sauvignon Blanc as that was the beautiful wife’s favourite of what we tried. I enjoyed all that I tried, each wine being distinctive and original.

Wall of Stratus Wine

Wall of Stratus Wine

2011 Stratus Sauvignon Blanc – $29 – Softened herbaceousness, slight grassy note, fresh and clean. A perfect summer sipper dressed in vintage Chanel.

2011 Stratus Viognier – $38 – Nose of closed flower bud and a hint of stone fruit. Flavours of apricots, apricot cookie – fruit forward with some bread/yeasty notes.

2011 Stratus Petit Verdot – $38 – Heavy tannic nose, hints of roses and wet brick. Flavours of dark berry fruit, heavy earthy brick. Brooding and powerful with an elegant finish.

2010 Stratus Cabernet Sauvignon – $55 – Nose of red fruit, flavours of red fruit with grip and still bright tannins. Young, vibrant and alive.

2012 Stratus Botrytis Sémillon – $29 (500 ml) – Nose and flavours both sweet and spicy with pineapple compote and guava.

2012 Château des Charmes Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake VQA

2012 Château des Charmes Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake VQA

2012 Château des Charmes Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake VQA

I was lucky enough to win a six-pack of VQA wines via a contest that Wine Country Ontario held in the fall. The contest asked to pair a local VQA wine with a pie and give the reason why it would be a great match. My winning entry was my Mom’s apple pie paired with an Ontario Chardonnay, such as the Château des Charmes 2012 Chardonnay. I thought the replay of toasty green apple flavours in the wine would work well with the flaky crust and spiced apples in the pie. The picture below shows the six bottles that I received from winning the contest. Eventhough these wines were won, I pride myself in writing the truth about what I taste (see my Chesslawn Vidal write-up here) and if any of these turn out to be plonk, I’ll write that up too.

Six fine Ontario VQA wines

Six fine Ontario VQA wines

The 2012 Château des Charmes Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake VQA was the first bottle from the six-pack I opened. From a great Ontario vintage, I knew that this quality producer made a great wine as soon as I popped the cork. Aromas of inky black fruit and a gentle spiciness from the oak. Flavours of black cherry and black raspberry with integrated tannins and a balanced fruit-forwardness from the time spent in barrel. Delicious and supremely quaffable, drinking very well now but experience tells me that this still has a few years left to evolve in the bottle and get even better. Grab a case before this fine vintage is gone and see for yourself how it will get better with time.