On Saturday, January 20, I visited Niagara to taste a few food & Icewine pairings as part of the Discover Pass Experience that was available at participating wineries throughout Niagara during the annual Icewine Festival. The weather turned out to be great on this day - mostly sunny, albeit a little on the chilly side. In all, we visited four wineries across the region and enjoyed some very tasty food & Icewine pairings, as well as tasted a few other wines at the tasting bar.
We began the day at Hernder Estate Wines for their award-winning 2013 Cabernet Franc Icewine paired with a generous bag of salted caramel chocolate brittle. The pairing was delicious and really showed how well chocolate can be paired with Icewine. The bright acids in the Icewine helped balance the creamy chocolate, while the salted caramel added interest to the pairing. It was a sweet pairing, but the salt in the brittle and the lively acids in the Icewine together helped keep the pairing from being cloying on the palate. This was very well executed!
For our second stop of the day, we went to Niagara College Teaching Winery for a delectable S'More Fudge Brownie that was filled with marshmallows and paired with their 2013 Niagara College Dean's List Savant Icewine (88 pts, $40 / 200 mL). The fudge brownie square was of generous proportions and very flavourful, with hidden marshmallows offering a nice element of surprise. The Icewine was luscious and sweet, but the fudge brownie was even sweeter and actually overpowered the wine, leaving only chocolate and marshmallow flavours in the mouth.
Our third stop of the day was at Inniskillin Wines to enjoy Southern Fried Chicken on a Vanilla Waffle topped with Cocoa Icewine Hot Sauce and paired with their 2016 Inniskillin Vidal Sparkling Icewine (reviewed below). First off, the Sparkling Icewine was delicious and sweet, but not cloying due to it's effervescence. The fried chicken was served a bit cold, but otherwise tasty, and combined ith the waffle made for a delicious treat. However, it was the Cocoa Icewine Hot Sauce that really brightened up this pairing as it helped balance the Icewine and made the pairing complete. I would love to try this culinary creation at home!
The fourth and final stop of the day was at Peller Estates Winery, where at this time of the year they always seem to do Icewine Marshmallows paired with one their delicious Icewines. This year, Winery Chef and CityLine personality Jason Parsons is pairing his famous Icewine Marshmallows with Cabernet Franc Icewine. Although the Icewine is (always) delicious, this pairing is really about the experience, as you are outside on the patio, overlooking the vineyards amidst the cool air while roasting your own marshmallow over an open fire. This can be a somewhat messy experience, and you might smell like smoke afterwards, but it was a lot of indulgent fun! After the marshmallow & Icewine pairing, we headed inside for a private tasting of a few Peller Estates wines. Tip: Do any wine tastings first, then head outside to roast your marshmallow.
All in all, I was very satisfied with my first trip of the year to Niagara to celebrate Icewine Fest. Tasting notes of some of my favourite wines tasted on this day are posted below. The stop that was the overwhelming favourite was our visit to Hernder Estate Wines, where we sampled a variety of quality wines that were also very good value, including the Hernder Caluroso fortified wine that everyone brought home with them.
I also visited Niagara on the 27th, the final weekend of Icewine Fest, and a full review from that day will be posted tomorrow. This lovely event runs every January and I am looking forward to attending again in 2019.
Tasting Notes:HERNDER CABERNET FRANC ICEWINE 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) - $50.05 The medium-high intensity nose offers typical strawberry and rhubarb in a honeyed profile, followed by a touch interesting orange marmalade aromas. The pleasingly sweet aromas continue on the palate, which is a touch hot on the mid-palate. Acids are good, while the finish length is very good. Score: 89 pts
HERNDER CALUROSO - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) - $24.95 This fortified wine is highly aromatic on the nose with complex orange, burnt sugar, nutty, and caramel aromas. It's medium-dry (i.e. fairly sweet) on the medium-full bodied palate and very smooth, with a long, velvety smooth and nutty finish. Score: 89 pts
NIAGARA COLLEGE TEACHING WINERY DEAN'S LIST CHARDONNAY 2012 - VQA St. David's Bench, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (#040659) (XD) - $23.15 This has a medium-high intensity nose of sweet vanillin oak with butter, baked apple and pear aromas. It's medium+ bodied with nice aroma replays and a toasty mid-palate. It has balanced acidity and very good length on the finish. Score: 88+ pts
NIAGARA COLLEGE TEACHING WINERY DEAN'S LIST MERITAGE 2012 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $25.15 This is a blend of 43% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot, and 27% Cabernet Sauvignon from the very good 2012 vintage. It has a medium-high intensity nose that is pretty with ripe blackberry, cherry, sweet oak spice, earth, cassis, and a hint of sweet herbs. On the medium-full bodied palate, it has smooth, fine tannins with some structure, while the acids are mouth-watering. Flavours offer curranty, earth, and forest floor notes. The finish length is excellent. Drink over the next 5 years. Score: 90+ pts
INNISKILLIN KLOSE VINEYARD RIESLING 2016 - VQA Niagara River, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (D) - $24.95 Single vineyard. Medium-high intensity nose has fine mineral, wet stone, Flintstones vitamins, lime citrus, honeyed peach, and herbal aromas. It's off-dry on the palate with light aroma replays, juicy acids, and good length on the finish. Score: 88 pts
INNISKILLIN VIDAL SPARKLING ICEWINE 2016 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#560367) (S) - (375 mL) - $80 Open, fragrant honeyed, apricot, lemon citrus aromas flow into the palate nicely with fine mousse and lemon tart and peach flavours joining the party. It's sweet, but very good acidity keeps things fresh and balanced. Excellent finish length. Nicely balanced overall. Score: 91 pts
INNISKILLIN VIDAL ICEWINE 2016 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#388306) (S) (375 mL) - $49.95 Medium+ intensity nose featuring apricot, honey and peach aromas. It has a voluptuous mouthfeel with honeyed melon flavours that are very sweet. Gentle acids offer some freshness, while the finish length is medium-long. Score: 89 pts
PELLER ESTATES SIGNATURE SERIES RIESLING ICEWINE 2015 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) (375 mL) - $82.95 The medium-high intensity aromas offer ripe pineapple, lemon citrus, orange rind, and apricot notes. It's medium-full bodied with bright acids lifting the palate and very nice aroma replays. Excellent finish length. Score: 90 pts
PELLER ESTATES SIGNATURES SERIES VIDAL ICEWINE 2016 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) (200 mL) - $41.95 Medium-high intensity aromas featuring peach, honey, apricot and lemon citrus. It's full-bodied with balanced acids and a concentrated, voluptuous mouthfeel. Nice aromas replays, and very good length on the finish. Score: 89 pts
The catchy and interesting label of this Appassimento depicts Ulysses' (a.k.a. Odysseus in Greek) 10-year journey home from Troye to Ithaca. Every facet of his journey captivates the sense of discovery, self-discovery, and world discovery Ulysses experiences in those enchanted 10 years, including Lotus eaters, Circe the Enchantress, the singing winged sirens, the one-eyed giant Cyclops, the six-headed monster Scylla, the violent whirlpool Charybdis, his journey to the underworld to learn of his future, the bags of wind from Aeolus, and his 7 year stay with the nymph Calypso. Each tale embodies a sense of enchantment and delight, drawing the reader in, the urge to know and discover more. Let's see if what's inside the bottle is just as captivating.
Tasting Note:CANTINA DI NEGRAR APPASSIMENTO 2017 - IGT Veneto, Italy (#629865) (D) - $15.90 A Corvina-based blend made using dried grapes (i.e. appassimento method). Medium+ intensity nose features sweet spice, fig, cherry, and earthy aromas. It is medium-full bodied with smooth, dusty tannins and a juicy core with pleasing milk chocolate, cherry, and earthy aroma replays in an off-dry flavour profile. Some tannic grip arrives mid-palate. Nice balance throughout, with earth and cocoa flavours lingering on the long, juicy finish. Widely appealing style. Score: 87 pts
The Empress 1908 Gin is produced in British Columbia, Canada, and inspired by the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel, where travellers to Victoria have in fallen in love with the hotel's majestic grandeur, picturesque vistas, and incomparable afternoon tea service since 1908.
In particular, it was the hotel’s afternoon tea that inspired the creation of Empress 1908 Gin. The tea was made unforgettable thanks to the curation of an exclusive collection of seasonal, handpicked tea leaves that were blended to create the perfect cup.
This gin is micro-distilled in small batch copper-pot stills and hand-crafted using eight signature botanicals: tea, juniper, rose, coriander seed, grapefruit peel, ginger root, cinnamon bark, and butterfly pea blossom. In fact, it’s the pea blossom that was discovered in one of the Empress tea blends that imbues the gin with a distinctive earthy note, as well as its vivid hue with a stunning secret to reveal – add citrus or tonic and the Empress 1908 is transformed from a breathtaking indigo to a beautiful soft pink. Empress 1908 Gin is made in an aromatic London Dry gin style with a lush blue hue, and promises to make a regal cocktail.
EMPRESS 1908 GIN (#557470) - $49.95 Aromatic, lovely, traditional juniper notes with some tea leaf, citrus, coriander, and grapefruit. Quite balanced overall with a smooth, easy drinking finish. Some Empress cocktail recipes are available from their website. Widely available at LCBO.
Cucumber Mint Gin: 2.5 oz gin, 8 mint leaves, 1 slice cucumber, 1 oz Agave syrup, 1.5 tsp lemon juice, garnish with mint and cucumber
Empress Orange: 2 parts Orange juice, 1 part lemon juice shaken in ice. Gin layered on top and sweetened with sugar.
Tonight's wine review is an organic and biodynamic Chardonnay from Niagara that is also suitable for vegans and vegetarians. I enjoyed the 2013 Southbrook Estate Grown Small Lot Wild Ferment Chardonnay almost 3 years ago to the date (and still have another bottle in the cellar), so I am curious to see how this latest version will be.
This delicious white wine is produced by Southbrook Vineyards, a leading producer of organic wines and based in Niagara-on-the-Lake. While previous editions of the Wild Ferment Chardonnay were estate grown, this latest edition is the first "Wild Ferment Chardonnay" that uses grapes sourced from selected organic Chardonnay growers across the Niagara Escarpment, including grapes from the Saunders' family home vineyard in Beamsville. Individual vineyard lots were separately fermented wild in French oak barrels, and only after ageing were selected barrels blended to create the final wine.
This lovely bottle was just released this month and is available for purchase on-site at the winery, and will be available online through their web store very soon.
SOUTHBROOK WILD FERMENT CHARDONNAY 2017 - VQA Niagara Escarpment, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $40 Yellow fruit scented with pear, apple, citrus, and buttery vanilla notes in a slightly reductive style. It is medium-bodied on the palate with fresh and lively acids. Ripe and slightly honeyed on the dry flavour profile with pear, apple, lemon and orange citrus, and subtle oak spice flavours. Fine mineral texture adds complexity to the flavours mid-palate and lingers through to the long, juicy mineral and citrusy finish. Clean and elegant, enjoy this fine Chardonnay over the next 5 years. Score: 91 pts
It is produced by Rocca delle Macìe, a name that I'm sure you have come across at some point while perusing the aisles at your local LCBO. Rocca delle Macìe was founded by film producer Italo Zingarelli in the Chianti Classico area in 1973 when he purchased the 93 hectare estate to fulfill a life long dream. At the time, only 2 hectares were planted to vines, but along with help from his sons Sergio and Fabio, and his daughter Sandra, the estate now covers more than 500 hectares, 200 hectares of which are used as vineyards. The four estates Rocca delle Macìe owns in the Chianti Classico area all reside within the Municipality of Castellina in Chianti, in the southwest with very heterogeneous soils.
This red wine is one of Rocca delle Macìe's flagship wines from the Chianti Classico zone as only the best grapes from each of the four estates in Castellina make it into the blend that consists of mostly Sangiovese, and small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The label proudly bears the Zingarelli name in order to highlight the strong link that the family has with the Chianti Classico area.
Tasting Note:ROCCA DELLE MACÌE FAMIGLIA ZINGARELLI RISERVA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2015 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#930966) (XD) - $24.95 A blend of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Merlot that was aged in French oak barrels for 2 years. Fine aromas of oak spice, blackberry, wet earth, and dark cherry with a nice savoury component stream from the glass. It is medium-full bodied with fine-grained tannins and juicy acids supporting the dark berry, savoury, vanillin oak, earth, and cherry flavours. A touch warming on the mid-palate. Nicely savoury and earthy with some chalkiness on the long finish that ends with a nice red cherry note. Enjoy over the next 5 years. Score: 89 pts
On a cold Thursday night in November, I attended the 24th annual Gourmet Food & Wine Expo - a 4-day event that ran through Sunday, November 25. The first night was VIP Preview Night and attendance seemed a bit lighter than previous years. There also seemed to be fewer food and wine booths, but more craft breweries. Since my focus was mostly on the wines, I traversed the floor seeking some of the finest on offer and had a great time chatting with familiar faces en route.
Some of the highlights included wines in the Fine Wine Tasting Lounge, and at the Kolonaki Group booth where they featured many lovely Greek wines. There were also some fine wines at Wines from Spain, Wines of South Africa, Villa Maria Wines of New Zealand, and Grenache Wines booths. Here are some of my favourites from the show. All of these wines are available via the LCBO unless otherwise noted. Thank you Foodies on Foot for the tickets I won through their online contest!
CHAMPAGNE CUVÉE CARBON BRUT - AC, France (XD) - $350 92 pts The official Champagne of Formula 1. Exclusive bottle wrapped in carbon looks awesome! Available via Bianchi & Nero.
VIDAL LEGACY CHARDONNAY 2016 - Hawkes Bay, New Zealand (#570895) (XD) - $60 93 pts
Palatine Hills Estate Winery has some of the area's oldest vineyards which are nestled among the historic hills of beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake. The property has been carefully cultivated over the past 40 years by John and Barbara Neufeld. In the early years, they were among the first wine growers in Niagara amd John Sr. was Chair of the Grape Growers of Ontario. Over time, they learned to master the art of grape growing and recognized that winemaking begins in the vineyard, a core principle of the winery.
Today, Palatine Hills is still family owned & operated, going on two generations of the Neufeld family that shares their passion of the winery's soil. As in the past, they aim to continue to maintain the same respect and awe for their land they had first discovered, knowing that it is truly expressed in the fruits of their labour.
Tasting Note:PALATINE HILLS NEUFELD VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2016 - VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (#577742) (XD) - $24.95 Very ripe on the nose with mango, baked apple, vanilla, and sweet oak aromas in the glass. It is medium-bodied on the palate with oak-driven baked apple, buttery vanilla, banana and hints of citrus flavours. A touch of smoke and walnut notes appear on the juicy finish, with good length. Score: 87 pts
On Sunday night, I opened up this lovely red wine that was recently featured as an Illustrious Italian wine and released into LCBO VINTAGES on October 27.
It is produced by Palazzo estate, a winery located on the picturesque south-eastern slope of Montalcino at an altitude of 320 metres above sea level that was purchased by the Loia/Palazzo family in 1983. Soon after the purchase, Cosimo Loia and his wife Antoinette Palazzo discovered that some of the land is of Eocene origin, arid and rocky - ideal for planting vines. Today, the estate covers an area of approximately 15 hectares, of which 4 hectares are devoted to vineyards and 3 hectares to olive trees.
In 1986, along with their children they began producing wine. Since the vines were still young, they were devoted to the production of Rosso di Montalcino. But in 1995, the vines reached nine years of age, at which point they could finally harvest the grapes, and after a few years of oak ageing, produce their first vintage of Brunello.
The entire production, including farming, harvesting, vinification, ageing and marketing is managed by the Loia family, along with the help of consulting oenologist Fabrizio Ciufoli. Over the years, the Loia-Palazzo family and cellar has grown, and above all, the quality of the wines - including this Brunello - have achieved a high level of excellence.
Tasting Note:PALAZZO BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2013 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#660746) (XD) - $69.95 Hand-harvested, 100% Sangiovese Grosso that spent 3 years in barrel. Complex, medium-high intensity aromatics offer dark berry, cherry, and mineral aromas layered on top of oak spice and earth. It is full-bodied, spicy and fresh and on the palate with drying tannins. Lovely cherry, leather, oak spice, pepper and a hint of floral on the flavour profile. Mouth-watering acids. Some warmth mid-palate continues through to the long finish, giving way to wood spice, earth, and cherry flavours. Approachable now, but better in a few years and will age for at least a decade. Lovely Brunello! Score: 93 pts