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  • Friday, October 12, 2012

Niagara Wine Festival 2012 - A Review

During the last weekend of September, I had the pleasure of visiting the Niagara Peninsula for the 61st Annual Grape and Wine Festival that celebrated this year's vintage harvest. This was my first time attending the big harvest festival in about 8 years, so I was excited to see what's changed during my absence.

Discovery Pass in hand, we started off at Fielding Estate Winery for a smoked tomato & Niagara Gold grilled cheese prepared by August Restaurant. This was paired beautifully with Fielding's 2010 Cabernet Syrah, as the smoky flavours from the wine held up well against the somewhat strong flavours from the Niagara Gold (cheese) and smoked tomato. The live guitar performance definitely added some great ambiance under the outdoor tent.

Up next was a traditional wine & cheese tasting at Vineland Estates Winery. First up was the very soft and delicious Comox Brie (British Columbia) that paired very nicely with the sweet flavours from the 2008 Chardonnay Musqué. The second pairing was the firm, Aged Lankaaster (Ontario) that also paired quite well with the 2011 St. Urban Elevation Riesling. The third and final pairing was the firm Réserve La Pérade (Québec) washed rind cheese with the 2009 Elevation Cabernet. It was a balanced pairing with strong flavours coming from both the rind and wine.

Our Group

Our third stop of the afternoon was at Niagara College Teaching Winery. I was very excited about this visit as I had heard many good things, but never had the pleasure of visiting or tasting any of their wines. Led by Chris from NCT, we took in a tour of the winery and facilities - which I highly recommend as you will learn quite a bit - and followed that up with a structured tasting of a few of their Dean's List wines and some delicious Ice Syrup! I can't wait to post a review of these wines - look out for them shortly.

Structured tasting at Niagara College Teaching Winery

The final stop on Saturday was Montebello Park in St. Catharines and, while we didn't stay long, we did get a chance to taste a few wines and sample some food. The park was buzzing and quite crowded (much more so than I expected) and queues for some popular food items moved slowly while stretching back 15 people. However, patrons were enjoying themselves as they listened to 60's and 70's classics while sipping wine, as the evening cooled under cloudy skies.

On Sunday, we began our Discovery Pass Experience in Niagara-on-the-Lake at Pillitteri Estates Winery with a very generously-portioned grilled cheese sandwich made with sweet onion and 1-year-old white cheddar. Their 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon complemented the grilled cheese well, but a smaller/thinner sandwich bun would have worked better to bring out the cheese. What happened to the "shredding of 4 unconventional cheeses"?

Shrimp "Po Boy" at Jackson-Triggs
Off we go to Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery for a pairing of their 2010 Gewürztraminer Reserve with a Black Tiger Shrimp "Po Boy". Excellent presentation. A satisfying pairing that could have been outstanding if the shrimp was spicier to better balance the off-dry flavours from the wine. Warm bread would have been a nice touch.

The next stop was Hernder Estate Wines in Twenty Valley for some turkey bites - I didn't enjoy it. On the bright side, we did leave with Icewine Slushies, which made the stop completely worthwhile!

Cabernet Sauvignon at GreenLane
Since we were making good time, we made an unplanned stop at Featherstone Estate Winery to see if any of the sheep labourers were around and perhaps take a tour. Instead, we ended up doing a few tastings, including the just-released 2011 Cabernet Franc, which looks like it's going to be REALLY good! I enjoyed their 2008 earlier this summer, and the 2010 was one of my top picks from the Sept. 15 Vintages release. I also had the pleasure of meeting The Grande Fromage: Louise Engel - a very sweet lady and a pleasure to talk to.

Our next stop was GreenLane Estate Winery for some hearty gourmet pizzas, where the base was made of fluffy pastry dough. Really delicious and paired well with their 2011 Pinot Grigio. The pizza on pastry dough was a great idea that was executed well, and I'm sure will be replicated at our home one of these days.

The final stop of our wine tour this weekend was Tawse Winery for traditional cheese and wine pairings. All 3 pairings of cheese and wine were great. However, my attention veered towards the wines - as all 3 were extremely yummy - with the 2010 Sketches of Niagara Chardonnay being my favourite!

Detailed reviews of wines tasted are here.

Overall, I was quite satisfied with our visit to Niagara and believe our group enjoyed themselves too! Thank you to everyone that attended! We look forward to having you join us in January 2013 for the Icewine Festival (2012 review here).

View the tour photo gallery.


  1. Just wondering on the red wines. You mentioned there was a Cabernet Franc, but also a Cabernet Sauvignon. Curious how they are able to have it mature in a cooler climate.

    1. I think it has to do with the soil/terroir as Niagara does (in general) make a very good Cab Franc. Also, the Escarpment is a few degrees warmer than the rest of the region, which helps keep the climate 'warm'. And in the case of Featherstone, they tend to use 'green' techinques to help nurture the grapes, which may also help.


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