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Thursday, January 24, 2013

2013 Niagara Icewine Festival Review




Niagara Icewine Festival logo
we enjoyed another very good (and sweet!) weekend in Niagara for the 18th Annual Icewine Festival. Our small group visited 4 wineries on Saturday in Niagara-on-the-Lake, then headed to the Icewine Village to check out the very large ice sculpture and taste some more Icewine and treats.

Our group started off the tour at Niagara College Teaching Winery to sample their 2010 Cabernet Franc Icewine paired with a salted caramel cheesecake. This pairing was an absolute delight as the caramel flavours from the cheesecake complemented the Icewine very well, while the extra cheese from the cheesecake balanced the acidity from the Icewine just right. This was definitely my favourite pairing of the day! Full reviews of the wines tasted during this visit will be posted at a later date.

Winery Tour @ Château des Charmes

The second stop on our tour was Château des Charmes for a tour of their facilities and to learn a bit about the winemaking process, followed by a structured tasting of 3 VQA wines. Following the tour, we partook in their Discovery Pass Experience to enjoy their fabulous 2009 Riesling Icewine paired with shrimp topped with a mango salsa. The shrimp offering did seem different than advertised, but was nonetheless fresh and tasty. An enjoyable pairing, but this Icewine is one of the best around and was the star in this pairing.

Our third stop of the afternoon was Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery for their 2008 Proprietors' Reserve Vidal Icewine paired with a creamy East Coast Lobster Bisque. This was a very popular item as evidenced by lineup when we arrived. While the Icewine was not much to speak of on its own, its creamy mouthfeel did allow it to pair beautifully with the bisque that actually contained pieces of lobster. I could have easily eaten a couple of full-size bowls of the bisque - it was delicious!

Icewine Marshmallows @ Peller Estates

And last, but not least, we visited Peller Estates Winery for an Icewine Marshmallow paired with not one, but two Icewines. Lots of sweet, sweet goodness from the roasted-over-an-open-fire marshmallow and the Vidal and Vidal Oak Aged Icewines made this a heavenly (and slightly messy) experience. My wife and I returned later in the evening for a 5-course tasting menu dinner courtesy of a DINE Magazine contest. More on this in another post.

Nut Cluster in a Chocolate Cup
That concluded our visit to the wineries on Saturday. Our group now headed off to the Icewine Village in the historic town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, where a block of Queen St. was closed off and became pedestrian-only. There were quite a few tents, many delicious Icewines to taste, and even a few food samples to try. Portable heaters scattered throughout kept attendees warm when they were not by the Icewine booths, and were sparse enough to keep the large ice sculpture from melting more quickly. Regarding food samples, there were many beef and pork items, and not much of anything else. I did enjoy the Thai shrimp soup and the cluster of nuts in a chocolate cup. If you're planning on heading to the Icewine Village this weekend (Jan. 26-27), check the weather forecasts and news sources to ensure that the Village is in fact open, because it was closed on Sunday (Jan. 20) due to severe high winds.

On Sunday, we got off to an unexpected early start at Coyote's Run Estate Winery to enjoy their 2008 Riesling Icewine paired with a lightly spiced coconut curried chicken on Kaffir-scented Jasmine rice. This was a nice pairing, but the Icewine would have held up well against a (preferred) slightly spicier curried chicken that had more fuller flavours.

Deconstructed Icewine Crème Brûlée @ Strewn
The next winery on our list was Strewn Winery to try a 'deconstructed' Icewine crème brûlée with maple-oat crunch and pomegranate with their 2010 Select Late Harvest Vidal. I wouldn't have called this dessert item a "crème brûlée", but it was very good, light, not too sweet and matched the sweetness from the Vidal very nicely. Definitely two "thumbs up" on this one. I wouldn't mind getting the recipe of this dessert as it seems relatively simple to make and would likely go over well at gatherings.

Get Schooled in Cool @ Riverview with Angela Kasimos
Our next stop was to "Get Schooled in Cool" - a 60 minute tasting event hosted by Winemaker Angela Kasimos at Riverview Cellars Estate Winery, who talked about the Icewine-making process and took everyone through a tasting of 4 of their dessert wines. The session was quite informative and the wines were delicious! It's quite the experience to meet the Winemaker and hear everything from their perspective. Since we had arrived at Riverview a bit early, we also had the chance to sample their Discovery Pass offering - skewers of strawberries and bananas, and a homemade cranberry-cinnamon biscotti - all dipped in a Belgian chocolate fountain. Yum!

Next, we headed to Twenty Valley to visit Tawse Winery and taste their Riesling Icewine paired with an artisanal cheese, and Cabernet Icewine paired with PC specialty chocolates. Both pairings were quite good as the cheese cut into the Riesling Icewine very well, while the chocolates complemented the flavours from the Cabernet Icewine very nicely. Both Icewines are also very good on their own!

Dark Chocolate Brownie with Spicy Frosting

The final stop of our trip to Niagara was at Fielding Estate Winery where we had a decadent, dark chocolate brownie topped with our choice of either a sweet or spicy chocolate frosting. I opted for the spicy version and didn't regret it. It was different, and enjoyable - I would definitely have it again (we brought the recipe back). It was first paired with their 2010 Merlot, followed by their 2010 Vidal Icewine. Both pairings produced lots of spicy sensations.

If you were tempted by any of the above, keep in mind that the Icewine Festival is running one more weekend (Jan. 26-27). Wineries will be offering their Discovery Pass Experiences. The Icewine Village may or may not be open - do check prior to heading there. The weather looks like it will be cold, but sunny with some clouds. My reviews of the wines tasted over the weekend will be available in a future post. Stay tuned...

Thank you to everyone that attended my tour and I hope you will join me again in the Spring for the New Vintage Festival. As with this tour, space will be limited. One member of our group was my Twitter friend Krista Lamb. She has her own blog titled "Upkeep", where she muses about wine, body and soul. Here is her awesome review of our tour and the Icewine Festival.

View the gallery of photos.



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