The first stop was Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery, where we once again arrived just as the doors opened at 11 a.m. Our host then led us upstairs to the fabulous Estate Lounge (which can be rented out for meetings/private events), overlooking the vineyards, where we enjoyed a private tasting of a fine selection wines. Reviews of many of these wines are posted below. Following the tasting, we enjoyed a delightful pairing of a savoury Upper Canada goat cheese and olive pizza with house cured lamb bacon paired with their Reserve Cabernet Franc Icewine. This sweet and savoury pairing was excellent with juicy acids from the wine cutting through the creamy goat cheese and the complementary flavours working so well together.
Strewn Winery was the second stop of the day and featured a warm mini waffle topped with Icewine, Niagara Maple Ice Jelly and Niagara "Apple Snow". It was paired with Strewn's 2006 Riesling Icewine. Neither item was very sweet, so they balanced each other quite well. Overall, it was a good, enjoyable pairing. Furthermore, the Icewine is reaching the end of its life and should be enjoyed sooner rather than later. We then moved to the tasting room to sample some other Strewn wines, including an amazing 1998 Vidal Icewine that was balanced and still had lots of life and energy - this was a very special treat!
Heading in the direction of home, our third stop of the afternoon was at Malivoire Wine Company. Surprisingly, in all my visits to Niagara over the last 15 years, this was my first ever visit to Canada's first gravity-flow winery. There were two Discover Pass Experience options at Malivoire, and all of us opted for the newly-released 2014 Malivoire Riesling Icewine paired with a decadent Blue Cheese Crème Brûlée prepared by Chef Daniel of The Epicurean Restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake. This was an exquisite pairing with sweetness perfectly balanced between the crème brûlée and the Icewine, as well as the bright acids from the Icewine meshing well with the creamy cheese that lay under the burnt sugar crust. What was most interesting was how the smoky flavours in the crème brûlée really intensified when enjoyed with the Icewine. Afterwards, Jay Dugale of Malivoire took us through a tasting of some very fine Burgundian-style wines.
The final stop of the day was at Mike Weir Winery for an Icewine Grilled Cheese prepared by The Yellow Pear served with the 2014 Mike Weir Limited Edition Riesling. This substantial grilled cheese was stuffed with Icewine butter, apricot jam Icewine, pear soaked in Icewine and a blend of 3 cheeses. There were certainly some sweet/tart bits in the grilled cheese that added some interesting complexity, but was otherwise a savoury, fulfilling composition that paired well with the medium-dry (i.e. a little sweet) Riesling table wine. While sitting comfortably at a wooden picnic table inside the Retail & Hospitality Centre, our gracious host at Mike Weir Winery, Grayson Riordon, followed up with a tasting of some very special wines that included a pair of 2010 Bordeaux varietal reds - reviews are posted below. Contact the winery if they are still available as they would make very worthy additions to your cellar!
This concludes my review of the 2016 Niagara Icewine Festival. All in all, it was a very enjoyable experience as we tasted many delicious wines and enjoyed them with some very fine culinary creations. There were no real surprises as the Chardonnays, Rieslings and Pinots were quite fine, and in excellent vintages the red Bordeaux varietals really shined. I didn't taste as many Syrah on this trip as I did back in September, but I am quite convinced that this grape will be the next big thing coming from Niagara.
You will find wine reviews of many of the wines I tasted on this visit. Most of these wines are available at the winery only, but there are a few at the LCBO, including some that you might see come through VINTAGES, so keep your eyes peeled.
Tasting Notes:JACKSON-TRIGGS GRANDE RESERVE GEWÜRZTRAMINER 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $19.95
Lovely medium+ intensity aromas that are floral with hints of rose petals. It's medium+ bodied with bright, juicy acids and lychee flavours on the essentially dry palate. Good length on the finish. Score: 88+ pts
JACKSON-TRIGGS DELAINE CHARDONNAY 2012 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#623454) (XD) - $24.95 (only $17.25 at LCBO!)
Elegant nose of medium-to-high intensity showing smoke, toasty oak, buttered popcorn and butter aromas. On the palate, it is medium-bodied with a slightly creamy mouthfeel and very nice aroma replays. Smooth and refined with balanced acids and a very long finish from this single vineyard Chardonnay. Score: 90 pts
JACKSON-TRIGGS GRAND RESERVE SHIRAZ 2012 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#317941) (XD) - $24.95
Aromas of medium+ intensity with bold, blackcurrant, blackberry, wood and white pepper notes. On the palate, it's medium-to-full bodied with crisp acids and pleasing aroma replays on the flavour profile. It has finely tuned acids and finishes long with currant and earthy flavours. Score: 89 pts
JACKSON-TRIGGS DELAINE SYRAH 2012 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#086553) (XD) - $32.95
Medium+ intensity aromas are somewhat shy, showing earthy, black pepper and red fruits. It's medium-to-full bodied with light, gritty tannins and very nice aroma replays. Well-balanced with good fruit concentration and very good acidity. Hint of mineral on the long finish. Should open up after some decanting. Single vineyard Syrah. Score: 90+ pts
JACKSON-TRIGGS RESERVE CABERNET FRANC ICEWINE 2014 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) (375 mL) - $59.99
Highly aromatic nose of orange, strawberry, cherry, along with hints of apricot and whipped cream which all make a very nice appearance on the medium-to-full bodied palate. It has balanced acids and good length on the finish. Score: 89 pts
STREWN TERROIR CHARDONNAY AMERICAN OAK 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#405530) (XD) - $25.15
Intriguing medium-to-high intensity nose of butterscotch, cinnamon spice, orchard fruit and floral. On the palate, it is medium+ bodied with very nice aroma replays. Well-balanced with a spiced mid-palate, balanced acids and a medium-to-long finish. Score: 90 pts
STREWN TERROIR CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $30
From an excellent vintage, this has medium-to-high intensity aromas of cassis, black currant, dark chocolate and herbed spice. It's full-bodied with very nice aroma replays and balanced acids. Drinking well now, but should be better next year to allow gritty tannins to soften. Score: 90+ pts
STREWN RIESLING ICEWINE 2006 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) (375 mL) - $58
This mature Icewine is highly aromatic with burnt caramel and sugar notes, along with hints of orange marmalade and apricot. It's fairly light-weighted with citrusy and candied lemon flavours and still has very good acidity. Decent length on the finish. Score: 88 pts
STREWN VIDAL ICEWINE 1998 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) (375 mL) - $98
Complex, medium-high intensity aromas of burnt sugar, apricot, spice and honey notes that also appear on the sweet palate. It still has balanced acids and excellent length on the finish. At 18 years old, this has held up extremely well. A real treat! Score: 92 pts
MALIVOIRE MOTTIAR CHARDONNAY 2011 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $29.95
Matured in two 4-year-old oak barrels, this has a medium+ intensity nose of pineapple, brioche, and some smoke, butter and pear nuances. It is medium-bodied with bright acids. Delicious flavours of Bosc pear, green apple, lime and peach. Mineral-driven finish shows very good length. Score: 91 pts
MALIVOIRE MOTTIAR PINOT NOIR 2012 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#125252) (XD) - $34.95
Medium+ intensity nose of cherry, strawbery, mineral and black cherry with lovely aromas replays joined by red cherry and raspberry notes on the medium-bodied palate. It is balanced with bright acids and smooth tannins. Very focused and finishes long. I'm not a big Pinot fan, but I really like this. Score: 90 pts
MALIVOIRE STOUCK MERITAGE 2012 - VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $34.95
From vines that are 30-40 years old, this is a blend of 63% Merlot and 37% Cabernet Sauvignon that has complex, medium-to-high intensity aromas of cocoa, black cherry, blackberry, mocha, baking spice and black tea that also show up on the full-bodied palate. It has bright acids and a long finish with hints of white pepper. Tannins are medium-to-firm, which should allow this wine to drink well to at least 2020. Score: 91 pts
MALIVOIRE RIESLING ICEWINE 2014 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) - $34.95
Just released in January, this has medium-to-high intensity aromas of candied lemon and citrus. On the palate, there are sweet aroma replays plus honeysuckle and beeswax notes combined with brilliant acids. Hint of mineral on the long finish. Delicious! Score: 91 pts
MIKE WEIR LIMITED EDITION RIESLING 2014 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#229286) (MD) - $22.95
Clean lemon/lime with a whiff of petrol and some beeswax aromas. Clean and elegant on the medium-bodied palate with medium-dry aroma replays. It has balanced acidity and a tart citrus character on the long finish. Yummy! Score: 89 pts
MIKE WEIR RESERVE MERLOT 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $19.95
Medium-to-high intensity aromas of cocoa, black cherry, earth, tobacco and lead. On the palate, it is medium-to-full bodied with complex flavours of spicebox, dark fruit, currant, and damp earth flavours. It has balanced acids and finishes long with some cocoa notes. Mature tannins are well-integrated. From the excellent 2010 vintage, this is one of Ontario's better Merlot efforts. Score: 89 pts
MIKE WEIR MERITAGE 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $19.95
This Bordeaux-blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Cabernet Franc and 26% Merlot has medium-to-high intensity earthy, dark currant and cranberry aromas along with hints of pencil shavings. It's full-bodied with a firm tannic structure and very yummy flavours of eucalyptus, mocha and dark chocolate. Balanced acids and excellent length on the finish. Decant and serve now or wait another 3-4 years and drink up to 2023. Savour on its own and enjoy the evolution sip-after sip, or pair with red meats. From the excellent 2010 vintage, this is special! Score: 90 pts
MIKE WEIR 4 BARREL CHARDONNAY 2014 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $24.95
100% free run juice with 25% undergoing malolactic fermentation. French, American, Canadian and Hungarian oak. I was expecting a big, buttery, smoky Chardonnay, but instead this has elegant pear, orchard fruit, and butterscotch notes. Oak is quite reserved with clean, crisp acids and fruit forward with some vanilla and butter notes on the back end. Finishes long. Score: 89 pts
MIKE WEIR CABERNET FRANC ICEWINE 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) (200 mL) - $39.95
Two presses were broken while in the process of making this delicious Icewine. It is highly aromatic with strawberry, rhubarb and subtle baking spice notes that also appear lusciously on the medium-to-full bodied palate. Very good fruit concentration and showing a spiced mid-palate. It has vibrant acids and excellent length on the finish. Score: 91 pts