Our food & wine adventure on the second weekend began at GreenLane Estate Winery for a Balinese Chicken Satay that was paired with their 2012 GreenLane Riesling ($15.95, 88 pts). I was expecting a sweet & spicy pairing, but instead got a mild-mannered chicken satay that contained South East Asian spices, coconut milk and peanut sauce. The satay was delicious and so was the Riesling. Since the wine had crisp acids and wasn't too sweet, it paired well with the satay, with lemony notes from the wine becoming more pronounced. Overall, it was a good pairing, but I would love to try this Riesling with a spicier Asian dish.
Stoney Ridge Estate Winery was our second stop for a chickpea and quinoa vegetable salad that was topped with a succulent smoked marsala shrimp. It was paired with the 2013 Stoney Ridge Excellence White (reviewed below) and was quite interesting. The wine had compelling herbally-honey-floral notes, but when paired with the salad and shrimp, the wine magically turned very, very smoky. It was a very interesting pairing indeed and just goes to show how the interaction between food & wine can really change the flavours of a wine.
Our third stop was at Rockway Vineyards for another tantalizing experience. Here, a potato gnocchi topped with a beet sauce and garnished with watercress was paired with two wines - the 2015 Rockway Plush White ($14.95, 86 pts) and the 2012 Rockway Small Lot White Assemblage ($14.97, 88+ pts). The first wine (a Vidal) was on the sweeter side and enhanced the sweet beet flavours in the gnocchi, while the Assemblage (mostly Chardonnay) brought out more savoury, earthy tones, essentially enhancing the main ingredient in the gnocchi - potato. This was a very interesting comparison to see how a dish can change it's flavour profile based on the wine. Since food & wine is a very personal experience, it's interesting to note that my wife preferred the sweeter variant, while I preferred the savoury pairing. To each his/her own!
Konzelmann Estate Winery was the fourth stop, with fairly high expectations. A succulent New Zealand Lamb Chop that was lightly brushed with Basil Pesto and grilled to perfection was on the menu and paired with 2015 Konzelmann Lakefront Series Shiraz ($14.45, #144857, 86 pts). We had to wait a bit for the lamb chop to be prepared, but it was well worth it! It was made well-done and absolutely delicious! Shiraz (or Syrah) always tends to go well with lamb, and this was no exception. However, I think the lamb chop deserved a better wine. The place was a zoo due to their annual WineFest, so I didn't get a chance to taste anything else, including any of their other wines made with Shiraz/Syrah.
The next to last stop of the afternoon was at Inniskillin Wines for General Tso chicken with crispy shallots paired with their latest Inniskillin Reserve Riesling (reviewed below). The wine itself was very good, offering typical off-dry notes found in Riesling. My General Tso chicken had dark meat that was a bit tough, but had a nice spicy kick to it. Once again, the spicy flavours in the dish complemented the sweet flavours and high acids in the wine very well, making for a very pleasurable pairing.
The final stop of the day was at Riverview Cellars Estate Winery for an eggplant parmigiana. However, since we arrived very late in the day, they had actually run out of their culinary creation. With extra time on our hands now, we decided to run through an extended tasting session at the back bar, noticing on the way back there that some renovations were being undertaken. Full wine reviews of some of my favourites at Riverview are posted below.
Overall, I was quite happy with the visit to Niagara. The culinary creations were well done, with generous portion sizes at most places. Wine pairings were very interesting, showcasing how both the food and wine can each change and enhance flavours when paired with each other. The most significant take away from this visit is that the wines, with ever more maturing vines and some assistance from Mother Nature are helping to create better and better wines every year. While only a few these wines are available at the LCBO, all of these delicious Ontario wines can be purchased directly from the winery in Niagara.
Tasting Notes:GREENLANE OLD VINES RIESLING 2012 - VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (D) - $24.95
From 25 year old vines, this has a medium+ intensity nose of orange, peach, and tropical fruits with a whiff of mature petrol. Off-dry on the palate with fine aroma replays and a nice minerally texture. Acids are nice and crisp. Long, clean finish. Score: 89+ pts
GREENLANE CABERNET FRANC 2012 - VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $23.95
Harvested in mid-November of a long, hot growing season, this has medium-high intensity aromas of cocoa, espresso bean and dark ripe berry fruits with subtle oak nuances that continue through to the palate. Acids are very good, while the finish length is excellent. Supple tannins are evolving nicely and still provide good structure for aging at least 5+ years. Score: 89 pts
GREENLANE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 - VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $32.95
The nose is a bit shy at the moment, but hints at currant, cassis, and black cherry aromas. The palate is full-bodied with ripe fruited flavours that are sure to please. There is good depth of fruit supported by drying tannins that should integrate well. Acids are very good. Subtle oak notes on the long finish. Should improve in 1-2 years, and drink over at least the next half dozen years. Score: 89 pts
GREENLANE CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVE 2012 - VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $48.95
From a selection of 22-year-old vines, the Reserve is a step up from the "entry-level" Cab. Aged for 19 months in oak (25% new French oak), this has a medium-to-high intensity nose that's clean, focused and complex with ripe dark berries, cassis, currant, and earth that also show up on the palate. Very good acids and tannic structure. Ripe tannins are well-integrated. Finishes long with some oak and cocoa flavours. Well-balanced overall with good aging potential of 5-10 years. Score: 90+ pts
STONEY RIDGE RIESLING 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (D) - $15.95
Medium-high aromatics are showing mature petrol, white peach and citrus notes. On the medium-bodied off-dry palate, it has crisp, balanced and succulent acids with nice aroma replays and a touch of sweetness. The finish is long. Score: 88+ pts
STONEY RIDGE RIESLING 2015 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $14.95
Bottled a week prior to my visit, the nose is somewhat closed with sulphury notes along with hints of peach in a mostly dry style. Lemon and mineral flavours on the palate with hard, lemony acids. Medium+ length finish. This needs time to settle down. Score: 87 pts
STONEY RIDGE EXCELLENCE WHITE 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $24.95
Barrel-fermented blend of 52% Pinot Gris, 34% Chardonnay, 7% Viognier, and 7% Muscat. Herbally with honey and floral aromas. The palate is medium+ bodied with more floral and herbal notes that are oak spiced. Acids are very good while the finish length is good. Score: 88 pts
STONEY RIDGE VIDAL ICEWINE 2012 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) (375 mL) - $44.95
Highly aromatic with honey, apricot, peach, and golden apple notes. It's medium-full bodied with very appealing aroma replays. Very sweet on the palate, but balanced by nice acids. Excellent finish length. Score: 90+ pts
ROCKWAY VINEYARDS FERGIE JENKINS RIESLING 2013 - VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (MD) - $15.95
Medium-high aromatics are minerally with whiffs of petrol, white peach and citrus. Acids are well-balanced with pleasing aroma replays on the nicely chalky textured palate. Drink over the next 2 years. Score: 88 pts
ROCKWAY VINEYARDS SMALL LOT BLOCK 150-183 RIESLING 2013 - VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#424176) (M) - $19.95
The nose is highly aromatic, featuring slatey mineral, petrol, citrus, and white peach in a nicely concentrated package. Balanced aroma replays with nice crunchy acids on the palate. There's good depth of fruit as well. Long finishing. Score: 90 pts
ROCKWAY VINEYARDS SMALL LOT BLOCK 12-140 SYRAH 2013 - VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $24.95
Medium intensity nose offers black pepper, purple fruit, and subtle oak aromas that should become more pronounced with air. It's medium-bodied with black peppery aroma replays. Well-balanced and a bit feminine in style, with supple tannins and balanced acids. Medium-long finish. Score: 88 pts
ROCKWAY VINEYARDS CABERNET FRANC ICEWINE 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) (375 mL) - $44.95
Medium-high aromatics offer strawberry and cherry aromas with a slightly spiced character that continue on the lovely palate. It's very sweet, but has vibrant and refreshing acids. The finish is long. Score: 91 pts
INNISKILLIN RESERVE RIESLING 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (D) - $18.95
Fine aromas of petrol, mineral, sweet lemon, white peach and orange citrus of medium-high intensity. Off-dry flavours of peach, apricot, orange and some mineral notes are balanced by fresh acids. The finish is medium-long in length. Score: 89 pts
RIVERVIEW ANGELINA'S RESERVE GEWURZTRAMINER 2013 - VQA Niagara River, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (M) - $18.95
From vines planted in 1992, this has a medium+ intensity nose with lemony, floral, ginger and some honey aromas. The palate is fleshy with bright acids and typical flavours of lychee, rose, and floral, in a semi-dry style. Excellent length on the finish that comes off drier due to high acids. Nicely balanced overall. Score: 89+ pts
RIVERVIEW SALVATORE'S RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 - VQA Niagara River, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $29.95
Spent 1 year in French oak, this has medium-high intensity aromas featuring ripe red & black fruits, dark cherry, blackberry, cassis, and some currant and oak spice adding complexity. It's full-bodied with crunchy acids, ripe tannins and balanced aroma replays. Finish length in excellent. Approachable now, but should benefit with short term cellaring. Score: 89+ pts
RIVERVIEW RIESLING ICEWINE 2014 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) (375 mL) - $69.95
Highly aromatic and inviting nose has lovely sweet apricot, peach and honey notes. Acids are nice and crisp on the medium-bodied frame. Appealing lemon, stone fruit, and mango flavours on the sweet palate. Finish length is excellent! Score: 91 pts