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  • Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Taste the Season in Niagara-on-the-Lake - November 2018



Last , I had the pleasure of attending Taste the Season in Niagara-on-the-Lake. This annual Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake event celebrates the season’s bounty with exceptional VQA wines and locally inspired food pairings at participating member wineries.

The event ran every weekend (Friday to Sunday) in November from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m, Touring Passes costed $55 and allowed us to enjoy a food pairing with VQA wine at each of the 26 participating wineries, while Designated Driver Touring Passes were available for $30.

Of course, visiting all of the wineries in 6 hours would've been impossible, so we picked wineries that aligned most with our palate and ended up visiting 13 wineries. If you wanted to visit each winery (and not rush through), you could probably complete the tour over 3-4 days. Details and reviews from each winery visit are provided below. We had a great time visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake and hope to attend this lovely event again next Fall.

PondView Estate Winery Lot 74 Sparkling Brut 2017 ($25, 87 pts) paired with chicken & waffles topped with a holiday-spiced strawberry Icewine glaze. Generously sized portion with lots of strawberry Icewine glaze. I thought this might end up being too sweet with an off-dry Vidal sparkling wine paired strawberry Icewine glaze, but it was anything but. The wine became quite savoury because of the chicken, and because it was fried, it cut right through the acids and further enhanced the savoury profile.

PondView Lot 74 Sparkling Brut 2017 (87 pts) with chicken & wafflesMarynissen Heritage White 2016 (89 pts) with carrot ginger bisque

Marynissen Estates Heritage White 2016 ($40, 89 pts) paired with a carrot ginger bisque. The stylish white wine is a blend of barrel-fermented and aged Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Gris, and Viognier and off-dry in flavour profile, while the bisque was thick, almost pureé in style, and a bit on the tangy side. On the down side, I was surprised that they would pour such an expensive (and quality wine) in a plastic cup. On the bright side, it was a delicious and interesting pairing with the wine becoming less sweet and more savoury when paired with the soup.

Inniskillin Vidal Icewine 2017 ($50, 375 mL, #388306, 89 pts) paired with Vidal onion soup topped with Niagara gold crouton. Both the soup and Icewine were delicious. Furthermore, the soup was flavourful and hearty and something I would definitely want to make at home. Together, this was a lovely sweet and savoury pairing which showed that Icewine can be enjoyed not only after dinner, but also before the main course of your dinner.

Inniskillin Vidal Icewine 2017 (89 pts) with Vidal onion soupReif Shiraz 2017 (88 pts) with black pepper, truffle & Parmesan popcorn

Reif Estate Winery Shiraz 2017 ($19, 88 pts) paired with black pepper, truffle and Parmesan popcorn. The popcorn was quite interesting (and delicious) on its own as I had never heard of popcorn with this kind of flavouring before. It worked well because the black pepper notes in the popcorn matched the black pepper notes in the Shiraz, creating a nice complementary pairing.

Lailey Winery Chardonnay Third Curiosity 2013 ($??, 88 pts) paired with butter tarts made at the nearby Harvest Barn. The wine was more stone fruit and citrus with just a hint of vanilla. However, when paired with the yummy butter tarts, the wine became more buttery and vanilla flavoured with some brown sugar notes from the tart also appearing on the palate. In this pairing, it was the tart that added interesting nuances.

Lailey Chardonnay Third Curiosity 2013 (88 pts) with Harvest Barn butter tartsPeller Estates Private Reserve Merlot 2016 (88+ pts) with curried lamb, butternut squash & lentil stew

Peller Estates Private Reserve Merlot 2016 ($24, 88+ pts) paired with curried lamb, butternut squash and lentil stew. Generous portions of stew were provided, however, it was a little inconsistent as my wife got plenty of lamb chunks in her stew, yet I only received a couple of small pieces. Nevertheless, it was a nice pairing as the peppery nature of the wine, along with some grippy tannins provided balance with the hearty lamb stew. An ideal pairing for the season!

Rancourt Chardonnay 2013 ($12, 87 pts) paired with locally made tiramisu. The unoaked Chardonnay paired surprisingly well with the acids in the wine balancing the creamy mousse in the tiramisu that was made by Harvest Barn. The tiramisu also brought out the lemony flavours in the wine. Delighted to see this crafty pairing from the new owners at Rancourt.

Rancourt Chardonnay 2013 (87 pts) with tiramisuPillitteri 25th Anniversary Select Late Harvest Riesling 2013 (88+ pts) with caramel apple crumble parfait

Pillitteri Estates Winery 25th Anniversary Select Late Harvest Riesling 2013 ($20, 375 mL, 88+ pts) paired with a caramel apple crumble parfait. The wine was semi-sweet, as expected, and paired very nicely with the parfait that matched the sweetness of the Late Harvest Riesling. However, it was the contrasting cinnamon spice in the parfait that really lifted this pairing and showed that spice and sweet makes for a delicious pairing.

Stratus Vineyards Weather Report Red 2014 ($29, #552604, 88 pts) paired with a lemon & chicken tourtière with crunchy roasted mustard seeds. The wine is a fairly easy drinking 7-grape blend led by the two Cabernets, but also showed some structure and elegance. Since this was my first time stepping into Stratus, I was pleasantly in awe at the very modern-looking and chic tasting room. The pairing fit the space as it was all very gourmet, and the roasted mustard seeds provided a kick to the nicely savoury and gourmet pairing.

Stratus Weather Report Red 2014 (88 pts) with lemon & chicken tourtièreJackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Merlot 2016 (88 pts) with wood-fired chicken wings topped with black pepper, sage & Parmesan

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery Grand Reserve Merlot 2016 ($26, #563197, 88 pts) paired with wood-fired chicken wings topped with black pepper, sage and Parmesan. This was a delicious pairing as the black pepper spice and sage herb complemented the black pepper and herbally notes in the wine, while the Parmesan helped balanced the acids in the wine. So yummy that I was tempted to ask for a second serving. Simple, yet delicious, pairing that you could easily try at home.

Strewn Winery Riesling 2017 (88+ pts, $16) is a barely off-dry Riesling that was paired with a seasonal sampler trio of a vegetable spring roll, an edamame spread on a beet cracker, and an orange KitKat. Strewn always seems to do an interesting food and wine pairing, and lately they have been pairing 3 items with a single wine to see how the food & wine interplay changes with each food item. In the case, the vegetable spring roll brought out the green apple notes in the wine, along with a nice savoury element too. With the edamame spread on a beet cracker, the wine became more citrusy. Lastly, the wine actually enhanced the orange flavours in the KitKat while also becoming more creamy and smooth. Really well done!

Strewn Riesling 2017 (88+ pts) with vegetable spring roll, edamame spread on a beet cracker, & orange KitKatKonzelmann Lakefront Series Pinot Grigio 2017 (87 pts) with buttermilk brined fried chicken

Konzelmann Estate Winery Lakefront Series Pinot Grigio 2017 ($16, 87 pts) paired with buttermilk brined fried chicken, coated in Louisiana butter sauce, topped with house-made ranch dressing and arugula micro greens. Firstly, the fried chicken here was spicy and delicious and definitely something I would want to make at home. Since the wine was slightly honeyed and a touch sweet, this played towards the classic sweet and spicy pairing that tends to work very well.

Palatine Hills Estate Winery 1812 Red 2017 ($14, 87 pts) paired with Spicy Buffalo Chicken featuring creamy chicken, carrots and celery in flaky pastry drizzled with blue cheese aioli. The wine is a 50/50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon that is fruit forward and easy drinking. I wasn't too sure how this pairing would fare, but it turned out quite well as the flaky pastry wasn't very spicy and was quite casual in nature. This played perfectly to the wine's character and could be easily be a delicious appetizer & wine pairing at your next dinner.

Palatine Hills 1812 Red 2017 (87 pts) with spicy Buffalo chicken featuring creamy chicken, carrots and celery in flaky pastry drizzled with blue cheese aioli


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