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  • Date publishedThursday, January 29, 2015

Niagara Icewine Festival Review 2015

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup and Fielding Riesling Icewine
On the weekend of -18, I visited Niagara as part of the 20th Annual Icewine Festival and a new initiative called Niagara Chilled. This new initiative combined all the events - Gala, Icewine Village in Niagara-on-the-Lake, special events at wineries and restaurants, Discovery Pass, and an indoor/outdoor food, wine and live entertainment extravaganza in Niagara Falls - to celebrate our liquid gold called Icewine. Niagara Chilled ran for 3 weekends, from January 9th to 25th.

After the chaotic drive into Niagara , I was hoping for a much better drive out this time - wishes that came true as it was smooth sailing to our first stop with virtually no traffic along the way.

View of Lake Ontario from the Wine Lodge at Fielding Estate Winery.
We began at 11 a.m. with a tour of the facilities at Fielding Estate Winery, followed by a butternut squash soup paired with our choice of their 2012 Riesling Icewine (90 pts, 200 mL @ $32.95) or 2012 Gewürztraminer (87 pts, $15.75.)

Fielding is nestled high atop Niagara's Beamsville Bench. The Wine Lodge houses their tasting room, fermentation tanks and barrel cellar, among other things. It was built in 2005 and provides a nice view of Lake Ontario (and Toronto on a clear day.) Our host, Vanessa, spoke about Fielding's two vineyards - Fielding Vineyard and Tufford Road Vineyard - as we moved into the room housing the steel tanks. Due to the custom design of the Wine Lodge, they were able to fit tanks that were double the normal height, and squeeze them onto a very small footprint. They use a bladder press to extract juice out of the grapes as it is one of the more gentler methods to reduce the amount of crushed seeds. In the barrel cellar, we found the use of French, American and Hungarian oak barrels, of varying toast levels to impart flavours and complexity to some of their wines. It was an interesting tour led by Vanessa, made all the more engaging as she showed exceptional knowledge and passion for wine, and happily answered our questions.

View of the Wine Lodge

Crush Pad and Bladder Press at Fielding Estate WinerySteel Fermentation Tanks at Fielding Estate Winery

At the conclusion of the tour, we headed back upstairs to the tasting room for a thick, roasted butternut squash soup that had hints of ginger and maple, and topped with crème fraîche and pumpkin seeds. I opted to pair it with their Icewine and it turned out wonderfully. There was a hint of sweetness from the soup, while the balanced acids in the wine cut into the soup's thick texture. Overall, this was a balanced pairing and quite enjoyable.

Barrel Cellar at Fielding Estate WineryBarrel Cellar at Fielding Estate Winery

Vieni Vidal Icewine and Cake
The second stop of the day was a short drive over to Vieni Estates for a cake by Fabulous Cakes & Confections and prepared with toasted walnut butter cream, layered between vanilla and Vieni's Vidal Icewine, and topped with an apricot honey marmalade. This was paired with their 2011 Vieni Vidal Icewine (91 pts, 375 mL @ $39.95.) The cake was fairly light, and delicate with lightly sweet flavours that helped balance the very sweet Icewine. Meanwhile, the nickel-sized apricot honey marmalade on top of the cake enhanced the apricot and honey flavours from the Icewine. In all, it was a delicious pairing that worked very well together.

Chicken Mole Enchiladas and Jackson-Triggs Cabernet Franc Icewine
From here, we headed into Niagara-on-the-Lake to visit Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery. We arrived just after a bus had already arrived, so there was a very long lineup that stretched right to the front door - and further started to curl back inwards after we got into line. We debated leaving and coming back later, but decided to wait it out. The line started to move quickly about 10 minutes later (probably because a fresh new tray of food had just been made), and no sooner did we have chicken mole enchiladas and their 2012 Cabernet Franc Icewine (90 pts, 375 mL @ $59.99) in our hands. By now, most of the folks from the bus had moved into the tasting room, so we had no trouble finding a place to sit and enjoy our food & wine pairing. The enchilada was marinated in a mole sauce that was savoury and flavourful, with a little bit of a spice kick to it - very tasty. I shall have to follow up with the folks at Jackson-Triggs to get the recipe. It paired well with the very sweet Cab Franc Icewine, as the sweetness was subdued and balanced by the savoury and spice flavours from the enchilada.

Crème Brûlée and Hinterbrook Cabernet Franc Icewine pairing
Our final stop of the day was at Hinterbrook Estate Winery for an Icewine-infused Crème Brûlée that was paired with their 2012 Cabernet Franc Icewine (89 pts, 200 mL @ $29.95.) This place was also quite busy and seemed to have trouble keeping up as they were pouring their yummy Icewine into plastic medicine cups. Fortunately, freshly cleaned (but much too warm) glasses quickly arrived upon request. Overall, the pairing was quite nice - the soft, maple oat crusted egg-free crème brulee with a berry compote at the bottom matched the flavours and sweetness of the Icewine, making for a very enjoyable pairing.

On , we began the day with a visit to the Outlet Collection at Niagara for some shopping. This was my first time there, and I found quite a few good deals to be had - if you could find your size. However, the most memorable store was the Pepper Palace - a fine store selling all kinds of hot sauces, BBQ sauces, seasonings, rubs and more. I came away with quite a few items and expect they will be featured in future wine review posts.

Grilled panini at Kacaba

Kacaba Gewürztraminer Icewine
After a quick stop for lunch, we headed to Kacaba Vineyards Winery in Twenty Valley for a grilled panini paired with Icewine. The grilled panini was stuffed with a rich and creamy brie, arugula, ripe red apple and pear, and topped with a drizzle of honey and Icewine. The panini was nicely portioned and quite nice and (mostly) savoury. The drizzle of sweetness was greatly enhanced and matched the flavours of their 2012 Gewürztraminer Icewine (91 pts, 375 mL @ $39.95.) Overall, this was a nice, rich and satisfying pairing.

Shortbread cookies and Tawse Riesling Icewine
From here, it was short distance to Tawse Winery for a duo of shortbread cookies paired with their 2013 Riesling Icewine (89 pts, 200 mL @ $34.95.) This was a very interesting tasting that I hope many had a chance to try. Although both shortbread cookies were small, they packed a lot of flavour and changed the wine's tune greatly. First up was a savoury rosemary/blue cheese shortbread that brought out some interesting ginger and grapefruit notes from the Icewine. Meanwhile, the sweet shortbread consisting of vanilla, candied lemon and crème fraîche, pulled pure lemon flavours from Icewine. Both worked well and provided a unique tasting experience!

Thai Peanut Chicken Taco paired with Mike Weir Vidal Icewine
It was another short distance to Mike Weir Winery for some enticing nachos and Icewine. I had been wanting to visit this winery for quite a few years, and finally, in June 2014 they opened their Retail & Hospitality Center in Beamsville, next door to Fielding Estate Winery. The food & wine pairing here was a generously sized Thai Peanut Chicken Nacho topped with cilantro, and paired with their 2012 Vidal Icewine (88 pts, 200 mL @ $29.95.) The nacho had good flavours with a subtle chili kick for spiciness that balanced out the very sweet Vidal Icewine. Once again, a lot of balance between the complementary flavours from this food and wine, with no one flavour dominating the palate.

Ice cream with Legends Love Potion Sparkling Rose
The last stop of the day was an unplanned visit to the conveniently-located-off-the-QEW Legends Estates Winery. After a long day, what can be better than ice cream... and Icewine? Looking back, it seems as though they switched the Chocolate Caramel Bombette for a vanilla ice cream with a raspberry filling centre on a bed of pie crust, and covered in a thin layer of hardened white chocolate. They offered two pairing options - the Love Potion Sparkling Rose (85 pts, $18.80) or their 2006 Vidal Icewine (88 pts, 375 mL @ $40.) I tasted both wines and definitely preferred the Sparkling Rose with the ice cream as the raspberry filling complemented some of the strawberry/red berry flavours from the wine. The mature Icewine seemed better suited for the original food item with it's caramel and nutty flavours.

The group's overwhelming favourite (including my favourite) on the Saturday was the Fielding Riesling Icewine, while my favourite wine on the Sunday was the Kacaba Gewürztraminer Icewine. Full wine reviews of these, and the many other wines that I tasted and enjoyed on this visit will be posted over the next couple of weeks.

I hope you can join me in Niagara this June - when the weather will be warmer - for the next event in this series. Check my events page for details.

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  • Date publishedTuesday, January 20, 2015

Jan. 24 LCBO Wine Picks: Spain + Chile + Argentina

LCBO Wine Picks from January 24, 2015 VINTAGES Release
The next LCBO VINTAGES release will be on shelves across Ontario on . The major theme of this release is on new value wines from Spain, while the mini-theme highlights wines from South America's two wine superpowers - Argentina and Chile.

Out of 22 Spanish wines featured, 6 made my list of wine picks - all are red wines. Four of these wines are made using grapes that don't quickly come to top of mind when thinking of Spanish wines - these are Mencía, Mazuelo (Carignan), Graciano, and the indigenous Prieto Picudo. All four wines can be enjoyed over the next few years. More familiar to those who drink Spanish wines is the Garnacha grape (a.k.a. Grenache) - the Casa Castillo el Molar is one such example made using young Garnacha (planted in only 2006).

Lastly, no conversation about Spanish wines would be complete without mentioning Tempranillo - the most widely planted red grape in Spain. In the Toro region, Tempranillo is referred to as Tinta de Toro. The Abelis Carthago William Selection Crianza, which you'll want to put away for a few years, is made using this grape from old vines.

The Argentina/Chile mini-feature yielded one wine worth mentioning - a Chilean Syrah. Chile has become one of my favourite places for Syrah - and this version from Casas del Bosque is a very fine example.The fruit for this wine was sourced from Casas del Bosque's own vineyard, from vines that are 8-13 years old and located on the coolest, westernmost area of the Casablanca Valley. This winery does practice some organic techniques, but is not certified organic.

From the rest of the release, there is a primarily Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot (37/26/24) blend from South Africa, and also a Grenache-led blend from Rhône's André Aubert. Also a blend is a red wine from Tenuta Rocca - an unspecified (and not very common) blend of Barbera, Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon.

In white wines, there are 2 very good values under $14 - the extra-dry Garganega from Veneto and the dry (slightly sweet) Weissburgunder (a.k.a. Pinot Blanc) from Germany. If you want to try an Old World Sauvignon Blanc, check out the Pouilly Fumé from Loire. For those that prefer sweeter wines, take a look at the Riesling from Alsace, or the even more sweeter Ontario Riesling or Alsatian Pinot Gris.

Enjoy my wine recommendations for this week. Cheers!

Red Wine:
  • AVONDALE JONTY’S DUCKS PEKIN RED 2011 - WO Paarl, South Africa (#383547) (XD) - $14.95
  • GOTÍN DEL RISC MENCÍA 2010 - DO Bierzo, Spain (#391581) (XD) - $15.95
  • DOMINIO DOSTARES ESTAY PRIETO PICUDO 2011 - DO La Mancha, Spain (#393140) (XD) - $15.95
  • ANDRÉ AUBERT VISAN CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES 2013 - AC, Rhône, France (#224915) (XD) - $15.95
  • FINCA LOS ALIJARES GRACIANO 2009 - DO La Mancha, Spain (#392522) (XD) - $17.95
  • CASA CASTILLO EL MOLAR 2011 - DO Jumilla, Spain (#397190) (XD) - $17.95
  • SEÑORÍO DE SARRÍA VIÑEDO NO.8 MAZUELO CRIANZA 2009 - DO Navarra, Spain (#391656) (XD) - $17.95
  • TENUTA ROCCA ORNATI LANGHE 2009 - DOC, Piedmont, Italy (#309369) (XD) - $21.95
  • CASAS DEL BOSQUE GRAN RESERVA SYRAH 2012 - Casablanca Valley, Chile (#995092) (XD) - $22.95
  • ABELIS CARTHAGO WILLIAM SELECTION CRIANZA 2011 - DO Toro, Spain (#399105) (XD) - $23.95
  • NUGAN ESTATE ALCIRA VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 - Coonawarra, South Australia (#393686) (XD) - $24.95
  • STOLLER PINOT NOIR 2012 - Dundee Hills, Oregon, USA (#401539) (XD) - $31.95

White Wine:
  • RIONDO CASTELFORTE GARGANEGA 2013 - IGT Veronese, Veneto, Italy (#230656) (XD) - $13.95
  • ANSELMANN EDESHEIMER ORDENSGUT WEISSBURGUNDER KABINETT TROCKEN 2012 - Pradikätswein, Pfalz, Germany (#394122) (D) - $13.95
  • FEATHERSTONE BLACK SHEEP RIESLING 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#080234) (M) - $16.95
  • KELLEREI ST. MAGDALENA PINOT GRIGIO 2013 - DOC Südtirol, Alto Adige, Italy (#249466) (XD) - $16.95
  • HENRI EHRHART RÉSERVE PARTICULIÈRE PINOT GRIS 2013 - AC Alsace, France (#392092) (M) - $18.95
  • CALERA CHARDONNAY 2012 - Central Coast, California, USA (#713313) (XD) - $24.95
  • DOMAINES SCHLUMBERGER SAERING RIESLING 2011 - AC Alsace Grand Cru, France (#627950) (D) - $33.95
  • BACHELDER BOURGOGNE CHARDONNAY 2012 - AC, Burgundy, France (#272005) (XD) - $35.95

The rest of the wines from this VINTAGES release can be found here.

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  • Date publishedSunday, January 11, 2015

Southbrook Vineyards Wine Reviews

Tonight's pair of wines are from Canada's first certified organic and biodynamic winery - Southbrook Vineyards. Both are quite easy-drinking and are suitable for gatherings with friends and family.

SOUTHBROOK TRIOMPHE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (#193573) (XD) - $22.95 $20.45

Wine Review of 2012 Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon from VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada
Tasting Note:
Stelvin screw cap. Medium intensity nose with toasty oak, chocolate, plum, dark cherries and currant aromas. Palate is definitely on the sweeter side with ripe red berries, jammy fruit and chocolate overtones. Medium-level tannins are slightly grippy, while acids are bright and the finish is medium-length. If you like sweeter red wines, this one is for you. Should have wide crowd-appeal. In VINTAGES and currently on promotion ($2.50 off) until . Score: 86 pts

SOUTHBROOK CANADIAN FRAMBOISE - Ontario, Canada (#341024) (375 mL) (S) - $15.95

Wine Review of Southbrook Canadian Framboise from Ontario, Canada
Tasting Note:
Screw cap. Raspberries and candied red fruit aromas from the glass. It's medium-bodied on the sweet palate with nice aroma replays. Acids are bright, while the finish has very good length. Serve nicely chilled. Would be a nice way to end the night after a fine meal on . Score: 88 pts

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  • Date publishedMonday, January 5, 2015

Jan. 10 LCBO Wine Picks: Smart Buys

LCBO Wine Picks from January 10, 2014 VINTAGES Release
The new year is upon us and, as such, we have the annual "Smart Buys" release from VINTAGES that arrives on LCBO shelves this . The magazine is quite noticeably lighter than the massive releases we had in November and December leading up to the busy holiday season. The secondary mini-feature in this VINTAGES release highlights a few Scotches to salute (Jan. 25th).

Of the 28 wines featured in the "Smart Buys" section, only 2 made my list of wine picks. The Famille Lafage from Roussillon is a red wine blend consisting of 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache, and offers excellent value in this release - a "Smart Buy" for sure. The second wine is a Spanish red made with a grape that's normally used in blends, but in this case, the Rio Madre is 100% Graciano.

From the rest of the release, there is a 2010 Bordeaux that is a Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon blend from an excellent vintage that will reward with a couple of years in the cellar. Other blends include a 80% Malbec / 10% Bonarda / 10% Syrah blend from Argentina, and an organic wine from Parés Baltà that is 50/50 Cab Sauv and Grenache. Lastly, from Greece is a 100% Xinomavro from Boutari. In white wines, the Gavi di Gavi is made with 100% Cortese.

That's all for this week. In the next release, wines from Spain, Chile and Argentina are featured - so we should find quite a few very nice wines to recommend. Cheers!

Red Wine:
  • BOUTARI NAOUSSA 2010 - PDO Naoussa, Greece (#023218) (XD) - $13.95
  • RIO MADRE 2013 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#354753) (XD) - $14.95  reviewed here
  • LAFAGE CÔTÉ SUD 2012 - IGP Côtes Catalanes, Roussillon, France (#395236) (XD) - $14.95
  • PARÉS BALTÀ MAS PETIT GARNATXA/CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 - DO Penedès, Spain (#114264) (XD) - $15.95
  • TRIVENTO AMADO SUR MALBEC/BONARDA/SYRAH 2012 - Mendoza, Argentina (#037036) (XD) - $16.95  reviewed here
  • OAK BAY GAMAY NOIR 2012 - BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada (#392431) (XD) - $17.95
  • CASAR DE BURBIA MENCÍA 2010 - DO Bierzo, Spain (#392530) (XD) - $19.95
  • CHÂTEAU BEAUSÉJOUR HOSTENS 2010 - AC Haut Médoc, Bordeaux, France (#388298) (XD) - $22.95

White Wine:
  • BERSANO GAVI DI GAVI 2013 - DOCG, Piedmont, Italy (#999979) (XD) - $14.95  reviewed here
  • ROYAL TOKAJI FURMINT 2011 - Hungary (#653220) (XD) - $14.95
  • KEINT-HE VOYAGEUR CHARDONNAY 2012 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#389544) (XD) - $16.00  reviewed here
  • ATTEMS PINOT GRIGIO 2013 - IGT Venezia Giulia, Friuli, Italy (#707950) (XD) - $19.95
  • ANSELMANN RIESLING AUSLESE 2012 - Qualitätswein, Pfalz, Germany (#391052) (MS) - $19.95

The rest of the wines from the release can be found here.

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