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  • Date publishedWednesday, December 14, 2016

Niagara Wine Festival Review 2016 - Day 1 of 2

The of my 2-day visit to Niagara for the annual Grape & Wine Festival was on . We visited 4 wineries on this day, two in Twenty Valley and two in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Our first stop was at Magnotta Winery to whet our appetite with a fresh Caprese Salad that was paired with 2 wines - 2015 Magnotta Pinot Noir Equus Rosé ($9.95, 87 pts) and the 2014 Magnotta Pinot Gris Special Reserve ($12.95, 86 pts). The Caprese salad was delicious with it's fresh bonnacini, cherry tomatoes, and basil with a freshly baked foccaccia bread and drizzled with balsamic wine vinegar and olive oil on the side. Since some group members were not keen on this type of salad, the rest of us got extras! The pairing was quite good with each wine as the fresh acidity in the wines complemented the acids in the salad, while also adding a nice texture. In general, salads pair well with both rosé and white wines.

Caprese Salad paired with Magnotta Pinot Noir Rosé and Pinot GrisLegends Terroir Rosé paired with Chocolate Ice Cream with Raspberry Center

The second stop was a decadent dessert item at Legends Estates Winery where we enjoyed a creamy chocolate ice cream with a raspberry ice center, sitting atop a chocolate wafer, and the whole thing covered in a milk chocolate coating. It was paired with the newly released 2015 Legends Estates Terroir Rosé ($12.95, 86 pts). Normally, one wouldn't even think of pairing a rosé wine with ice cream, so I was surprised to see this being offered and was quite intrigued. The ice cream was cold and sweet (as expected), and the raspberry center provided some interesting fruit flavours. Initially, the raspberry center gently pulled out plenty of cherry, strawberry flavours from the wine, but with each spoon and sip, the raspberry center took over the palate. To help balance this, it was the milk chocolate coating that brought all the flavours back in alignment, with a nice lingering mix of red fruits and chocolate flavours, as well as a creaminess that helped balanced the high acids in the wine. This was quite the experience!

While at Legends Estates, I was also able to taste a couple of wines from (former winemaker at Lailey Vineyards) Derek Barnett's latest endeavour - Meldville Wines. The wines on the whole were satisfactory, including a Chardonnay that was my favourite, but I would wager that future vintages will be better.

Green Curry Chicken on Morrocan Bean Salad paired with EastDell Riesling

We headed over to Niagara-on-the-Lake for our third stop at Diamond Estates Winery. On the menu here was a Green Curry Chicken served on a bed of Morrocan bean salad courtesy of Chef James from The Heat is On Catering. It was paired with the 2015 EastDell Riesling (reviewed below). The dish was designed to be served cold and didn't show any signs of hot spices, which caught us by surprise. The pairing was fresh and brought out squeaky clean lemony flavours. After some time, subtle hints of spice from the chicken started to emerge and provided a nice warming sensation on the finish which was very interesting! We also took a quick tour of the winery and were told that a brand new retail tasting facility was going to be built and scheduled to open in Spring 2017.

Chicken Tikka Naan with Pillitteri Cabernet Merlot

The final stop of the day was at Pillitteri Estates Winery for a South East Asian inspired Spicy Chicken Tikka Roti Wrap topped with sprouts and pickled kachumber and raita. We had a choice to pair with either the 2014 Pillitteri Fusion Gewürztraminer Riesling ($12.95, #349126, 87 pts) or the 2013 Pillitteri Cabernet Merlot ($17.50, 86 pts) - I opted for the Cab Merlot. By itself, the Chicken Tikka Roti (more like Naan) Wrap was delicious - just the right amount of mild spice and flavour and very filling. I would love to get my hands on the recipe for Chez Megz. Since I opted to pair the Wrap with the Cabernet Merlot, it was a very balanced pairing with the tannins and gamey-ness in the wine complementing the chicken very nicely. This was a delicious comfort food pairing, providing a perfect segue into Fall.

Most of the wines I tasted during this trip are available at the winery only, so you'll have to visit the winery in person or order the wines online via the winery website to get your hands on these wines.

All-in-all, I was very impressed with the food & wine pairings on this day, with plenty of surprising combinations that worked really well. Expectations were certainly raised as I prepared for another set of food & wine pairings - a full review will be posted soon. Stay tuned. is posted here.

Tasting Notes:

MAGNOTTA CHARDONNAY LIMITED EDITION 2014 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $16.95
The medium-high intensity nose offers appealing vanilla, butter, apple and pear aromas with much of the same on the medium-bodied and very creamy palate. There's some spice on the mid-palate. It has fresh acids and finishes long. Score: 88 pts

Magnotta Chardonnay Limited Edition 2014 (88 pts)Magnotta Merlot Gran Riserva 2011 (89 pts)

MAGNOTTA MERLOT GRAN RISERVA 2011 - Ontario, Canada (XD) - $29.95
Medium-high aromatics offering black plum, chocolate, leather, oak, cocoa and hints of green pepper. It's medium-full bodied with supple tannins and nice aroma replays. Acids are very good while the finish is long. A big wine that can be aged for at least half a dozen years. Score: 89 pts

LEGENDS ESTATES CHARDONNAY RESERVE 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $18.95
Aromas of medium+ intensity with notes of vanilla, butter, apple and pear and reappear on the medium-full bodied palate. Well-balanced overall with good acidity, slightly oak-spiced mid-palate and finishing long. Score: 89+ pts

Legends Estates Chardonnay Reserve 2013 (89+ pts)Legends Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2012 (89 pts)

LEGENDS ESTATES CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVE 2012 - Lizak Vineyard, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $22.10
A medium-high intensity nose with savoury olive, earthy, forest floor and meaty aromas. Full bodied on the palate with green pepper, olive, earthy tones. It has balanced acids and tannins that are smooth and quite evolved. Very good length on the finish. Score: 89 pts

MELDVILLE DEREK BARNETT FIRST EDITION CHARDONNAY 2015 - VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $20
Very fruit forward with stone fruit, apple and pear aromas and flavours. Minimal oak intervention. Clean, fresh acids and good length on the finish. Score: 87 pts

Meldville Derek Barnett First Edition Chardonnay 2015 (87 pts)EastDell Riesling 2015 (87 pts)

EASTDELL RIESLING 2015 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#481556) (M) - $13.95
Medium+ intensity nose of green apple, tropical fruit, white peach and hints of mineral and orange. It is off-dry with crisp, refreshing acids and flavours of orange, mineral and citrus. Finishes long with some bitterness. Score: 87 pts

LAKEVIEW CELLARS SYRAH 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#438408) (XD) - $24.95
The nose is medium-to-high intensity and offers a pleasing meaty, earthy, and charcuterie aromas with hints of black pepper and green olive. It's full-bodied on the palate with varietal black peppercorn, blackberry, dark fruits and oak flavours. Acids are very good. Lengthy finish. Score: 89 pts

Lakeview Cellars Syrah 2013 (89 pts)

LAKEVIEW CELLARS GEWÜRZTRAMINER ICEWINE 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) (375 mL) - $39.95
Tasted back-to-back with the 2012, this has a fragrant nose of fresh guava, molasses, honey, and orange, and floral aromas. The palate is quite dense with good fruit concentration and a viscous mouthfeel. Acids balance the lusciously sweet flavours. Excellent length on the finish. Score: 90+ pts

Lakeview Cellars Gewürztraminer Icewine 2013 (90+ pts)

PILLITTERI DOLCE RIESLING 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (M) - $15.50
Offers a medium-high intensity nose of petrol, mineral, peach, citrus and apple that echo on the palate in a medium sweet style. Fresh acids are nicely balanced. Long finish has notes of orange peel. Score: 88 pts

Pillitteri Dolce Riesling 2013 (88 pts)Pillitteri Winemakers Selection Exclamation Merlot 2012 (90 pts)

Matured in French oak for 2 years, this offer medium-to-high intensity aromatics of cigar box, sweet tobacco, blackberry, black current, white pepper, and sweet spices that echo very nicely on the complex, medium-bodied palate. It has very good acidity and smooth, velvety tannins. Excellent length on the finish. Score: 90 pts

PILLITTERI FAMILY RESERVE TRIVALENTE 2005 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $98
A blend of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc and 8% Merlot, this very fine mature wine has a captivating, highly aromatic and a very complex nose of dried floral, cherry, rhubarb, kirsch, blackberry liqueur, apple wood and some barnyard aromas. It's full-bodied with silky smooth tannins and lovely flavours of blackberry, cherry and floral. It still has very good acidity and shows some brambly notes on the long finish. Also tasted in 2014. Score: 92 pts

Pillitteri Family Reserve Trivalente 2005 (92 pts)Pillitteri Reserve Vidal Icewine 2013 (91 pts)

PILLITTERI RESERVE VIDAL ICEWINE 2013 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) (200 mL/375 mL) - $35/$65
My favourite of the Icewines tasted at Pillitteri, this has an highly aromatic nose of leach, apricot and lemon. It is medium-full bodied on the palate with very nice aroma replays plus hints of oak spice. It's very sweet, with pleasing acids keep the Icewine from being cloying. Long, citrusy finish. Very fine indeed. Score: 91 pts


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