If you have never tried icewine, you’re missing out. It’s a sweet dessert wine that’s loved by many, so much that Canada hosts the Niagara Icewine Festival every year. Although I posted a small introduction to icewine previously, I recently learned that icewine is highly regulated. So much that it’s mandatory for an inspector to watch as grapes are harvested and processed at each vineyard. The grapes have to be frozen minimally at -8°C for 3 days and if it isn’t, there are heavy fines for making it illegally. It’s serious business!
I went to the Niagara Icewine Festival this past weekend and we had so much fun indulging in all the sugary goodness. Our tour began with Ravine Vineyard Estates Winery. They served a Cabernet Franc Icewine that was paired with confit duck tartlets filled with bleu Bénédictin cheese from Québec.
If you love blue cheese, you will definitely like this tart. It was filled with the rich and creamy flavours of the potent smelling cheese and some subtle flavours of duck. Although I’m not a huge fan of blue cheese, I enjoyed this tart. The only thing I found was the crispy pastry was a bit heavy and masked some of the delicateness of a tart, but it was not bad at all. Plus the icewine pairing was delicious! A good combination of sweet and savoury.
The next stop was at Château des Charmes and they presented a salmon wellington with a dried apricot and chili preserve. The sweet salmon was wrapped in a soft pastry and had the tiniest kick of spice. The sweet apricot helped liven up the hor d’oeuvre and it was paired with a lovely Vidal Icewine. I really enjoyed this one!
Our third stop was at the famous Inniskillin Wines, which served chicken and waffles. Although I can’t really say I enjoyed the soggy waffle and long line up (though it moved relatively fast and that would explain why it was soggy), the well seasoned chicken was crispy and the icewine inspired hot sauce you can add to the dish enhanced the flavours. The Cabernet Franc Sparking Ice Wine that they served was probably one of the best icewines I have ever had! It had fruity hints of cherry, raspberry, rhubarb and strawberries and was well balanced with the acidity. Unfortunately, it came with a hefty price tag though it was on sale for $80, in comparison to the regular $120. I guess it’s all relative. When in Rome… 🙂
The fourth winery was at Pillitteri Estates Winery. They paired their barrel aged Reserve Vidal Icewine with a grilled cheese finger sandwich with braised duck, Bartlett pear and Cambazola cheese that was topped off with an onion-icewine infused jam. The bread was soft and the mix of ingredients created this tasty combination of saltiness from the cheese with sweetness from the caramelization of the onions and sauce. The cheese wasn’t melted, but it was still good. As for the icewine, I can’t say it was my favourite one on the tour but it wasn’t bad.
So now that I’ve gone through halfway through the tour, it’s time for a break! Up tomorrow, the remaining wineries and pairings and a map for anyone who would like to follow the route we took!