Ice Wine Festival 2014

With 2 designated drivers, 8 Discovery Pass Food & Wine Pairing tickets and 8 friends, the weekend was destined to be a blast. We planned back in November to go to Niagara on the Lake for the 2014 Ice Wine Festival and rented a house for the weekend.

When we were driving on Friday night it was dreary, everything was brown and it looked rather ugly. I said, “wouldn’t it be nice if we just got a dumping of snow for our tours tomorrow?”.

I got my wish! It was snowing and created the perfect setting for our ice wine tours. Our itinerary consisted of 9 wineries.

1. Jackson-Triggs

Jackson-Triggs has a nice selection at their on-site store that has the good bottles that you don’t normally find at the liquor store. However, I believe they are expanding their selection at the LCBO. They had a nice selection for their tasting which was the 2008 Reserve Cabernet Franc Ice Wine with Valrhona Cocoa and caraway ribs with pineapple avocado salsa. The ice wine was fantastic. I really enjoy a red ice wine. It was one of the only ones we received with our Discovery Passes.

2. Stratus

Stratus was not part of the Discovery Pass, but we ventured in anyway because it was next door to Jackson-Triggs. It was a big disappointing because when we arrived the wine that we were looking for was sold out. I found the wine to be over-priced which deterred most of us from trying the wines. I guess you could say it was a flop. I would like to try to give this winery another chance at some point, but the atmosphere was not as inviting as the other wineries. We simply moved on in hopes to find a better experience.

3. Small Talk Winery

Small Talk was a last minute addition to the itinerary. To be honest, I thought it was worthy to check out because of their cool wine labels–everyone loves a good wine label!

After arriving, we were extremely glad that we made the addition. We were greeted with their Vidal Ice Wine, “Dessert Anyone?”, along with blue cheese and a chocolate wafer. The hosts were more than willing to substitute out the blue cheese for another less bold flavour. The chocolate and cheese together were great and the ice wine paired very well.

The tasting room was very inviting and had an excellent layout. We tried a few other wines and ended up making the most purchases at this little place. Small Talk would be perfect for a small intimate wedding or a party. They have a wonderful selection of wine accessories and savoury preserves for pairing with the wines.

The story behind their brand is that you are at a dinner party, so they have named all of their wines with respect to different events during the evening: RSVP, For the Host, Burning Ambition, Faux Pas, Dessert Anyone?, Goodnight and Recap.

The front of the label is what people say in a speech bubble. On the back is a thought bubble with what they are really thinking! So, when you leave the winery, they have their sign mimic their labels. It is rather cute.

4. Colaneri Estate Winery

Colaneri is a picture perfect winery that takes you off to Italy for a brief visit. To be honest, we had a debate as to whether or not this place was supposed to have an Italian or Spanish influence. We came to realize it was Italian. You have to admit it could be either!

Nevertheless, it did not feel like we were in Canada, despite the snow.

Colaneri offered one of the best tastings. Recioto style, Profondo Aumento (this is the wine) paired with brushetta and then a their Dolcezza Rosso, Cabernet Franc Ice Wine with raspberry chocolate cheesecake.

To speak to the Recioto style, it is not an ice wine, but it is a dessert wine. Once the grapes are picked, they are then dried which produces a concentrated flavour making a sweet, rich wine. It was delicious.

We tried some other wines in their tasting room and I opted to buy the “Visione” Syrah which was a nice unique flavour.

5. Coyote’s Run Estate Winery

Coyote’s Run offered a pumpkin pie pairing with the 2009 Riesling/Vidal Ice Wine. The ice wine was delicious. We had a couple of tastings, but did not find anything unique, so we moved on. Coyote’s Run has a great selection of wine at the LCBO.

6. Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery

We were originally drawn to Ravine in hopes to go skating on their ice rink. We were disappointed to find that the rink was closed. However, our spirits were lifted when we saw how awesome this place was.

Upon entering the house, we were directed to head to the cellar. We made our way downstairs to enter a room where they age their own meats and offer their tastings.

We were met with two wines, a Riesling and red wine (unfortunately they were a little slack on the guide to what wines we were tasting) along with their own charcuterie from their own farm raised pigs. The Riesling was one of the best I have ever tasted and I was quick to pick up a bottle for myself.

The house was complete with such charming decor and a lovely little shop at the back that offered more than one would expect from a winery. Baked goods, cheese AND delicious wine. What more could you want?

Ravine was another highlight and a close second to Small Talk for the overall experience.

7. Marynissen Estates Winery

We decided to stop into Marynissen on a whim in order to try their pairing of beef bourguignon with asiago cheese and their 2009 Bottoms Up. They also offered a squash soup to our vegetarian friends. It was a good pairing, but we opted not to buy. Marynissen is another one to add to the list for future wine tours.

8. Inniskillin Wines

The atmosphere at Inniskillin is always great during the summer and winter. Their outdoor venue is inviting and encourages you to hang out and enjoy their wines. The pairing was the 2012 Riesling Ice Wine paired with lobster chili. It was so good that I had to stop myself and take a picture before I devoured the entire cup of chili.

 9. Peller Estates Winery

Ice wine infused marshmallows. Need I say more?

Peller Estates was the winery I was looking forward to the most. We were delighted to taste two of Peller’s ice wines while we enjoyed roasting the giant marshmallows over the open fire. My roasting techniques were flawless as usual.

We all went home with cold toes, smelling of campfire and feeling pretty happy. We had some time to relax for a few hours. My friend and I decided to go out and buy some groceries for snacks later that night. We ended up going on a little tour around town and checked out the cute shops of Niagara on the Lake and found a place for all of us to eat dinner.

We grabbed two ice wine truffles from Rocky Mountain Chocolate and then sat down and had a mulled apple cider with rum, because we needed more alcohol. It is a good thing I had my little breathalyzer with me on this trip!

We found some cute cottage decorating ideas as well. We then made our way back to the house after receiving various, “where are you?” texts.

Around 7, we headed out to eat at Epicurean. They offered a pretty hardy burger menu that night in addition to their regular menu. Three of us split a bottle of the 2008 Pillitteri Estates Winery Merlot. It was a good choice! I had the soup of the day which was a wild mushroom soup. It was very good and it helped warm me up after being outside all day.

I then ordered the special bison burger with ice wine relish and brie. They were kind enough to top off my burger with gluten-free bread instead of the regular bun. I normally give my pickles away to my boyfriend who enjoys them more than I do, but going out with the girls, I received about 6 extra pickles! Another benefit to going out with the girls! The meal was delicious, minus the burger patty itself, it was missing something and dry.

The weekend was great overall. We did experience a power outage because we had too many hair dryers and straightening irons plugged in. We also learned that there are never enough mirrors (a note to all cottage owners!). One of the other good things about having all girls around is that the dishwasher was put through its run cycle before we left for the wineries, it was emptied when we came back, there were no beer caps laying around. Girls weekends are awesome!

If you are going next weekend, I hope you find my little review helpful in which wineries you plan to visit. Leave some comments on your favourite wineries and experiences!

Enjoy!

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