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The icewine cometh
This past weekend I discovered a new way to counter the January blahs that doesn’t involve any costly flights to the Caribbean. Instead of cocooning on the couch to watch the entire first season of
Modern Family (I’m a late adopter) my husband and I went to the
Niagara Icewine Festival. First stop—the
Inniskillin Wines for a tasting with Debi Pratt, the public relations manager. Before sampling its famous Riesling, Vidal and Cabernet Franc varietals, I indulge in several servings of chef David Penny’s braised rib and icewine bacon stew. After lunch—and a quick primer on how the wines are made—we start tippling. It’s a tie between the Riesling and the Cabernet Franc, until Debi pops the cork on the Sparkling Vidal Icewine. “If you serve this at your party, that’s what everyone will remember.” She had me at bubbles.
As we’re setting off to our next destination on the Discovery Wine Tour, Tom, our
Niagara Classic Cab driver, tells us his last clients visited 11 vineyards in one day. I’ll be happy if we hit five. At
Jackson Triggs Niagara Estate we sample Gewurztraminer icewine paired with a glass noodle salad. For our third stop–
Hillebrand Estates Winery—we sip Riesling at the outside ice bar and chow down on icewine-infused sausages. Now it’s time for Eskimo Kisses at
Konzelmann Estate Winery. Wine consultant Ken Dubois gently pours Cabernet Sauvignon icewine into a dark Belgian chocolate shooter cup. “Drinking icewine is like going on a first date,” Dubois says. “You can be overpowered by the dominant flavour and miss the subtle details. You need to take your time with it. It’s only after the second or third taste that you get past the sugar—and then it’s time to bite into the chocolate. The play of sweet and tart is a like a good love story. There needs to be tension.” I’m charmed… and I tell him I’ll take his icewine on a second date. Our final stop on the tour is
Marynissen Estates Winery. Pat Smith is behind the tasting table pouring the vineyard’s 2004 Vidal and Riesling icewines. “We stopped making it after that year, so you’re tasting the last of the batch,” she explains. “Now we’ve switched to
Vidal Ice Syrup. Here, try one of these syrup-infused cheesecake lollipops.” I reach for it thinking I’ll just take a nibble because in two hours I’m off to
Zee’s Grill for dinner. One nibble turns into five. Note to self: no dessert at Zee’s. Later, after mustard-crusted pork tenderloin in a double smoked bacon fricassee, chef Jamie Smith surprises us with his signature dark chocolate, mango and pistachio pate. One polite nibble, turned into a sugar-induced frenzy. The nightcap? Tickets to the Anna Olson-Goodies for Grown ups icewine and dessert event at the Courthouse. I’m in need of insulin at this point—but somehow manage to sample Anna’s buttery crepes and enjoy a sip or two of icewine before heading off to my luxe room at the
Queen’s Landing. As I’m lying in the uber cozy king-sized bed with its luxe 300-threadcount sheets, I am convinced I will never have an appetite again. Surprisingly, I find myself devouring an omelet at the hotel’s Tiara Restaurant the next morning but when Arthur, our server asks if I’d like a Mimosa, or Icewine, I laugh: “Just grapefruit, please!”