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For this year’s Wine & Herb festival, we decided to spend the weekend in Niagara on the Lake as opposed to just one day as we’ve done in the past. It was totally worth it – the weather was gorgeous on Saturday, followed by some rain/clouds on Sunday morning but it eventually cleared up as well. Nice!

We stayed overnight at the Hilton Garden Inn and we chose a room with a King bed and a whirlpool bath:

Day 1: We drove down on Saturday, picked up our Passports and spent the day visiting wineries, tasting wine and their herb-inspired pairings. The weather was gorgeous so many wineries opened their patios and we got to enjoy the pairings in the sun. Some of the most memorable on day 1 were:

Ravine Estate Winery: As usual, we stopped here for lunch and sat in their newly built extension (what a great new space!) and got to enjoy their new bistro menu. I chose the steak frites (heaven) and Chris had the Croque Madame (he’s still talking about it). After lunch, we enjoyed the pairing: 2009 Chardonnay Musqué (OMG this is the perfect summer sipper, very fresh with a slight bit of fizz) paired with a pork terrine with musqué and sweet woodruff en croute. Enjoying this while sitting on a comfy cushioned loveseat on the patio made this our top experience of the day.

Hillebrand Winery: We’re always pleased anytime we stop here and this time was no different. We enjoyed the 2009 Artist Series Gewurztraminer paired with a lamb sausage in a mini bun, topped with an organic mint yogurt. Fabulous. The sausage was a bit spicy and the wine really paired nicely with it. Again, we got to sit outside and enjoy the sun.

Niagara College Teaching Winery:  I love stopping here. Great food, great wine, great people. And getting to enjoy it outside with a view like this is fantastic (pic below). The pairing was a 2008 Pinot Noir with a Turkey Cheese Cranberry Strata; a wonderful little square bursting with flavour.

Sipping on wine out on the patio at Niagara College

 

View at Niagara College

We had dinner at the Old Winery restaurant on Saturday night. I had the Penne with roasted chicken, mushrooms and red pepper cream sauce – paired with the Chateau des Charmes Chardonnay. Chris had the beef tenderloin with mashed potatoes, roasted veggies and red wine sauce, paired with the Riverview Rosso. The capuccinos were awesome – a great treat at the end of the meal. Back to the hotel for a relaxing soak in the whirlpool bath and off to sleep to get ready for Day 2!

Day 2: We started the day with breakfast at the hotel – another couple came to meet us. After breakfast, we were off to the wineries! The day started out with clouds and on-and-off rain but eventually cleared up in the afternoon. Here are some memorable spots on day 2:

Ravine Estate Winery: We stopped here for lunch again. I’m loving the new menu!

Salade composee: greens, roasted beets, pears, walnuts, goat cheese.. Yum!

 

How cute is this side of macaroni and cheese!

 
Konzelmann Estate Winery: We make a point of stopping here anytime we’re in the area. The gentleman who usuallyhosts the tastings for the passport tours is absolutely hilarious – we always have a great experience and lots of laughs. And the pairings never disappoint. Always a highlight! 🙂 This time we got to enjoy a 2009 Merlot Reserve paired with an Open-faced sirloin sandwich with tarragon mustard cream and brie. Yum!

Marynissen Estates Winery: A regular stop on our route as well. This time we got to taste a 2007 Cabernet Merlot paired with a Ploughman’s lunch which was bison and elk salami, cheese on a small slice of bread, all packed up in a nice little package (like a little lunch to go!). It was great!

Maleta: A visit to Niagara on the Lake just wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Maleta. Such warm, inviting and knowledgeable staff and fantastic wines. We enjoyed their VIEW Chardonnay with a Brie and savory bruschetta fusion – awesome! We also got to taste the new release Grape Brain 2006 Cabernet Merlot – fabulous.

We purchased some flutes at Peller that caught our eye as well:

The scenery in NOTL is so peaceful and at this time of year when the flowers are in bloom, it’s even better:

And the sheer amount of dandelions was amazing – there were fields of them everywhere! I felt like a kid again wanting to run through them and make all those little white poofs fly. Chris held me back. 🙂

We’ve restocked our wine fridge too 🙂

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Looking forward to May and the Wine & Herb festival in NOTL. 🙂 The dishes have been posted!

Check it out here.

They all look great…so hard to choose! We’ve flagged a few “must stops” (in red below). Lots of smoked salmon this time around.

Cattail Creek Estate Winery
2008 No Oak Chardonnay
Lemon Balm

Château des Charmes
2008 Gamay Noir ‘Droit’
Woolwich Goat Cheese with Arugula Pesto Toasted Crouton with Sea Salt

Colaneri Winery
2009 Fumoso Bianco
Manicotti with Italian Skewers

Coyote’s Run Estate Winery
2009 Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc
Grilled Chicken Springroll with Cilantro

Hillebrand Winery
2009 Artist Series Gewürztraminer
Spring Lamb Sausage with Organic Mint Yoghurt

The Ice House
2006 Northern Ice Vidal Icewine
Garlic Shrimp Crostini with Ice Wine

Inniskillin Wines
2009 Riesling
Inniskillin Tom Yum Soup Ontario Edamame Enoki Mushroom Lemongrass

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery
2009 Sauvignon Blanc
“Cheese & Crackers” CO2 Goat Cheese Chive Gel

Joseph’s Estate Wines
2006 Merlot
Foccacia Bread with Basil, Sundried Tomatoes and Cream Cheese

Konzelmann Estate Winery
2009 Merlot Reserve
Open-Faced Sirloin Sandwich with Tarragon Mustard Cream and Brie

Lailey Vineyard
2006 Cabernet Franc
Braised meat balls

Maleta
2007 VIEW Chardonnay
Brie and Savory Bruschetta Fusion

Marynissen Estates Winery
2007 Cabernet Merlot
Ploughmans Lunch

Niagara College Teaching Winery
2008 Pinot Noir
Turkey Cheese Cranberry Strata

Palatine Hills Estate Winery
2008 Riesling Traminer
Smoked Salmon Mousse Garnished with Fresh Baby Fennel Tops on Fennel Flat Bread

Peller Estate
Andrew Peller Signature Series Ice Cuvee
Icewine Maple Smoked Salmon and Chervil Terrine

Pillitteri Estates Winery
2007 Bottle Blonde
Smoked Duck and Mango Thai Basil Kabobs

PondView Estate Winery
2009 Cabernet Franc
Pulled Braised Beef Short Rib served on a Slice of Roasted Potato

Ravine Estate Winery
2009 Chardonnay Musqué
Pork Tourine with Musqué and Sweet Woodruff en Croute  

Reif Estate Winery
2009 Chardonnay Sauvignon Blanc
Lemon Thyme and Asiago Scones

Riverview Cellars
2009 Gewürztraminer
Ham, Cheese & Bergamot Quiche

Southbrook Vineyards
2010 Connect Rosé
Mackerel “Gravlax” with Thyme and Oven Dried Tomato

Stonechurch Vineyards
2008 Sauvignon Blanc
Coriander Chicken Salad

Stratus
2006 Wildass Riesling
Dauphinoise Potato “Terrine” with Sorrel and Lemon Cream

Strewn
2008 Sauvignon Blanc
Dill Scones with Smoked Salmon

Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery
2009 Burgundy Plum
Lavender Shortbread

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Mmmmmmm

Icewine is soooo goooood.

This was our loot for the day:

Some of our fave reds we picked up while we were in NOTL

Icewines and Late Harvests

Our first stop was at Angel’s Gate Winery where we got to enjoy their sweet and sour 2008 Select Late Harvest Riesling paired with a soft baked pretzel. Yum. That’s the 2nd bottle from the left in the pic. While we were there we also tried a light . We prefer our reds a bit bolder but it was still a nice sip.

Second stop was Fielding Estate Winery. We tasted their 2007 Late Harvest Gewürztraminer and 2008 Cabernet-Syrah paired with gourmet late-harvest baked beans. Everything was awesome although again, we prefer our reds with a bit more body. Probably some of the best baked beans I’ve had. The late harvest is the 2nd bottle from the right in the pic.

For our third stop, we stopped by Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery (to wish Wayne a happy 50th!) and had a nice treat: Shiraz icewine (1st bottle form the right) paired with a beaver tail with cinnamon and powdered sugar and drizzled with Shiraz icewine syrup. Yum.

Fourth stop was Flat Rock Cellars where they had the cutest pulled pork sliders you could  imagine (icewine-infused) paired with their 2007 Sweet Revenge Vidal Icewine. We enjoyed it but found the icewine a bit too sweet for our liking so decided to pass this time.

Fifth stop was Creekside Estate Winery. We sat outside and tasted roasted chestnuts with red pepper butter, paired with their 2007 Vidal Icewine. I had never had chestnuts before and didn’t really know what to expect…must be an acquired taste. 🙂  The icewine was great though (middle bottle in pic) and once we got back inside, we got to enjoy a glass of mulled wine to warm up – nice!

Our sixth stop was Colaneri Estate Winery and although the building was under construction, it was still a very nice setting and boy, they really put on a fantastic tasting (3 pairings!). First pairing was their Pinot Grigio “Profondo” paired with a mushroom risotto. Second pairing was an espresso flavoured panna cotta with their Vidal Icewine. Third pairing was a chocolate tart with their Cabernet Franc icewine. All very very good. We purchased the pinot griogio (1st bottle on left in pic).

Since we were ni the area, we also made two stops to pick up some of the wines we really enjoyed:

Maleta Estate Winery: We tasted the Cabernet Merlot as well as the 2003 Meritage (2 bottles of each). We were also very fortunate to taste some of their icewine paired with icewine truffles and they were both fantastic! Maleta is one of our favourite stops  – great wine, friendly staff. We’re so glad to keep seeing great things from this winery.

Lailey Vineyard: We had received their 2008 Meritage in our December wine of the month delivery and enjoyed it so much , we picked up 2 bottles while we were in town. Nice.

Our wine fridge has been replenished.

We finished the day off with a fabulous dinner at Colossus in Oakville. Now I can barely move I’m so full. 🙂

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We headed down to Niagara-on-the-Lake this morning to spend a relaxing day enjoying Taste the Season. We toured 11 of our favourite wineries before calling it a day. It was a fantastic day!

  • 1st stop – Niagara College Teaching Winery: We enjoyed their 2007 Cab Franc paired with caramelized apple and chicken ragout garnished with aged white cheddar. The ragout went really well with the wine. It still amazes me how wine can taste one way on its own, and then when paired with a certain food which brings out its flavours can taste quite different. This pairing was a prime example of that. Enjoyed it immensely – great start to the day!
  • 2nd stop – Maleta Estate Winery: We’ve visited Maleta several times and once again, we enjoyed our visit. Their 2006 Cab Merlot was paired with asiago cheese on french baguette drizzled with Piedmontese white truffle olive oil. Pairing wine and cheese is usually a successful option and this one was particularly tasty! Since we still had their 2003 Meritage at home, we asked when the best time to drink it would be. They said it was probably at its peak now so we shouldn’t wait too much longer to drink it. We’ve added this to our to do list. That’s the kind of homework I can definitely get used to. 🙂
  • 3rd stop – Chateau des Charmes: I was eagerly awaiting this stop and I wasn’t disappointed! We tasted their 2008 Estate Bottled Riesling paired with cucumber and yam tempura with cream cheese and spicy sauce sushi roll (vegetarian). The sweet fruitiness of the Riesling paired superbly with the spiciness of the sushi roll. It really brought out the tang in the sauce – this was one of my faves of the day.
  • 4th stop – Coyote’s Run Estate Winery: 2008 Cabernet Merlot paired with slow braised Ontario lamb shank with Du Puy lentil ragout. This was once again a situation where the food and wine pairing elevated the tasting experience and the “whole” was greater than the two halves. Very nice.
  • 5th stop – Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery:  We stopped here for lunch and my husband had his usual (pulled pork sandwich) and the other three of us got the burger (which must have been the largest burger I have ever seen). The fries were the best I’ve had in a long time. Awesome meal as always. After lunch, we did the tasting for dessert: 2008 Riesling paired with mini goat cheesecake with vanilla poached peaches. Wow – I really liked the goat cheese flavour in the cheesecake and the wine brought out the flavour of the poached pear. Fantastic. The 2007 Merlot is no longer available so we’re going to keep our last 3 bottles (we bought a case last year) – no special plans for them yet. 🙂 Big fans of Ravine and everything they do.
  • 6th stop – Southbrook Vineyards: We love Southbrook and stop by pretty regularly whether on a wine tour or if we’re just in the area. This time we got to taste their 2007 Cabernet Melrot Shiraz (which happened to be the red option in our wine of the moth program from Winery to Home last month). This was paired with  Stone Road Grille Cassoulet with Cabernet Bread. This was quite good – warm and comforting, maybe a little too filling to be eating right after lunch but no complaints from us. We’re big fans of the wine here – their Triomphe Syrah is a favourite at our house but we didn’t see any left on the shelves. Glad we got 2 bottles the last time we stopped by!
  • 7th stop – Cattail Creek Estate Winery: 2006 Cab Merlot paired with beef brisket topped with caramelized oions and Cabernet Merlot sauce. Yum! The wine was on the mellow side and paired well with the brisket and onions. It reminded me of a typical family style meal and the comforts of home – perfect with cold weather fare.
  • 8th stop – Konzelmann Estate Winery: We always have a good time at Konzelmann. The guys who present the tasting are hilarious and always very informative. We got to taste their 2008 Pinot Noir paired with “the festive crostini” which was turkey with blue cheese (or goat, depending on your tastes) with a twist of cranberry relish on a crostini. Although the crostini was a bit dry, the concept was great and the wine and staff more than made up for it. We bought a bottle on the way out, similar to past visits to Konzelmann. Great place!
  • 9th stop – Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery: 2008 Silver Series Shiraz paired with chevre noir and cocoa nib brittle. This was probably the most complicated food preparation we’ve seen on all the tours we’ve ever been on. Don’t get me wrong – the flavours were very good and quite different. We’re Shiraz fans so we were very pleased with the pairing. The peppery Shiraz paired nicely with the creaminess of the cheese, and the sweetness of the cocoa nib brittle was an interesting surprise. Nice.
  • 10th stop – Marynissen Estates Winery: I was looking forward to this one simply because past visits have always been enjoyable. And they had soup! Their 2008 barrel fermented chardonnay was paired with squash soup. I’m not a big fan of sweet soups and this one was on the sweet side, however, the chardonnay was a surprising favourite. I’m more of a bold-red lover but I really enjoyed this chardonnay. What a great discovery!
  • 11th stop – Inniskillin Wines: How can you go wrong with icewine – the answer is: you can’t! Their 2007 vidal icewine was paired with blue benedectine mousse & vidal poached apple. I’m not a big fan of blue cheese so only ate the mini breadsticks and the poached apples but wow – this was a superb pairing. The first sip of icewine is quite sweet but after the 2nd/3rd sip and a couple of bites, you realize what a rich treat it is. Makes us proud to be Canadian. 🙂 We’re also looking forward to the icewine festival in January!
  • 12th and last stop – Peller Estates Winery:  We wanted to stop here to pick up more of their Ice Cuvee and new Ice Cuvee Rosee. Both are sparkling wines with a bit of icewine in them. Perfect for holiday celebrating.

My faves of the day were:

  • Niagara College Teaching Winery for the food/wine pairing
  • Chateau des Charmes for the food/wine pairing
  • Ravine for the food/wine pairing
  • Konzelmann for the fun staff
  • Maleta for the wine and informative staff
  • Inniskillin for the icewine and poached apples

Awesome day!!

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We’ve already started planning for the next wine festival: Taste of the Season in November in Niagara on the Lake.

The pairings have already been posted. They all look really good – the ones my husband and I find particularly interesting are highlighted in red:

Cattail Creek Estate Winery
2006 Cabernet Merlot paired with Beef Brisket topped with Caramelized Onions and Cabernet Merlot Sauce

Château des Charmes
2008 Estate Bottled Riesling paired with Cucumber and Yam Tempura with Cream Cheese and Spicy Sauce Sushi Roll

Coyote’s Run Estate Winery
2008 Cabernet Merlot paired with Slow braised Ontario Lamb Shank with Du Puy Lentil Ragout

Hillebrand Winery
Trius Brut paired with Peameal Bacon Sandwiches with Icewine Onion Jam

Inniskillin Wines
2007 Vidal Icewine paired with Blue Benedictine Mousse & Vidal Poached Apple

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery
2008 Silver Series Shiraz paired with Chevre Noir with Cocoa Nib Brittle

Joseph’s Estate Wines
2006 Cabernet Franc paired with Balsamic Marinated Savoury Mushroom Salad with Goat Cheese & Walnuts

Konzelmann Estate Winery
2008 Pinot Noir paired with “The Festive Crostini”. Turkey with Blue Cheese with a twist of Cranberry Relish on a Crostini

Lailey Vineyard
2008 Vidal Icewine paired with Apricot Cheesecake

Maleta

2006 Cabernet Merlot paired with Asiago Cheese on French Baguette drizzled with Piemontese White Truffle Olive Oil

Marynissen Estates Winery
2008 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay paired with Squash Soup

Niagara College Teaching Winery
2007 Cabernet Franc paired with Caramelized Apple and Chicken Ragout garnished with Aged White Cheddar

Palatine Hills Estate Winery
2008 Gewürztraminer Proprietor’s Reserve paired with Peach and Cranberry topped Turkey Sausage

Peller Estate
Andrew Peller Signature Series Ice Cuvée paired with Three Sweet and Savoury Scones

Pillitteri Estates Winery
2007 Bottle Blonde paired with Tapenade with Feta and Pita Points

Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery
2008 Riesling paired with Mini Goat Cheesecake with Vanilla Poached Peaches

Reif Estate Winery
2007 Merlot Reserve paired with Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Tart

Southbrook
2007 Cabernet Merlot Shiraz paired with Stone Road Grille Cassoulet with Cabernet Bread

Stonechurch Vineyards
2007 Quintet paired with Bistro Beef Canape

Stratus
2008 Wildass Red paired with Apricot and Green Peppercorn Terrine of Pork

Strewn
2006 Merlot paired with Potato and Parsnip Mash

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Chris and I headed down to NOTL with our Discovery Passes today with plans to stop at 6 wineries for the wine & food pairings, lunch at Ravine, and 2 additional stops to pick up some wine for a friend (hi Olga!) and one of our favourite ice wines.

We left the house at about 10:45am and arrived at the first winery at about 11:30am, which was our first visit: 20 Bees.

The pairing they had was 2 wines (Merlot, Baco Noir) paired with a jalapeno pepper, filled with berry compte and bocconcini cheese. It sounded really good. Chris liked his. I took a bite out of mine and my mouth was on fire…. Since Chris’ reaction was so mild, I thought it must have been just me so I gave him my other half and downed the merlot to try to put out the flames. I was half-relieved and half-satisfied to see Chris’ eyes tear up and see him chugging his wine too – looks like my jalapeno had more seeds left in it compared to his. Hot chili!!! Chris did enjoy his first one though.

Second stop was at Southbrook to pick up another Triomphe Syrah. We asked about the sheep they had there the last time we visited and they’ll be returning next year. 🙂 Also, the Fresh White wasn’t available at the winery but it’s available at some LCBOs so we’ll be on the lookout.

Third stop was Hillebrand – they had sliders paired with their Trius red. MmmmMmmm So good. And it was such a gorgeous day too – sunny, not too cold. We picked up a bottle of the Trius.

** Lunch **

 Yes, we went back to Ravine, yet again. I was going to order the potato and crab cakes but they were out, so I went back to the tried and true cheese board. 🙂 It was still awesome. Chris had the pulled pork pita and salad.

View from our patio table at Ravine. Pumpkins!!

Fourth stop was Inniskillin where I was looking forward to tasting pork belly. their dish was summer succotash with braised pork belly and it was quite good. Paired with their Pinot Noir 2008 and it was very refreshing (picked up a bottle).

Fifth stop: Reif. They paired a Riesling with a german-style sausage on a rye bun with tarragon mustard. quite tasty although we’re not huge fans of Riesling. we sat out front and enjoyed a nice relaxing break in the sun.

We then stopped at Caroline Cellars to purchase more of their Cabernet Franc ice wine – which is fantastic. Also picked up a Momentum.

Sixth stop: Jackson Triggs. Probably our fave pairing of the day. They paired a meritage with a beef carpaccio with parmesan and basil. Very tasty!

Next stop was a pickup for a few bottles for a friend back in Montreal at Pallatine Hills.

And our last stop was at Magnotta, where we enjoyed tapas paired with 4 wines:

  1. Pinot Noir Rosee paired with bruschetta on a slice of baguette
  2. White Merlot (yes, you heard me) paired with a shrimp and basil salad on a slice of baguette
  3. Gewürztraminer paired with a slice of peach (marinated in the gewurz) and wrapped with a slice of prosciutto
  4. merlot paired with a slice of roast beef on a slice of baguette and spicy mustard

It was our first time at the winery and we had a great time – also ended up buying one of each bottle – very affordable prices.

OH! I forgot to mention that I finally caved and picked up a brie baker at Hillebrand. I got tired of having to spoon up all the melted honey when I baked a brie in a glass square dish – I now have the right tool for the job. 🙂

Next festival: Taste of the Season in November – can’t wait!!

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At first, I didn’t think we’d be able to make it for this one since we have a lot on the go on the weekends it falls on, but Chris didn’t mind heading down on the Sunday, so it looks we’ll be going after all. We’ll probably do the Discovery Pass to visit 6 wineries that have food & wine pairings. Should be fun!

A Vintage Harvest

September 17-26, 2010

Enjoy more than 100 events including winery tours and tastings, concerts, Niagara cuisine, wine seminars, live entertainment and one of Canada’s largest street parades during the 59th Niagara Wine Festival. The hub of the Niagara Wine Festival can be found in historic Montebello Park in downtown St. Catharines.

Food prices are $3 to $6 per portion, while wines can be purchased by the sample, glass or bottle. Festival Tokens can be purchased in Montebello Park or in advance at the Festival office. Admission is FREE.

The Discovery Pass is your gateway to tour the Niagara Wine Route for a fresh taste of wine and culinary pairings during the two weekends of the Niagara Wine Festival. Just $30 per pass.

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