Saturday, January 31, 2009

Report from ... Icewine Festival Winery Tour - January 24-25, 2009

This year's Icewine Festival, for all intents and purposes, was another rousing success. The crowds came, despite the below average temperatures both weekends, frequenting both the wineries and the outdoor events. I’m partial to the winery hopping, it's just warmer, I don't like fighting crowds at the best of times and in -16 to -21° that would seem unbearable. But there were plenty who bundled up with mitts, scarves, hats, ear warmers and hot pockets to brave the elements - none braver than those souls from the wineries who poured at the outdoor Icewine bars and lounges all day. So, to keep warm, a-winery-hopping I did go and I am here to report on the best-of-the-best (or at least the best of my twelve visits):

As usual I was on wine duty, while my foodie, Erica, was on “nibbly” detail ...later we compared notes as to the best-of-the-best: top three food, top three wines, the best combination and finally a few other “awards” thrown in for good measure .

Best Food (as selected by Erica) …

1) EastDell took top prize with their spicy chowder … I don't do well with spice so I was offered some butternut squash soup, which I have to admit was delicious. I’m told the chowder was “second bowl worthy.”

2) Reif ... my influence on the foodie came out here with my unrelenting sweet tooth along with a diminishing sense of adventure (I find as I get older I‘m feeling less and less adventurous). Reif sent you out-of-doors to one of their two fire pits where you roasted an Icewine infused marshmallow to make S’mores … Yum-mee.

3) According to foodie Erica, desserts are easy to pair, the more interesting food related pairing were the ones that went for things on the savoury side, “ they show a little more inventiveness and take a little more effort”, I was told. And with that criteria in mind she unveiled a three-way tie: Coyote’s Run’s Curried Pork, Inniskillin’s Truffle Oil Cauliflower Soup and Fielding’s Icewine Infused Mushroom Soup. I guess a cold day just called for soup.

Best Wine (as chosen by Michael) …

The best descriptor for Icewine that I know is that "it tastes like Icewine”, therefore I was looking for uniqueness; something different; something that showed character above and beyond the norm.

1) EastDell outdid themselves with this outstanding 2007 Riesling Icewine (their first ever), delicacy of flavour along with good acidity made this the heads-and-tails winner over the wines tried

2) Dan Aykroyd 2007 Cabernet France Icewine; it would seem the Diamond group knows how to impress with the sweet stuff; this was one of the best red Icewines of our two day adventure, a nice balancing act between fruit, sweetness and acidity.

3) No tie here, Pilitteri’s delicate and delicious 2004 Late Harvest Cabernet is a great example of restrained sweetness.

Best Combination (we put our heads together) …

Erica’s a fan of savoury, I prefer the sweet. She’s a little bit country, I’m a little bit rock and roll … she liked the combination of EastDell’s spicy chowder with the delicate, calming effect of the Riesling Icewine; I chose the S’mores from Reif which was paired with your every day Vidal Icewine - it just seemed so classic and so Canadian - like a horse and carriage, they went perfect together.

Two Other Awards …

Most Apologetic … the boys at Palatine could not say sorry enough times, because they had run out of their delicious (sounding anyway) specialty cheese topped with almond brittle.

Best Cleared Driveway … it's cold outside, it has snowed quite a bit and the people are coming, time to shovel the parking lot – some were like ice rinks, while others looked haphazard and more than a little hazardous; but the best cleaning job award goes to Wayne Gretzky. Who would've guessed that a guy who spent his professional career on the ice would know how to clean it; forget coaching and the winery business Wayne, time to suit up and man the Zamboni.

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