Monday, February 9, 2009

Report from ... Days of Wine and Chocolate, Niagara-on-the-Lake – February 7, 2009

With an expanded roster of 20 wineries (up from 18) the wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake embarked on a new event that tugged at the heart of both the wine lover and chocolate lover: Days of Wine and Chocolate, taking place the first 3 weekends in February.

“It’s normally a slow time for us,” said Andrea of Coyote’s Run, “and it’s a way to bring more traffic into the winery at this normally slow time.” And from all reports it seems to be working. The passport, a mere $30, gets you access to all 20 wineries, during any of the three weekends, and allows you to sample their chocolate and wine pairings.

“It looks like we may have a sold out event on our hands,” Roselyn of Cattail Creek told me, “we’ve sold over 300 passports and I think they printed about 350.” A feeling shared by Andrea, “they may not have realized the popularity of this event.”

In my opinion, Niagara-on-the-Lake still puts on some of the best winery/pairing/tour experiences, between the Wine & Herb and Taste the Season the wineries have created a brand synonymous with good quality events that deliver far above its price-point. And soon, with the addition of another winery (making it 21), there will be even more value added on. Wondering why this expansion of wineries into the group – see above links.

Bright and early on the very first Saturday of the event, my mother and I trundled down to Niagara-on-the-Lake to see what this new addition to the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake event schedule was all about. A day later, my mom was heard to say to friends on the phone, “I am all chocolated out!” And for a lady that loves chocolate that’s a big task. Below you’ll find out how the wineries accomplished such a feat, find out my top three choices and others that are must visits if you are one of the lucky 350 to be going.

#3 … Newcomer, Southbrook, came roaring out of the gate with a dark chocolate coconut macaroon-style treat paired with their newly released 2005 Vidal Icewine … very tasty.

#2 …Year-in-year-out, event-in-event-out Coyote’s Run continues to deliver the goods. This time it’s all in the matching: chocolate with a touch of cinnamon paired with a 2006 Meritage; the Meritage enhanced the cinnamon in the chocolate, creating a very complimentary taste sensation.

#1 … This was a perfect symbiosis of flavour and combination of wine with “chocolate”. You’ll hear that white chocolate is not real chocolate, but who cares, this Cranberry & White Chocolate combo, from Pillitteri, paired their 2006 Gamay Rosa with this confection and it was pure perfection – the cranberry flavours in the wine melding with the abundance of dried cranberries in the ganache cream center … lovely.

Special Mention …

Mom’s a fan of ginger, me, not so much, I’m told the candied ginger covered with dark chocolate and paired with the 2007 Riesling Icewine at Inniskillin was delicious together (I tried it but couldn’t taste it the way she did – the ginger just overpowered me) … of course mom prefaced it by saying: “you gotta like ginger.” I don’t, but if you do this is the pairing for you. As we traveled from winery to winery and were asked what we had tried so far, the ginger pairing was the love-it-or-hate-it pairing, and it always came down to whether or not you liked ginger.

Other Wineries to Visit:

A surprising combination of milk chocolate (with hazelnut) and red wine (2006 Meritage); the milk chocolate coats the tongue, then the acidity and tannins come along and break through … Maleta Winery.

Dark chocolate drizzled over top of a few almonds make up a delicious cluster with a lingering almond finish, paired well with a 2006 Cabernet Franc … Strewn

A dark chocolate wafer with a goodly amount of pecans sprinkled on top, all that was missing was the ribbon of caramel, but then I am not sure the 2006 red blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc (Trius Red) would have been able to match that sweetness … Hillebrand.

A reported strawberry white chocolate pairing turned into a raspberry white chocolate pairing that seemed super sweet … but ultimately delicious … paired with a 2007 Late Harvest Cabernet Franc … Niagara College Teaching Winery.

Finally, an odd combination that turned into something extraordinary. A thick dark chocolate, with a hint of mint, bowtie was originally paired with a Rosé – it was okay, but lacked umph! Then we tried it with the Cabernet Franc Icewine and voila, perfect pairing. When you get to Cattail Creek request the alternate pairing, you won’t be disappointed.

There’s a school of thought out there that believes wine and chocolate do not go together; I think the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake are out to prove them wrong. Some of the pairings work, some don’t; some will surprise you, while some live up to expectations – but if you don’t try how will you know. Let’s hope this interesting experiment becomes an annual event or maybe even bi-annual, they could inter-change it with a wine and cheese pairing event on alternate years … now that would be exciting too. I wonder it mom could get “all cheesed out”? I know she’s been cheesed off, but that’s another story for another day.

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Lisa said...
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