Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Report from ... Niagara-on-the-Lake's Wine and Herb Festival - May 2009

As in past years’ we ranked the food, the wine and the pairing. Best wine went to Palatine Hills, for their 2008 Gewurztraminer ($13.95 – see Picks of the Bunch below for review). Best food was to be had at Coyote’s Run with a pop-in-your-mouth-delicious Cheese Tartlet. As for best pairing, that honour was shared between Strewn (Riesling/Potato Gnocchi) and new-comer Stratus (Riesling Icewine/Bergamot Crème Brulee). But there were many other inspired and worthwhile pairings. Below is the list by star ratings (5 = outstanding; 4.5 = excellent, 4 = very good, 3.5 = good, 3 = average, 2 = fair, 1 = poor) – only one winery got a 2 (which is a pretty good ratio for now having 21 wineries) while 2 wineries picked up the coveted 5-star rating … you’ll also find some selected comments about the pairing.

5-Star (Outstanding)
Stratus – Bergamot Crème Brulee w/ 2007 Riesling Icewine … “perfect pairing, a great first time effort, can they match this next time out?”
Strewn – Potato Gnocchi with lemon and goat cheese in a sage leaf butter w/ 2006 Riesling Semi-Dry … they used 14lbs of potatoes, flour, etc. and only 1½ lemon rinds and yet the lemon comes through, augmented beautifully by the Riesling. This is the first time Strewn has used their cooking school to their advantage.

4½-Star (Excellent)
Palatine Hills – Honey-coriander dressing served over cold rice noodle salad with dried apricots w/ 2008 Gewurztraminer … we differed here, I liked both but not together, the foodie thought it worked well together, we compromised at the half-mark.
Peller Estates – Compote of apricot and horseradish with icewine reduction as a base for black pepper and chervil ice cream w/ Ice Cuvee … they get their points here for uniqueness and originality of the food, they seem to use the same wine every event.
Southbrook – Arugula Pesto Pizza with roast potato, goat cheese and tomato w/ 2008 Cabernet Rosé … for this newcomer to the party you just knew it was going to be a pizza, but they had such delicious results with their creation.
Sunnybrook – Terragon Biscotti w/Bosc Pear wine … this usual bottom dweller stepped up their performance with a simple pairing that worked great together.

4-Star (Very Good)
Cattail Creek – Shrimp and goat cheese on a crostini with tomato cilantro pesto w/ 2007 Off-Dry Riesling.
Coyote’s Run – Cheese Tartlet with chive and roasted pear w/ 2008 Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc.
Lailey Vineyard – Fennel Bulb sautéed in butter and kosher salt wrapped in phyllo pastry w/ 2008 Vidal
Niagara College – Thai Curry Shrimp w/ 2006 Rosé
Pillitteri – Cranberry-Lavender upside down cake w/ 2007 Merlot Bianco (Rosé)

3½-Star (Good)
Chateau des Charmes – Lemon basil cracker with Aligote wine jelly w/ 2007 Aligote … the herb and wine went very well together, especially if you plucked a leaf off the plant and nibble that on its own then sipped some wine.
Konzelmann – Mixed bean oregano salsa infused with sambal oelek sauce w/ 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (see Picks of the Bunch below for review).
Maleta – Douanne cheese, fresh baguette, savoury infused honey w/ 2007 VIEW Pinot Noir … simple yet effective.

3-Star (Average)
Hillebrand – Asparagus soup “with shit in it” w/ 2007 Artist Series Limited Edition Gewurztraminer … a good attempt at innovation but was too complicated to fully enjoy; “the girl spent more time explaining it than I did enjoying it.”
Inniskillin – Cornbread rosemary cheddar muffin topped with Cabernet Sauvignon butter w/ 2006 Klose Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Jackson-Triggs – Basil biscotti w/ 2007 Proprietors’ Grand Reserve White Meritage … “it was a good crumbly cookie, this pairing was saved by the wine”
Joseph’s – Foccacia with French Sorrel and caramelized onions with 7-year old cheddar w/ 2006 Chenin Blanc … “when all is said and done it’s just bread”, saved by the food.
Marynissen – “Fireside Dinner” (Beef Stew) w/ 2006 Syrah … simple can sometimes be too simple, “didn’t they do this before?”
Reif – Cold pea soup with grapefruit mint w/ 2006 Sauvignon Blanc

2-Star (Fair)
Stonechurch – Thyme Rolls On (Thyme cream cheese on a cracker) w/ 2007 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay … “I’d eat a few at a party”, “the cracker had more flavour than the cheese.”, a fancy/cute name does not make for a fancy pairing.

See Newsletter #109 for details of the event and why it is one of the premier events in the Niagara Region. (coming May 28)

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