Niagara Icewine Festival (Part 1)

Once a year, if you head down to the Niagara region in Ontario, Canada, you have the chance to sample some of the most renowned icewines this planet has to offer. People travel from all over the world to try the sweet and succulent flavors that the Great White North has to offer.

The festival takes place every weekend in January and most wineries in the region take part with a pairing of icewine and a small plate. To partake, you can purchase a pass (or passport, as they call it) which allows you to go to 8 wineries. This costs $45 CAD.

Okay, logistics aside! Onto the trip!

He looks so thrilled

We split the trip up into 2 days. We went to 6 wineries the first day and 4 on the second (we somehow ended up with an extra stop 😍)

We chose our stops based off of wineries we haven’t been to before, and on the pairings offered. Usually every place has something special to offer so it is super tough to choose. But we managed.

Our first stop was the Niagara College Teaching Winery. We like to stop off here every once in a while because we always leave impressed with what they have to offer. This time was no different. I have to give props to the students here. Their products are always fun and unique and super affordable.

They were serving up the 2014 Dean’s List Prodigy and the Sparkling Balance Brut. These were paired with a savory mushroom and goat cheese tart and a raspberry cheesecake. These pairings were perfectly balanced. This icewine is a blend, and relatively light on the sugar content. An airier ice wine, the Prodigy brings all the flavors of pears and honey without tasting syrupy.

The 2013 Balance Brut is delightful. Heavy on the apricot and apple on the nose and follows up with floral notes and a mineral finish. At about $25 a bottle, it’s a lovely bottle of bubbly.

Next stop on the list was Wayne Gretzky’s Estate Winery. After reflecting on our trip, Thomas told me this was one of his favorites from the festival. If you haven’t been to the new facility, do check it out. It’s an incredible place that really combines a tourist destination with cozy Canadian decor. Even though it’s a busy place, the chic cabin decor and modern dining areas give you plenty of different spaces to explore and hang out in. The best part in our opinion, though, is the ice rink. Step out and pretend you’re the Great One himself and test your skating skills!

Now Gretzky served up a whisky cheesecake bar with dark chocolate paired with their 2017 Cabernet Franc Icewine. Now this pairing was great. It’s pretty tried and true that cheesecake and icewine go together well. The fact being that cheesecake is not the sweetest of desserts but balances out a very sweet icewine.

Even though Gretzky’s is typically large and busy, and we prefer the charm of the smaller wineries, we often suggest that people visit at least once. The employees at Gretzky’s are amazingly friendly and knowledgable and will help even the most inexperienced of wine and whiskey drinkers feel comfortable doing tastings.

And for someone who was born in the city of Edmonton, you can probably guess why I have a soft spot for this place.

Grape and Wine (2018) PART THREE: Konzelmann Estate Winery

There are things I miss sometimes now that I don’t live in Niagara. The list seems to grow longer with my prolonged absence. One thing I miss greatly is peaches. Man, those peaches. August hits and it’s all I could think about when I was a kid. Yeah, we find them in Toronto grocery stores but it’s just not the same as getting them from the farms.

Now I’m an adult and I like wine and peaches.

And guess who has a peach wine? Yeah, buddy. Konzelmann has a peach wine.

STOP THREE: KONZELMANN ESTATE WINERY

Konzelmann is located perfectly next to the lake. They have this lookout that you can take pictures from, overlooking the vineyard that leads (almost drops off) into the lake. It’s, to me, one of the most perfect Niagara views you can see.

As soon as we got in, we went straight for the food pairing they had going on for the Grape and Wine Festival and were not disappointed.

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Konzelmann had this wonderful idea of pairing their 2017 Lakefront Series Shiraz with Philly Cheesesteak Wontons from the Dirty South Food Truck.

Everything here is freakin’ delicious. Let me start with the wontons. The mozza and smoked gouda is what did it for us. The shaved steak, too. Just… everything. All of these wonderful protein-rich ingredients blending with the wine created a perfectly smokey mouthful where you could find a battle between tannin and fatty foods. The sweeter red fruit flavours from this Shiraz complement the tangy sauce drizzled on top to give this pairing an extra layer of complexity and mouth-joy.

Now, there was something about this that tasted super familiar. I mean, I’ve had a Philly Cheesesteak before, but there was something else. It was the sauce you see on top of the wonton that did it. We were both instantly reminded of McDonald’s Big Macs. Boy, do we have a pairing for you in an upcoming post.

When this pairing was devoured, we headed over to the tasting bar. Now, we tasted an awful lot of Konzelmann wine, so I’m going to highlight just two of our favourites here.

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One that we absolutely adored was the 2016 Gewürtztraminer Late Harvest. Gewürtztraminer is typically one of my favourite white varietals and this one certainly showcases every trait I love about this grape. It boasts a heavier mouthfeel, almost a complete absence of acidity, and rich, vibrant tropical flavours of pineapple, mango, and lychee. Right off the nose, you’re smacked across the face with everything that this wine is and this is why I like it; this wine isn’t afraid to walk into a room, announce it’s presence, and just be what it is. It’s a little sweeter than I usually like any of my wines, but I make an exception in this case.

If my endorsement isn’t enough, it took home a Gold at the Ontario Wine Awards. We definitely grabbed a bottle of this and, as I write this blog post, it’s next up for drankin’ (yes, drankin’).

The other wine we got a hold of, drank, and purchased, was the 2017 Lakefront Series Peachwine. Oh, yeah. Made with local peaches. Know what it tastes like? Like peaches. Like someone took a Niagara peach off a tree, injected it with a bit of alcohol, insisted you try it, and you bit into the most crisp, refreshing, and satisfying peach ever.

We’ve got some ideas for this peach wine. I mean, beyond simply dumping it into our mouths and savouring the flavours therein. You’ll see. You’ll all see.

Anyway, thank you VERY MUCH to whoever the wonderful soul is that runs Konzelmann’s social media accounts, and thank you very much to the staff at Konzelmann for their wonderful hospitality.

Can’t wait to come visit again soon.