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 šŸ˜)

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 GewĆ¼rtztraminer Late Harvest.Ā GewĆ¼rtztraminer 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.

Grape and Wine (2018) PART TWO: Rosewood Estates Winery

I grew up on a cul-de-sac full of friendly neighbours that — no joke — would actually come over and borrow a cup of sugar (or other ingredients). It was a simpler time.

The coolest thing in the world to me, as an adult, are neighbour wineries. Mostly because I only have to stumble a short time before borrowing another cup of wine.

Right next to Angel’s Gate, you’ll find Rosewood. And you’ll be glad you did.

STOP TWO: ROSEWOOD ESTATES WINERY

Rosewood is located a short distance across the field from Angel’s Gate. In fact, below is Exhibit A: A photo taken from Rosewood, looking toward Angel’s Gate.
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Rosewood is one of the more unique, smaller producers in the area. They’re unique by way of their mead production, especially. And their branding is full of every bee pun you could imagine. This also affords them the opportunity to make some pretty awesome merch featuring bees.

The only thing better than their merch might be their lawn ornaments. That brings us to Exhibit Bee.
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Now, the wine. And the mead.

First, we tried the 2016 Viognier. Unfined, we’re told. Well, we were told it was unfiltered, which is basically the same thing. Are we splitting hairs here? Alright. Let me give you the quick explanation:
Fining uses some kinda substance like egg whites to gather up all the small solids in the wine and extract them. So, yeah, if you’re a vegan and a wine drinker, chances are fair you’re not as vegan as you thought.
Filtering is often done by pushing the wine through several slats with filters that almost look like square pieces of cardboard.

But anyway, the Viognier was pleasant. Oaked in a way that sort of muted a few of the more flowery notes I’ve come to expect from a Viognier, but with that came a bit of a more noticeably heavy mouth-feel, a mild vanilla undertone, and long tropical finish.

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Ā 

Then we moved to the 2017 Notorious PTG. The name is obviously referencing Biggie Smalls. This red blend was served up chilled. Would pair well with a T-bone steak, cheese, eggs, and Welch’s Grape. It wasn’t really something we were into, but I’ll tell you what: It wasn’t bad. Very fruit-forward; heavy on the raspberry, cherry and plum notes of the Gamay Noir. If you’ve got a grandma throwing ice cubes in her wine all the time, this is the wine for her.

Next up was the Locked and Loaded. I’d rank it in the top three red blends I’ve had out of Niagara. It has nearly everything in it: Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. It was rich in every dark berry flavour, and oaked perfectly to give it the forest floor and herb flavours. More than that, it was smooth like cashmere, with just a light, pleasant tannin bite and a long finish.
We bought this. It didn’t last long. We opened it at a house party (our mistake) and everyone swarmed the bottle. We need to return to get more.

Lastly, we had to get in on the mead. We tasted the Mead Royale and loved it. Mead isn’t something I’m overly experienced with, but it was pleasantly sweet (like a late harvest) and rich in honey flavour without knocking your taste-buds out. It’s a wonderful drink that reminds me of banana, peanut-butter and honey sandwiches. There… uh… may be a pairing there.
We definitely grabbed a bottle of this.

Rosewood Estates is a must stop for anyone looking for a unique winery that clearly takes the time and care to get their wines and meads just right — and they’re not too shy to experiment a little.

5 Niagara Wine Pairings for Halloween

Halloween is one of my favourite holidays. I could argue it is the perfect holiday for cultivating your creativity. Or if you’re like me, try out crazy spooky makeup and going dancing. Between the costumes and the parties, there’s tons of ways to flex those creative muscles! The way I plan on going about this Halloween is through a bit of party planning. And the way we plan parties at Crimes Against Wine is definitely centered around the wine.

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Aweh yeah.

Here’s my top 5 wines to pair with a few spooky recipes I think I’ll try this year.

1. Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir and hotdog mummies

From frugalcouponliving

This looked easy enough to make. Just wrap some hot dogs up and there you go! Luckily for me, a savoury treat like a hot dog with mustard goes great with a nice pinot noir; and Flat Rock’s is one of my favourite.

Image from LCBO.com

This wine is so easy to drink. It has notes of raspberry and spice and is considered medium-bodied and fruity. The best part about this wine is that you can just keep on drinking it, even without food, it goes down so easy. I plan on up-ing the spooky factor and serving the wine in style.

Flat Rock Cellars is a winery on the Jordan Bench, a part of the Niagara Escarpment near Lake Ontario.

2. Hernder Sauvignon Blanc and green pasta

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Easy Green Halloween Pasta

Nothing like green food colouring to ring in the Halloween spirit! I figure we can’t only steal Halloween candy from children and should feature a couple of mains before diving into dessert. So here’s a nice and easy pasta to curb those sweet cravings… for now.

There’s nothing quite like a good white wine to pair with a pasta dish. So get your hands on Hernder Estates 2017 sauvignon blanc. Unfortunately this wine is only available at the winery at this time.

Alternatively you could go for the 2013 Creekside sauvignon blanc. The palate has rich, lush fruit flavours balanced by the grapes natural citrus acidity and framed with creamy oak notes as stated on their website. With a 90/100 rating on winealign, you know this is a good choice.

3. Wayne Gretzky Merlot and Creamsicle – flavoured orange cupcakes

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LCBO

First off, if you haven’t been to the Gretzky winery, you definitely should. It’s quite the complex, complete with an ice rink you can skate on in the winter. The 2017 Merlot is a very easy drinking wine. It is medium-bodied and fruit forward with notes of baking spice and plum; which will go great with some citrus cupcakes.

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thesoccermomblog

These look so absolutely adorable, but I just know my attempt at these will land me on the show Nailed it!

4. Henry of Pelham Unoaked Chardonnay and Witch Finger Pretzels

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thespruceeats.com

Look at those! Look how amazing those are! Not only aesthetically pleasing, but they’re both sweet and salty. I know exactly which award-winning wine to pair with this.

The 2017 Unoaked Chardonnay from Henry of Pelham scored an 88 from winealign. It is a light and crisp wine, with citrus aromas and hints of peaches and apples. And with a price point of around $15CAD, you can’t go wrong.

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5. G.Marquis the Red Line Merlot 2016 and HALLOWEEN CANDY

Now this is the easiest one. Head straight to your local grocery store and grab as many boxes of chocolate as you can for this pairing.

Milk chocolate pairs nice with Pinot noirs and merlots, so although there’s a ton of different kinds of chocolate bars in these mixes, I’m sure most of them will go with the Red Line. This ’16 wine was awarded 88 points and with notes of cherry and oak, it will turn any typical chocolate bar into a wonderful red velvet surprise in your mouth (:

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winealign

Well that will do it for 5 quick and easy ways to spice up your Halloween. I’m sure I’ll follow this post up with another one as more fun ideas pop up. I am also holding out for someone to come up with some wine-themed halloween costumes. So if anyone comes across that, please let me know!

2017 Diabolica Red vs Kit-Kat bars

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As I begin this review, I need to say that not all pairings work.
I mean, like, this one does. But then there was — okay. Let me clear up everything I’m trying to say. This is fast becoming a mess.

I was walking home earlier today and thought, “OH! Maybe that 2017 Diabolica Red would ALSO work with Sour Cherry Blasters!”
It doesn’t.
It just kinda tastes like more of the same. So, let’s move on to the Kit-Kats!

This is Eryn’s favourite pairing so far, I think. I heard tell that she was ripping into some Kit-Kats and Diabolica without me just last night.

2017 Diabolica Red

 

It’s a little hard to tell what’s gone on with this wine and I think Diabolica has planned it that way. They want things to be mischievous, mysterious, and their branding would have you believe that their wines would be what happened if you were to let Hermes make Dionysus’ wine.

I’m a nerd. And if you understood my Greek myth reference, let’s pretend we’re fist-bumping right now.

Year by year, I suspect that Diabolica has altered the make-up of this wine. And because I can’t just tell by taste in this case, I have to believe their website that this wine is made up of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Shiraz.
The Merlot makes perfect sense to my mouth. There are some strong hints of cherry and plum in this one.

The Diabolica Red has almost no tannin bite. It’s a smooth, slightly on the sweet side, medium to heavy bodied wine that sits a little heavier on the palette. It doesn’t seem to carry much acidity either.

The 2013 vintage of this wine is said to have done 11 months of oak aging. However, the 2017 that we’re talking about here carries only subtle hints that there was oak involved. So if you’re one of those wine drinkers that doesn’t usually like an oak taste to your wine, this might be a great gateway wine into reds.

Overall, if you want a fruit-forward, not-too-dry, and smooth red wine, the 2017 Diabolica Red is for you.

THE PAIRING

This was paired with uh… JOS LOUIS!

WAIT NO. THE FOLLOWING IS A BLOOPER PHOTO.
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So, like I said right at the top: Not all pairings work.
Again, Jos Louis wasn’t bad. In fact, it was pretty good. But, the Jos Louis just didn’t stand up strong enough on its own.

So we moved right along to the Kit-Kats and that’s where we found our pairing.
I think the milk-chocolate and the wafer texture are the two things that allow the Kit-Kat to complement the Diabolica Red just right.

You get a smooth wine, but a crunchy wafer.
You get some cherry flavour from the wine, and the Kit-Kat takes that flavour and turns it up to 11. In the back of the mouth, we experienced a very pleasant flavour blend of the milk chocolate and wine that we could only call “intense” cherry flavour.

So anyway, that’s the crime. Break off a piece of that DIABOLIKAT.
I made that up just now. But you can use it.

2016 Konzelmann Pinot Noir vs Reese Minis

Konzelmann and Reese
I grew up in Niagara and with that comes a certain familiarity with the wines in that region. Konzelmann Estate Winery has been a semi-frequent stop for me since my early twenties. They’ve consistently produced good wines at good prices with the odd surprise to keep things interesting (like their peach wine).

Also, I really like peanut butter and chocolate together. I don’t think anybody has ever disliked Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups — unless maybe they’ve got a peanut allergy. Then that just sucks, buds.

Anyway! Our pairing this week is a Niagara wine industry favourite. The first person I heard tell of this one was a fellow by the name of Jeremy Miron, who was working for Niagara Vintage Wine Tours at the time. He coined this “Peanut Noir.”
I tried this at home at his recommendation and it was a hit.

For Pinot Noir Day, we’ve revisited this divine combination:
2016 Konzelmann Pinot Noir and Reese Minis.

If you’d really rather just skip to the TL;DR, click here.

Reese Minis — Why?

So, here’s the thing: We could have gone ahead and bought the full sized cup, but those typically only come three to a pack and when you commit to drinking an entire bottle at a time like we do, you’re gonna need your pairing to last. So, grabbing a small bag of the minis made the most sense, ya dig?

Normally, there’d be a review of the junk food here, but uh… You seriously don’t know what a Reese Peanut Butter Cup tastes like? Seriously? Of course you do.

2016 Konzelmann Pinot Noir

Konzelmann’s pinot noir has always been a steady and consistent go-to for me whenever I feel a need for pinot noir in my life.
I’ve paired it with mapled salmon, with hot dogs (yes…), light red-sauced pastas, and weekdays.

It’s at a wonderful and accessible price point of $15, making it a perfectly acceptable every-day wine.

It’s light in colour, light in acidity, and very well rounded with notes of red berries and red licorice. Its tannins don’t really bite at the back of your mouth and, though it’s a dry wine, it won’t give you that cottonmouth feeling the way a lot of bigger, more robust reds might.

All that said, this wine won’t leave you astounded, and it doesn’t try to. It’s just a very versatile and enjoyable light red.

The Pairing

Take a Reese’s Mini. Put it in your mouth.
Take a sip of your pinot noir.
Swish and chew. Then bear witness to the unbelievable change in flavours.
First, that chocolate and peanut butter comes busting through hard, but as the wine begins to mingle with it, you’ll find that it just explodes with a sort of cherry and raspberry addition that mellows the peanut butter taste.

It just straight up becomes an alcoholic PB&J in your mouth without the bread.
It’s a god damned come-to-jesus moment as your relive every one of your days as a poor, indebted university student subsisting on ramen and PB&Js and wishing you didn’t blow all your OSAP cash in two nights out.

Those were rough times.
But now there’s wine in your glass and you’re not stressed about it.
Now there’s candy in front of you, and it actually isn’t being eaten as “dinner.”
Now, you’ve successfully blended your adult life with your stugglin’ 19th year on this planet.

That’s what this pairing does for you. It’s a taste of the past mingled with your current success.
I’ll toast to that every single time.

THE TL;DR

The 2016 Konzelmann Pinot Noir is a perfect every day, affordable wine, that won’t bring with it the same kind of tannin bite as the bigger reds and its acidity is balanced well. Makes for a very versatile wine as far as pairings are concerned.

Reese’s Minis are Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but there’s more. And you know what these things taste like.

Together, it’s kinda like having a peanut butter and jam sandwich without the bread and it’ll get you drunk.

If you try this one, let us know what you think on Twitter, Instagram (to your right), or even in the comments here!

2015 Galharda Tinto vs Steak Flavoured Doritos (and cheese strings)

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Portugal is nice.
I liked the Jurassic World movie.
I also have a very strong craving that comes and goes that drives my open mouth down on top of a series of Cool Ranch Doritosā„¢.
If you’re lazy and you want to just skip to the TL;DR, simply click here.

Anyway, my love for both Doritosā„¢ and steak led me to really wanting to try out these new Steak flavoured (there’s a ‘u’ in this word because I’m Canadian; don’t @ me) Doritosā„¢.

Then, on the flip-side of things, Eryn had just returned from Portugal’s Porto region with a couple of wines. We like wine the way that cats like catnip — on occasion, we can be found rolling and frolicking in it.

Now, here’s how I’m going to relay this tale of boujee-ass living:
First I’m going to tell you about the Steak Doritosā„¢.
Second I’m going to tell you about the 2015 Galharda Tinto.
Third I’m going to tell you what the pairing of these two things is like.

Steak Doritosā„¢ — an abomination, or a gift from on high?

Eh. I am going to be uncompromisingly concise and real here: These things are gross.
On their own, they’re nearly intolerable. They smell like dog treats that were shaved down into chips and baked. And I believe the smell is an accurate representation of how they taste.

Alright. That’s all I’ve got on the Steak Doritosā„¢.

2015 Galharda Tinto

This was an incredibly hard find online for any information that the bottle and our taste buds didn’t freely offer up.

First of all, yes, this is a 2015 vintage. Galharda is the name of the winery, and the winery (and thus the wine) is located in the Duoro region, within the Duoro Valley. The Duoro Valley is a gorgeous place with wineries lining the hills all along a long river. This is near Porto, which immediately informs the snobs among us that this bottle had been found in the region for Port wines and, as might be expected, may have some Port qualities as it is made with a few grapes typically in Port wines.

The last remaining word to cover here is “Tinto.” Simply meaning “Red” in english, this wine is a standard red table wine and it contains three grape varietals: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesca, and Tempranillo.
So, what this essentially means is that they used a typical Port grape that’s considered to be Portugal’s finest, another typical Port grape, and then a really dark coloured and typically heavy bodied grape to round it out as a table wine.

While smooth with really mild tannins, this wine has a heavy mouth-feel and an ability to give you wonderfully purple wine-lips if consumed with the lust befitting a thirsty wine-o. But, as suspected in a wine from Duoro, it was a little bit sweeter and honestly did not come across as a very straight-faced, serious, stand-alone wine.

So let’s give it a dance partner and make this bitch dance Corridinho style.

The Pairing

Together, the wine and the Steak Doritosā„¢ work.
Together, the flavours of both elements are enhanced and they combine to make a surprisingly pleasant taste.

The texture of the Doritosā„¢ manages to trap and soak up some of the wine, making the flavours inescapable from one another and forcing the combination to take place across your tongue.

It almost tastes like a cherry and raspberry-based steak rub.

This straight up makes these gross Steak Doritosā„¢ edible. But, honestly? We found that even though the pairing works, and together, you can very thoroughly enjoy both the wine and the Doritosā„¢, this still could use another ingredient.

This couple became a thruple, as if to live into now. I mean — hell — it’s 2018.
We introduced some cheese strings. Peel ’em up and put it on the Doritoā„¢. Then insert into your gaping maw and throw the wine in there.
This triple-threat is legit. Get some.

THE TL;DR

Okay, here it goes:

The Steak Doritosā„¢ are awful.
The wine is meh.
Together, they’re great.
Add a cheese string and make the whole thing an absolute delight.

Try it for yourselves and let us know what you think.

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