Views from the Ontario Vines

with Fred Couch

“Sip & Sizzzle - 2018”

This year’s Sip and Sizzle was held at 25 wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake. For a $45 touring pass you could visit all the wineries over four weekends in May (including Fridays) for a food and wine pairing. There were many outstanding pairings this year and, unfortunately, a couple of disappointments. At Small Talk Vineyards they served an aged cheddar and apple puff pastry with onion jam. I’m not sure where the “sizzle” was but the very small portion tasted like a piece of stale pizza. It was served with a non-descript Pinot Gris, for some reason, called “RSVP”. The other disappointment was at Ravine where their 2017 Gewurztraminer was served in a plastic, one-ounce shot glass. First of all, this is not great for the environment and, for those of us who like to swirl the wine before tasting, this was not possible. Of the 25 wineries we visited, this was the only one that did not serve the wine in a “real” glass. That’s enough of the negatives. There were a lot of great pairings to try.  

Top Ten Pairings (in no particular order):

Pondview Estate Winery – 2016 semi-dry Riesling with a grilled Cubano mojo pork slider on a brioche bun. This was one of my favourite food and wine combinations this year. The slider was an ample size with ham, porchetta, Swiss cheese and pickle. The “sizzle” came from mustard and the mojo mayo (mayonnaise, garlic powder, ground cumin, oregano, etc.). The sweetness of the wine complemented the slight heat in the sandwich. Yum.   

Marynissen Estates Winery – 2014 Gold Series Chardonnay with a lobster bisque & grilled garlic toast. This was my wife’s favourite mainly because I don’t eat seafood and she got my portion as well! The wine was a medium bodied, lightly oaked Chardonnay.

Coyote’s Run Estate Winery – 2016 Positivity with Smokin’ Buddha’s sizzling beef slider garnished with pickled carrot, daikon, cucumber, okonomi, mayo and a sprinkle of coriander. Positivity is a blend of Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Although it did go well with the condiments, I would have preferred a bolder, red wine to go with the beef burger. There was a lot of “sizzle” though since the burgers were freshly barbequed on the outside deck and the toppings added additional “zing”.

Lakeview Wine Co. – 2106 EastDell Summer Rosé served with strawberry & goat cheese bruschetta on grilled focaccia bread. It was hard to put this tasting into one particular category. The strawberries were sweet and the balsamic added a savoury note. In any case the food was delicious especially with the wine – a blend of Riesling and Gamay Noir and slightly off-dry.

Trius Winery – 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a pastrami beef slider with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut. There was lots of sizzle going on at Trius. The Chef was outside cooking everything on the BBQ. He even toasted the buns which was a nice touch. The pastrami was lean and very tasty and the sauerkraut was not the usual sour tasting kind so it did not affect the taste of the wine. The Cabernet is medium-bodied with soft tannins.  

Château des Charmes – 2016 Cuvée d'Andrée Rosé paired with smoked salmon on an herb scone with cranberry compote. My wife lucked in again with the seafood. I did have her scone which was really tasty. She said the salmon was delicious and went well with the Rosé which is a dry wine made with 100% Pinot Noir grapes.

Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery – 2016 Cabernet Merlot paired with spiced pork chorizo sausage and 99 whisky mustard. There sure was a lot of zing in this pairing. Not only was the sausage spicy but the mustard was very hot. It was very tasty but a little too much heat to go with the Merlot. Maybe a bolder wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon would have been a better choice.

Hinterbrook Estate Winery – 2016 Traveller’s Riesling with grilled shrimp and pickled root vegetables, spicy citrus, lime and sweet basil. This was one of the best presentations at the event. The Riesling was off-dry and went well with the citrus flavours of the dish. People often wonder why the Nomad labels are so simple and mostly blank. This is described on their website: “NOMAD is an expression. It’s a means to share your experiences or thoughts of the moment. It’s your canvas - apply pen or brush to the label, record your moment, make a wish, or invite the future.”  

Strewn Winery – 2015 Gewürztraminer paired with a “Sizzling Sampler Trio” of Tandori chicken, grilled pineapple & vegetable samosa. Strewn usually provides more than one food to sample with the wine. This year was no different. It gave us a chance to determine which food goes best with the Gewürztraminer. The wine was aromatic and dry and went well with all three food bites but our favourite was the wine and samosa pairing.

Palatine Hills Estate Winery – 2012 Vidal Icewine paired with a “S’mores Pie” chocolate cream cheese, chocolate graham, toasted marshmallows topped with a chocolate sauce. This was a very decadent dessert and the only sweet dish of the 25 pairings. The “sizzle” came from the slightly toasted marshmallows. Fortunately, the Icewine was sweet enough to complement the tart.

All in all, this was a very good event with a lot of interesting pairings and lots of “sizzle”.

For information about next year's Sip & Sizzle and other events put on by the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake, check out the website at


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